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Saturday, 12 August 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Promising outcome of London mission

THE legal team, which went to London last month to research the details of Sarawak’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement, has broken its silence on the outcome of the trip.

Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, who led the team, issued a statement on Wednesday after briefing the Chief Minister on their findings.

She said the team researched a number of declassified documents which originated in Sarawak before Malaysia Day in 1963 and were now stored in the British National Archives.

The documents pertained to the formation of Malaysia, including the minutes of the Inter-Governmental Committee’s (IGC) meetings; the reasons and objectives behind the Sarawak (Alteration of Boundaries) Order 1954 to determine Sarawak’s land and sea boundaries and continental shelf limits prior to Malaysia Day; and British government Cabinet papers relating to the Cobbold Commission’s report and its views on granting Sarawak independence through the formation of Malaysia.

“The government is studying these documents to ascertain the basis for the recommendations contained in the IGC Report of the constitutional safeguards for Sarawak and what further action needs to be taken in order to have them fully implemented under Article VIII of the Malaysia Agreement if they had not been already incorporated in the Federal Constitution or by executive, legislative or other action since Malaysia Day,” Sharifah Hasidah said.

She said the documents on the continental shelf confirmed the state’s ownership rights to the natural resources in the seabed and subsoils in the continental shelf within Sarawak’s boundaries, as defined in the 1954 Order.

According to her, the research mission to London was “very productive” and added to the team members’ knowledge and understanding of the historical facts relevant to the constitutional issues in the ongoing devolution of power process.

“The documents found by the team will add strength to the state’s position in the discussions with the Federal Government on devolution of power and towards resolution of various constitutional matters under deliberation in these discussions,” she said.

Sharifah Hasidah also said the state government would endeavour to obtain from the British National Archives the declassified documents which migrated from Sarawak to the custody of the British government before Malay­sia was formed.

She said the state wanted to have possession of these important documents, particularly those relating to the granting of oil mining concessions, revenue and financial matters, control of shipping and marine fisheries in Sarawak waters, administration of education, labour and public health.

“These documents, generated during the colonial administration, will provide a better understanding on how these subject matters were handled before independence,” she said.

This sounds like a promising outcome of the London mission, but the legal team’s work should not end here even though their initial findings have been announced.

Surely more work lies ahead to interpret the details and significance of the documents, how they can “add strength” to Sarawak’s position in the pursuit of state rights, and indeed if there are further documents worth researching in this matter.