Some in Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) are considering severing ties with allies in the federal administration, sources said, adding to Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) headache amid continued uncertainty and shifting relationships within the pact’s partners.
Several sources from the state told Malay Mail anonymously that friction has arose between GPS and allies in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Umno at the sidelines of the Sabah state election, most recently over the Petronas deal as well as the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
The sources also pointed out at the insistence of Bersatu and PAS to contest seats in the state as worsening the friction between GPS and PN.
“The two problems have yet to be resolved,” said the source who claimed anonymity, referring to Petronas and MA63.
“More and more Sarawak GPS leaders have openly talked about leaving the federal government if the demands are made.”
Malay Mail understands that the main issue surrounded the delayed payment of the Sales and Services Tax (SST) to the state, despite a High Court decision on March 13 ruled that according to the Federal Constitution, Sabah and Sarawak had the right to impose sales tax on their petroleum products.
Sarawak had imposed a five per cent tax on petroleum products since January 1 last year under the state’s Sales Tax Ordinance 1998.
On June 10, this was confirmed by Sarawak consultative committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) chairman and state Speaker Datuk Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar.
The issue had even resulted in then Petronas chief executive Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin resigning after a disagreement with Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin over a plan to pay RM2.9 billion in sales tax to Sarawak, Reuters reported, quoting five sources close to the government and the company.
The matter was only solved last week, with Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz witnessing the handing over of a cheque from Petronas and its subsidiaries in Kuching on September 17.
Several sources were also concerned about delayed negotiations on MA63, which is part and parcel of GPS’ support for the government.
“Until now, there have been no negotiations on MA63 from the federal government. In the previous government, the committee was formed but we don’t know the status of them,” said the source.
The matter was apparently brought to a Cabinet meeting on September 9, in which Muhyiddin said he would form another committee which would be chaired by himself and include the chief ministers of Sarawak and Sabah as members, with federal ministers and other members appointed to the council according to suitability, qualifications, and expertise.
On September 16, The Borneo Post reported that Muhyiddin was expected to make an announcement on the MA63 at the national-level Malaysia Day celebration in Sibu, which could affect Sarawak and Sabah.
But no such announcement was made during the launch of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah’s election manifesto.
Another source from Sarawak said he was baffled as the committee already exists and has already made inroads with the issues.
“The appointment of new committees is surprising. And of course we have to wait for Sabah to finish their election. And don’t forget Sarawak will also have its state election shortly,” said the source.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, quoted by The Borneo Post, also made the same point, saying the Special Cabinet Committee for MA63 formed under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government consisted of both chief ministers of Sarawak and Sabah as well as leaders from both states, legal experts, academicians, and activists.
According to Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, the new committee would be looking at the Cobbold Commission’s finding on the formation of Malaysia and the Inter-governmental Committee reports as well as the Malaysia Act more systematically and holistically.
Another source close to Sarawak’s PBB also said that state leaders are becoming more annoyed by efforts made by Bersatu, Umno and PAS to contest in the upcoming state election.
The source revealed that several federal PN leaders have started campaigning in Sarawak state seats, and have even demanded to contest those seats.
“Bersatu has established their Sarawak chapter. PAS as well. Umno did not want to be left out.
“Some make demands, they want some seats. All in the name of alliances,” said the source.
The source pointed to a public statement by Wan Junaidi earlier this month urging PAS and Bersatu to skip contesting in Sarawak, as proof of GPS’ increasing annoyance at their West Malaysian allies.
This was after Sarawak PAS Commissioner Jofri Jaraiee and Sarawak Bersatu chairman Jaziri Alkaf Abdillah Suffian’s calls for GPS to allocate seats to the two parties as a sign of cooperation within PN.
Malay Mail is currently seeking comments from GPS, Bersatu and Umno.
Both PN and BN are already at loggerheads during the Sabah state election, after forming Gabungan Rakyat Sabah, a coalition comprising the two pacts and local Sabah Opposition parties that were cobbled together to jointly challenge the ruling Warisan Plus pact.
On September 12, at the end of nominations, it was confirmed that GRS parties will face off against their own allies in nearly a quarter of the 73 seats up for contest, which would split their support against Warisan Plus that avoided overlaps.