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Labuan issue haunting PBS?

Posted by Tang ai li | 3:10 PM

PBS thinks both the federal and state governments should set up a joint committee to look into issues such as oil royalty, Labuan rights, Sabah Autonomy and the Malaysia Agreement.

KOTA KINABALU: More than 25 years after Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) rose to power on the back of the controversial surrender of Labuan to the federal government, the issue has returned to haunt the party.

Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan has been forced to lend his voice to calls for the setting up of a special committee to study the impact of returning the Federal Territory of Labuan to Sabah.

“Through the committee, the state government may get the participation of all those involved during the handing over of the Labuan island to the federal government,” he said.

Labuan, which used to be part of Sabah, was ceded to the federal government in 1984, making it the second Federal Territory in the country.

Commenting on the recent call by Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) information chief, Chong Pit Fah’s, to PBS to make its stand on the Labuan issue, Pairin, who is PBS president, said the party’s supreme council has not discussed the matter.

“If the government sets up the committee, it would be able to provide us with the pros and cons, as well as a detailed report on the impact of the issue.

“And if the federal government decides to keep Labuan, then it should also provide us with its reasons,” he said.

Pairin, who also is State Infrastructure Development Minister, said that both the federal and state governments should also set up a joint committee to discuss pressing issues such as the people’s call for the increase of oil royalty.

“Recently, many people are talking about oil royalty, Labuan rights, Sabah autonomy and the Malaysia Agreement, but everyone has different views on the topic.

“What we should do is to study the situation, instead of rejecting and ignoring the government’s views immediately.

“Everything can be discussed to find the best solution. The government should give its attention to the issue and make a wise and sensible conclusion that can be accepted by all.

“But it will definitely take a long time to settle,” he said.

Return Labuan

The call for return of Labuan to Sabah was raised by United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Organisation (Upko) vice-president Wences Angang recently.

Wences, a former state minister, said the federal government should return Labuan to the Sabah state government for failing to administer the island and maintain its free port status.

He made the call in response to an earlier statement by Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin who said that smuggling activities in Labuan have gone out of control, thereby incurring huge losses to the government.

Raja Nong also proposed scrapping Labuan status as a free port in a bid to combat the rampant smuggling of duty-free goods, particularly cigarettes, beer and liquor to mainland Sabah.

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