Pro-independence activists lose suit to remove Sarawak from Malaysia

Desmond Davidson

Parti Bumi Kenyalang president Voon Lee Shan disagrees with the Kuching High Court’s judgment that the 11 pro-independence Sarawak activists seeking removal of the state from the Federation of Malaysia had no local standi. – Facebook pic, May 25, 2023.

THE Kuching High Court has struck out the suit filed by 11 pro-independence Sarawak activists to remove Sarawak from the Federation of Malaysia. 

Judicial Commissioner Alexander Siew, in throwing out the suit with costs, ruled that the 11 had no local standi and that the court had no power to alter the Federal Constitution. 

A fine of RM10,000 each was imposed on the lawyers for the plaintiffs, Voon Lee Shan and Aron Peli, and one of the plaintiffs, Alex Kong. 

They were deemed prime movers behind the suit. 

Voon later told reporters that he disagreed with Siew’s ruling that the 11 had no local standi.

“We had argued otherwise but the court didn’t agree,” he said. 

Voon, who is also president of the pro-independence Parti Bumi Kenyalang, said he had cited many authorities on that. 

“I even quoted many Indian authorities but (still) we have to respect the court.”

Despite the setback, Voon said, “There is a window there (where) we have the right in a democracy (to take the case) to court (again).”

“That is most important. We just (have to) keep the matter alive.”

Voon, who spent many years pursuing his dream of independence, said the younger generation should take up the fight.

The 11 activists, headed by Dorus Katan Juman, filed their suit on March 15, 2021 seeking a declaration that the Malaysia Agreement 1963 was “null and void from the beginning”, and therefore, was not a binding international agreement as it failed to comply with the requirement of international law for the making of treaties: that only sovereign states could make binding agreements with each other.  

The other 10 plaintiffs are Hugh Lawrence Zehnder, Nor Nyawai, Xavier Ginafah Sidop, Jemain Uji, Belayong Nyandang, Kalai Sibok, Yu Chin Liik, Chieng Kung Chiew, Ahmad Awang Ali, and Alim Giovanni Adlim. 

They named the governments of Malaysia, Sarawak, and the United Kingdom as defendants. 

They had also sought that the court declare the UK government’s decolonisation of Sarawak and Sabah in 1963 – by transferring the two colonies to the Malayan Federation (renamed Malaysia) – not lawfully constituted. 

They argued that the way it was carried out was not consistent with the right of people to unconditionally exercise self-determination as required by UN General Assembly Resolutions 1514 and 1541. 

They also sought general, aggravated, and exemplary damages for having “suffered and for still suffering mental and emotional stress” from the unlawful or illegal acts of the defendants against the plaintiffs, jointly or severally. 

The Sarawak government on April 13 last year filed an application to strike out the suit. – May 25, 2023. 

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