In September 2020, the Warisan state government that won power with Pakatan Harapan in 2018's historic elections lost in snap polls to an alliance of the old order—Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) was an alliance of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) with Barisan Nasional (BN).
The results were close: GRS managed to win 38 seats to Warisan-PH’s 32 seats. But GRS actually polled fewer votes than the incumbent Warisan-PH coalition—GRS won 316,049 votes to Warisan-PH’s 317,541 votes. Politically, the results strengthened the hand of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as both the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak are now pro-PN. Sarawak will be holding its state election in the next six months, and this will have national implications. Unlike Sabah, the federal PN coalition has no presence in Sarawak and PM Muhyiddin must rely on Sarawak's GPS coalition, his ally, to deliver.
With growing restlessness in East Malaysia over the 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63), what do the recent Sabah election results and the upcoming Sarawak state elections mean for the future of federal-state relations? Will the Muhyiddin federal government move to address the historical grievances? Previous ruling federal coalitions BN and PH had established cabinet-level committees to deal with the MA63 dispute but the main issues remain unresolved.
James Chin, Professor of Asian Studies, University of Tasmania, and Senior Fellow at Jeffrey Cheah Institute, Sunway University Malaysia, will discuss tough times in Sabah and Sarawak politics, amid controversial federal interventions in Sabah and ahead of Sarawak's polls as the pandemic worsens.
The webinar will also feature comments and a live discussion with former Assistant State Minister and senior MP Jannie Lasimbang, Sabah lawyer and Law Society exco Marianne Ghani, and Sarawak youth activist and former ministerial aide Trinity Bungan Tajang.
Moderated by Kean Wong, Editor of 'Rebirth: reformasi, resistance and hope in new Malaysia' (2020).