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Yong: The return of Labuan to Sabah is inevitable, only a matter of time

Kota Kinabalu, Thursday, 21 March 2024

The return of Labuan to Sabah in an inevitable event that is already set on an unalterable course in this post-Mahathir era.

This is because of the repeated and glaring failures of the Federal Government to keep its promises to Sabah and to Labuan during the process of federalisation of Labuan in 1984.

The core promise made by the Federal government were an iron clad guarantee that Labuan will remain a free port and an expanded barter trade and business centre. But, instead of Labuan remaining a free port and a barter trade centre, Labuan has become a tax revenue collection island for the federal coffers.

The other promises made were national integration, national security, speed up development, Labuan as an international conference centre, all of which remained as promises with little or no benefits to local people.

Not a day passes without media reports of the serious grouses of Labuan people.

The return of Labuan to Sabah would mean that Labuan will come within the domestic Immigration Zone of Sabah. The means that travel between Sabah and Labuan, by ferry, by air and, eventually by Labuan Bridge, will not face the hassle of immigration control. Only travel to and from Sarawak, Peninsula Malaysia and international destinations will be subject to immigration control.

Towards the eventuality of Labuan returning to Sabah, I have already proposed to the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah to set up a “Technical Committee On The Return of Labuan To Sabah”.

Federal Minister Dr. Zaliha Mustafa should be informed of the tumultuous era of 1984 to 1985 when patriotic Sabahans were detained without trial under the then Internal Security Act (ISA) for openly protesting against the federalisation of Labuan. The then mighty ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) also expelled Sabah party USNO for objecting to the loss of Labuan. The federalisation of Labuan was a key issue that led to the dramatic downfall of the then dominant BN-Berjaya party.

As I was working in Labuan in 1984, I can still recall vividly the sight of Federal Reserve Units (FRU) anti-riot police putting up a show of force at the Labuan town Padang on the eve of the handover of Labuan to Federal government.

The return of Labuan to Sabah is completely consistent with the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and can repair the hurt and pain caused to Sabahans.

Datuk Yong Teck Lee
SAPP President

Issued by SAPP HQ