Unequal Partners: Race, Religion, Domination and Inequality in East Malaysia

JOE SAMAD (Johan Arriffin Samad) is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Sabah Action Body Advocating Rights (SABAR). Previously, he served as CEO of the Institute for Development Studies; the Sabah government think-tank.

SIRD (First printing, 2023)
209 pages including Bibliography


Only 1 left in stock

Unequal Partners: Race, Religion, Domination and Inequality in East Malaysia provides an honest and open conversations into the feelings of East Malaysians towards the hegemonic West Malaysia in the last 60-years after the formation of Malaysia. Malaysia desperately needs a new perspective and a new narrative to rid itself of the 60-year yoke of regressive policies and politicking that has stifled its advancement. Race, religion and identity politics still dominate the national narrative. The solution to these destructive politics will not come from the peninsula. It is Sabah and Sarawak, with its history of racial harmony and religious tolerance that we must look to for new perspectives, direction, and leadership. Talk of ketuanan Melayu and the supremacy of one race or religion is anathema to the people of Borneo states.

These West Malaysian narratives have presented a real threat to the racial and religious harmony we have enjoyed in East Malaysia. In Sabah and Sarawak, there is no concept of a single dominant race, as we are all citizens of the nation called Malaysia with equal rights. Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia, the two states were equal partners in its formation. Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak gave birth to this nation together; without Sabah and Sarawak, there is no Malaysia. It is time the federal government acknowledged the massive contribution of Sabah and Sarawak, especially its oil resources, to the wealth of the nation. Recognition is important. To the disappointment of Borneo states, Malaysia Day was only declared a public holiday in 2010, 47 years after its founding, ignoring its significance.

Until today, Merdeka Day overshadows Malaysia day celebrations. The Borneo states has always regarded themselves as a nation state, equal partners of Malaysia, and not one the 13 states of Malaysia. The amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution in July 1976, for whatever reason, downgraded the status of Sarawak and Sabah from regions within Malaysia to states. As Lord Cameron Cobbold commented: “Malaysia should be regarded by all concerned as an association of partners, combining in the common interest to create new nation but retaining their own individualities.”

The Constitution (Amendment) Act 2022 passed by Parliament on December 14, 2021 restored Sabah and Sarawak status as equal partners. Since then, the Borneo states have been flexing their muscles as a “Borneo bloc to demand more autonomy and sharing of revenue for its development agenda. Interference by the central government has changed the landscape of local politics. Many Sabahans have accused former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad of meddling in state affairs and exporting toxic Umno politics to Sabah. Umno entered Sabah in 1991, and continued to dominate Sabah political scene up to the fall of the Barisan Nasional coalition in the 14th general election.


I. The Politics of Malay Hegemony: Race, Religion and Corruption

1. Anwar Must Now Step up and Prove His Worth
2. Changing the Narratives of History
3. In Dystopia While Seeking the Utopian Dream
4. Running on Empty, Seeking a Jokowi
5. Sabah—What Malaysia Can Be
6. Is There Anyone in Charge of Malaysia?
7. Elections? For What and Whose Benefit?
8. The Hijacking of Malaysia
9. Don’t Let Fear of the Word ‘Allah’ Divide Us
10. Malay Leaders, Post-truth, and Alternative Facts
11. Dignity, Respect and the ‘Social Contract’
12. Stage 4 Cancer in Our Public Universities
13. Cutting Through the Malay Noise
14. Goodbye, Vision 2020
15. Apa Lagi Melayu Mahu?
16. Energy Wasted on So Many Issues
17. Stupidity and the Planet of the Apes
18. The Cross-Eyed People in Our Midst
19. What PAS’ ‘Muslims-Only’ Call Shows
20. Of Mahathir, Macron and Muslim Sensibilities
21. Crybaby Leaders and Humpty Dumpty Politics
22. Turning Malaysia into a Cultural Desert
23. Bearing the Blame for Bored Youth
24. Cracking the Whip on Using Malay
25. On Guan Eng, Syed Saddiq and New Leaders
26. Politicians Are the Biggest Gamblers

II. The Landscape of Sabah Politics and Peninsular Dominance

27. Rethinking Malaysia
28. Time for Sabah to Stand Up to Federal Bullying
29. Heartland Politics Different in the East
30. One-Sided Merdeka Day Shows We’re Not One Family
31. Where Would We Be Without Sabah and Sarawak?
32. East Malaysia’s Fate Still in Putrajaya’s Hands
33. Borneo States Will Be the Biggest Losers of GE15
34. Sabah’s Electoral Roll and Undocumented Migrants
35. Sabahans Have Only Themselves to Blame
36. Sabah’s Double Whammy: Political Instability and Corruption
37. Mahathir’s Cruel Joke on Sabah and Sarawak?
38. Sabah Must Find Own Solutions to Competing Claims
39. The Complicated Landscape of Sabah’s Undocumented
40. Making Sense of the Sabah Election
41. Has Sabah Become a Zoo for Political Animals?

III. The Broken Promises of MA63

42. When Will Sabah and Sarawak Truly Celebrate Merdeka?
43. In Borneo, a Yearning to Break Free
44. Self-Government or Independence for East Malaysians?
45. It’s Déjà vu Again Over MA63 Promises
46. Equal Partners But No Money?
47. Return of Sabah and Sarawak as Negaraku
48. Have a Referendum on MA63 for East Malaysians
49. Budget Dissatisfaction Accentuates Secessionist Calls
50. Sick of MA63 Talk: Where’s the Beef?
51. Going to Court Over Sabah’s Revenue Dispute


Weight0.372 kg
Dimensions22.9 × 15.3 × 1.2 cm




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