PAKATAN Harapan will elevate Sarawak to its rightful position as an equal partner in the Federation of Malaysia and accede to its other rights demands if Pakatan wins the general election.

They include the return of all the state rights Putrajaya had taken or eroded in the last 54 years, and increase oil and gas royalty from the current 5% to 20%, as the state had demanded.

This assurance was given by PKR Vice-President Nurul Izzah Anwar at a “teh tarik & borak santai” (tea and chat) session in Kuching this morning where youths sounded fears that Dr Mahathir Mohamed, if he becomes prime minister again, may choose to pick up the policies he left off when he stepped down in 2003.

“Equal partners? Definitely. It’s not an issue. We’ll give the autonomy to Sarawak and Sabah,” Nurul said.

The former premier, now among the senior Pakatan leaders, is remembered for suppressing the two Borneo states’ rights demands with threats of jail.

One of the youth said Sarawakians, in general, are wary of Dr Mahathir while a Pakatan youth leader said he is finding difficulty in explaining Dr Mahathir’s presence in Pakatan.

Nurul said Sarawakians should not focus on Dr Mahathir’s past excesses and instead focus on what he could bring to the table in Pakatan’s drive to unseat Prime Minister Najib Razak and the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

“Anyone who embraces Pakatan’s reform agenda and the agendas of the people should not be rejected.

“The reform agenda is paramount in Pakatan. That’s what makes us who we are.”

Nurul also refuted claims that Dr Mahathir had hijacked Pakatan’s agenda for personal gains.

She said if there is no seriousness in the reform agenda, and “even if (Prime Minister) Najib (Razak) goes, the problems in the country would remain because of the systems in place”.

Nurul also gave Sarawakians, most of whom are non-Muslims, the assurance that Malaysia will remain a secular state if Pakatan wins.

“It’s in the Constitution. Malaysia is a secular state. And Islam is the official religion in the Constitution.

“Turning Malaysia into an Islamic state is the agenda of Najib.”

The gathering, attended by fewer than a hundred youth mostly from Pakatan partner parties, opened with Nurul sharing her experiences as the daughter of jailed PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, the pain of rejection as she was turned down by top local universities because she is Anwar’s daughter and her foray into politics.