Seminar: Sabah and Sarawak: Perspectives on Federal-State Relationship, Identity and Current Issues



About the Seminar

The Merdeka Center for Opinion Research recently conducted a survey in Sabah and Sarawak to assess public opinion on the performance of local leaders and of the state and federal governments, as well as potential election issues that concern them the most. These include the relationship between Putrajaya and Kuching/Kota Kinabalu as well as attitudes towards state autonomy, and question of Islamization and Islamic state. The choice of surveying voter sentiments in Sabah and Sarawak forms a critical component towards building a body of knowledge about the electorate there considering how the ruling Barisan Nasional has continuously relied upon voters’ there for support.

The relative weakness of the central government at Putrajaya has spurred political leadership in Sabah and Sarawak to push towards the devolution of power in their favour.

Interesting findings from the survey include: Sarawakians and Sabahans expressed mixed views about the direction the country is heading; Sarawakians were more satisfied with their state government and then chief minister, while Sabahans, on the other hand, held more split views on those institutions; most East Malaysians acknowledge that their respective states were better off being a part of Malaysia rather than without; a large majority of Sarawakians and Sabahans also report that they did not really understand the contents of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement or the 18 and 20 point terms set during the formation of the Malaysian Federation; and a plurality of East Malaysians held warm views towards Singapore although a sizable minority of one in five Sabahans held some negative feelings about the island state leaving the federation in 1965.

About the Speaker

Ibrahim Suffian is a co-founder and programs director of Merdeka Center for Opinion Research, a leading public opinion polling and political surveys organization in Malaysia. Besides undertaking research assignments, Ibrahim is actively involved in briefings for the diplomatic and the financial community about political developments in Malaysia. He presently manages Merdeka Center’s portfolio of clients ranging from political parties, government departments as well as local and international institutions of higher learning. Through Merdeka Center, Ibrahim has been involved in organizing surveys in Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei, Singapore and Myanmar.

Prior to his role in Merdeka Center, Ibrahim worked as a project finance specialist in a Malaysian investment bank and a project manager in an international development agency.

Ibrahim received education from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and obtained an MBA from the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. Ibrahim was a World Fellow at Yale University in 2011.


To register, please fill in this form and email it to by 7 February 2017.


Feb 08 2017


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2