2 out of 11 opposition members did not object to passing of amendment bill

Asfia and Chong at DUN today (Nov 12, 2020).

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Nov 12: Two out of the 11 opposition members in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) did not object to the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which was passed today.

The duo were Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) elected representatives, namely Dudong assemblyman Datuk Tiong Thai King and Opar assemblyman Datuk Ranum Mina.

There are in total 11 opposition members. Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) has five elected representatives: Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen who is also Sarawak DAP chairman, Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong, Pelawan assemblyman David Wong, Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang and Tanjung Batu assemblyman Chiew Ching Sing.

Representing PSB are Bawang Assan assemblyman Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh who is also its president, Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian, Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, Engkilili assemblyman Johnichal Rayong, Ranum and Tiong.

This is a very intriguing scenario as Sarawak politics is based on party politics where there should be a strict adherence to the policies, principles and decisions of a political party. Thus, it gives rise to the question of whether the duo held a dissenting view which resulted in them not objecting to the bill which their leader Wong (PSB-Bawang Assan) had rejected?

In a press conference by DAP and PSB after the passing of the bill, Ranum explained that he was busy attending to his mobile phone as one of his strong grassroots leaders passed away, He admitted that he did not focus his attention on the DUN proceedings.

Tiong on the other hand, was the only opposition leader missing from the press conference and there was no explanation forthcoming as to why he did not object to the bill.

Chong at the same press conference blamed DUN speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar for not adhering to the DUN proceedings.

He claimed that what Mohd Asfia had done was “very wrong and out of ordinary” and held that where a constitutional amendment is concerned, Asfia should have called for a division of the House.

“We have all discussed on this and were expecting a division. Suddenly, this thing (show of hands of who objected to the bill) came up and I think Opar was caught off guard as he was focusing on his things, that is why he was not paying attention.

“But the whole thing is that the proceeding is wrong for constitutional amendment. You cannot go by voice vote,” said Chong.

Meanwhile, what happened in DUN was, after Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah concluded his winding-up speech for the tabling of the bill, Mohd Asfia called for the attention of all DUN members, quoting DUN Standing Order 42(4).

“If there are 10 members standing up against this bill, I am calling for a division (‘belah-bagi’). Can I have a show of hands? How many are against this bill? You stand up. How many are against the bill?

“Because it is an amendment to the Constitution, two-thirds majority is required. So I cannot call ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (voice vote). If there are 10 members standing up against the motion, I will call for division,” said Asfia.

He then asked for a show of hands for those who were against the bill.

“How many? Secretary, can you count? If less than 10, I will call the ordinary way (voice vote).”

After counting, the Secretary of the DUN reported to Mohd Asfia.

“Nine, only nine. Therefore, I will call the vote in ordinary way. Not by division or ‘belah-bagi’,” said Mohd Asfia. He then called for a voice vote and the bill was passed. — DayakDaily