Amendment bill failure: Bandar Kuching MP disappointed politics preceded Sabah, Sarawak interests

Dr Kelvin Yii - file pic

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By Nancy Nais and Karen Bong

KUALA LUMPUR, April 10: It is disappointing that opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) including those from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Sabah chose to play politics over prioritising the interests of Sabah and Sarawak in rejecting the significant amendments to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, says Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.

The amendment, which was aimed at restoring the rightful status of Sabah and Sarawak as reflected under the Malaysian Agreement 1963 failed to pass Parliament after 138 MPs voted for the amendment Bill and 59 members did not cast their votes.

To pass the Bill, a two-thirds majority or 148 votes are required.

Dr Yii said that from the beginning, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government has shown its intention to restore the rightful status of Sabah and Sarawak and recognise these two states as founding members in the federation.

“This sincerity was shown by not only amending the words to the amendment to the exact wordings of the constitution in 1963 based on the spirit of MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963) to remove any doubts (towards) or misinterpretation of the amendments, but also to take the risk of tabling a constitutional amendment in Parliament even though we do not have two-thirds majority in the House. I listened carefully to all the debates and arguments even those from the opposition as this is an important issue that is close to my heart,” he said at Parliament after the failure to amend Federal Constitution Article 1(2) Bill 2019.

The main concerns expressed by the opposition, Dr Yii noted, is that the amendments are ‘cosmetic’ in nature and do not express the full aspirations of Sarawakians to restore the state’s other rights including greater autonomy, rights to natural resources and also equitable development.

“These are important matters, important rights that need to be restored; however such discussions will involve other articles and provisions either in the Federal Constitution or other laws that were passed under the previous administration,” he said.

Dr Yii added that the tabling of amendments to Article 1(2) was never meant to address all the issues and problems that are faced in Sabah and Sarawak.

“Not one amendment can solve it all as over the years, multiple amendments were made, multiple laws were passed that were unfair to Sarawak, and all these are under discussion under the high-level Special Cabinet Committee which consists of the Chief Ministers of both the State Governments of Sabah and Sarawak and their representatives,” he said.

The committee also comprises the Attorney-General (AG) of each State and the federal AG, other legal minds, academicians and activists from both political divides.

With this high-level committee already set up, and all these discussions on-going, Dr Yii said there is no reason or any excuse for the Bill to be delayed or even referred to a Parliament Select Committee that basically only consists of politicians that may not fully understand all the legal implications in the discussion.

“Even in his rounding-up speech, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad confirmed that all the concerns raised on other rights and autonomy is currently being discussed in the Special Cabinet Committee and have not been cast aside. So the topic at hand is the amendment of Article 1(2) at first where the spirit of it is to affirm the rightful status of Sabah and Sarawak in the Federation.

“The intention was to restore us back to our rightful status, and to correct the wrong that was done in 1976 where we were downgraded to one of the 13 states in Malaysia. This is an important first step, not just cosmetics, as it restores us to the original words and spirit of the Malaysian Agreement 1963 as envisioned by our forefathers and with that, we approach further discussion on a new status and platform as founding fathers in the federation,” he said.

Dr Yii added that it is indeed a missed chance as yesterday everyone had the opportunity to list their names in history as putting right the wrong that was done to Sabah and Sarawak since 1976.

“The federal government have shown its sincerity by taking all the steps and even taking the risk to table it in Parliament even though we didn’t have the numbers. However, it is disappointing that egos and political affiliation cannot be put aside even though it involves the interest of our nation,” he said. — DayakDaily