Amendment bill: “GPS should put aside its ego”

Abdul Aziz Isa

KUCHING, April 7: The proposed amendment to Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution is an improvement to the 1976 version of the Article 1(2) as it puts Sabah and Sarawak on the correct platform as envisaged by the forefathers when Malaysia was formed, says a local opposition leader.

Highlighting this, Democratic Action Party (DAP) Batu Kitang Branch chairman Abdul Aziz Isa reiterated that the amendment Bill was to set the right legal framework for Sabah and Sarawak to achieve their desired status in Malaysia.

“The amendment, tabled by de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong in Parliament on April 4, was also in line with the original structure in the Federal Constitution with the two states in a separate category from the other 11 states in the peninsula,” he said in a press statement today.

“The structure of Article 1(2) of the Constitution in the 2019 proposed amendment is exactly the same as that of the 1963 Article 1(2), save that we no longer use the phrase ‘the States of Malaya’ and ‘the Borneo States’,” he added.

Furthermore, he emphasised that the said amendment was only a starting point in the continuous process of devolution of powers and reinstating Sabah and Sarawak’s equal standing.

As such, Abdul Aziz pointed out that Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) has no reason to oppose the Bill if they sincerely have the interest of Sarawak in mind.

“But sadly, GPS turned around to object the Bill for their political mileage and propaganda,” he said.

Aziz urged GPS MPs to rethink their position, put aside their ego and pride and support the amendment Bill. He opined that MPs can discuss and debate the principle of the Bill on the second reading before voting.

“This is the main opportunity to debate the principle of the bill rather than individual clauses. A division at this stage, therefore, represents a direct challenge to the principle of the bill,” he said.

He elaborated that divisions on the second reading can be on a straight opposition or a vote on a ‘reasoned amendment’, detailing the reasons the bill’s opponents do not want it to be read a second time, which may be selected by the Speaker.

“Bills defeated at a second reading cannot progress further or be reintroduced with exactly the same wording in the same session. If the bill is read a second time, it proceeds to the committee stage,” he added.

At the parliamentary select committee stage, Aziz highlighted that the committee will consider each clause of the bill, and may make amendments to it.

“Significant amendments may be made at the committee stage. In some cases, whole groups of clauses are inserted or removed. However, almost all the amendments which are agreed upon in committee will be tabled by the government to correct deficiencies in the bill, to enact changes to policy made since the bill was introduced or to reflect concessions made as a result of earlier debate,” he said.

He added that an opportunity to amend the bill will be present at the report stage in which the House need not consider every clause of the bill but only those in which amendments have been tabled.

“At the third reading, (there will be) a debate on final text as amended. The minister or his deputy formally submits it to a vote for approval. It is usually a short debate followed by a single vote and amendments that are not permitted,” he said.

A two-thirds majority, he added, was required to pass the bill pertaining the amendment of the Federal Constitution.