Amendment to Article 16 of State Constitution passed following fiery debate

Abdul Karim tabling the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 at DUN sitting today (Nov 12, 2020). Screenshot taken from the Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas) livestream of DUN proceedings.

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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, Nov 12: A revised Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which tightened the definition of “Sarawakian” was tabled and passed in the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) today.

Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah today presented a revised version of the amendment to Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution to the DUN as there were anomalies detected in the initial bill which had drawn criticism and accusations from the opposition bench.

Capitalising on the oversight of the ruling coalition, Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) had alleged that it was intentional for the ruling coalition to do so so that West Malaysians and Sabahans may be able to enter Sarawak to become state lawmakers.

“On Tuesday (Nov 10), I introduced a bill that would define the term ‘resident in the state’ to prevent potential infiltration by non-Sarawakians and those who are not living in Sarawak permanently from seeking election to this august House and to claim to be representing the people of Sarawak.

“Unfortunately, the noble intention of the state government was distorted by the opposition, making scurrilous allegations that the state government was opening an avenue for non-Sarawakians to seek election into this august House,” Abdul Karim said when tabling the revised Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 at DUN today.

He said the version of the bill introduced today was to determine that there will be no confusion among Sarawakians as to the real objective of the proposed amendment to Article 16 of the State Constitution.

“This bill which I am now introducing in this august House will remove all interpretative, ambiguities or uncertainties as to the real intent and objective of the propsed amendment.

“Therefore, Clause 2 (1)(c) of the bill provides a clear definition on the term ‘resident in the state’. Under the proposed amendment, only two categories of persons are qualified as ‘resident in the state’ namely (1) a citizen born in the state of Sarawak whose parents or either of them was also born in the state, and he is normally resident in the state, or (2) a citizen though not born in the state whose parents or either of them was born in the state, and he is normally resident in the state,” said Abdul Karim who is the Asajaya assemblyman.

Today, with both sides much better prepared, the debate on the bill proved to be a fiery one with both sides accusing each other of harbouring the ill intention of opening doors for West Malaysians and Sabahans to be elected members of the Sarawak DUN.

In response to Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen’s accusations that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government is amending the bill to facilitate the election of West Malaysians and Sabahans into the august House, especially after Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) had paid a huge sum in State Sales Tax, Abdul Karim in his winding-up speech reflected the same accusation back at Chong.

Abdul Karim highlighted DAP’s political history when DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang had contested in different states, from Melaka to Selangor to Perak, to prove that Chong has been objecting to the bill with “niat jahat” (bad intentions) of wanting to allow the West Malaysians and Sabahans to be members of the DUN.

“Looking at the record and the history of politics, it has always been DAP who has been jumping from state to state,” he said.

After Abdul Karim’s winding-up speech, DUN Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar reminded the august House that as the amendment to Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution involved amending the Constitution, there was a need for two-thirds majority to pass the bill.

He did not call for the division of the house as only nine lawmakers expressed objection to the bill before the bill was duly passed. — DayakDaily