Bill to amend constitution: Opposition MPs from Sarawak, Sabah spoke with one voice today

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, April 4: Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) from Sarawak and Sabah today stood shoulder to shoulder today to protest the proposed amendment of Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.

Their eagerness to object to the Bill was obvious as immediately after the parliament secretary announced it was time to table the Bill, at least three East Malaysian MPs, namely Santubong MP Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Keningau MP Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan and Kota Marudu MP Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, stood up and tried to speak out.

Maximus was given the floor. He remarked that it was a crucial Bill because the amendment of the Federal Constitution would allow Sarawak’s and Sabah’s rights to be returned.

That being the case, he opined that there should be a thorough discussion, which should also involve Peninsular Malaysia, as the return of status of Sarawak and Sabah and their rights involve many areas, including the legislative aspect.

Maximus suggested for the Bill to be referred to the Select Committee as the whole issue of returning Sarawak’s and Sabah’s rights would bring about too many implications, for example, whether the country’s wealth should be shared equally, with each partner enjoying one-third of the wealth.

With many more MPs attempting to speak out, Speaker Mohd Ariff Md Yusuf quickly reminded them that this was just the first reading and that the debate should only be carried out during the second reading.

His reminder, however, fell on deaf ears. As soon as he stopped talking, a few more MPs tried to speak out.

Wan Junaidi, who managed to gain the floor, raised three points. Firstly, he said, according to Parliament’s rule, the Bill should have been presented to the MPs 24 hours before it was tabled. For this Bill, he said the MPs only received it this morning.

Secondly, he said between the first and second reading, a Select Committee might be formed to look into the Bill, which he suggested should be done instead of rushing the Bill.

Thirdly, since discussion of the MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963) Steering Committee was still on-going, it would be better if a more comprehensive Bill be drawn up and tabled based on the final deliberations of the Steering Committee, instead of rushing the Bill, which contained only “piecemeal” change.

After Wan Junaidi, Kinabatangan MP Dato Sri Bung Moktar Radin echoed what Wan Junaidi had said that. Bung said since the MA63 Steering Committee was still in talks and the fact that for decades no amendment had been carried out on Sarawak’s and Sabah’s status, the tabling of the Bill should be postponed to give way to more discussions for the people of Sabah and Sarawak.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey, who had been trying to speak out, finally got the opportunity. He suggested that the Bill should be withdrawn because more discussions needed to be carried in the Sarawak and Sabah Legislative Assemblies before the Bill was tabled in Parliament.

Bera MP Dato Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the fourth MP to stand up, said there was nothing at all in the Bill.

“The word ‘State’ is still being used, except that they were all in one line before, now they are separated into two lines. That is all.

“It does not bring any meaning, as if “rather than promoted, (Sarawak and Sabah) were downgraded,” opined Sabri.

Towards the end, opposition MPs from Sarawak and Sabah stood up and called on other East Malaysian MPs to stand with them to protest the Bill.

Their protest, however, was shot down by the Speaker, who insisted on following what was stated on the day’s order.— DayakDaily