Bukit Assek rep’s different take on bill to amend constitution issue

Irene Chang

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, April 30: Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang (PH-Bukit Assek) opined that the Amendment to Federal Constitution Article 1(2) Motion tabled in Parliament on April 9 could have been better and agreed with Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) that the word “pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement 1963” should be included.

However, Chang agreed with Pakatan Harapan’s stand that the passing of the Bill would be the first step to put things right.

Chang was also the first DAP lawmaker to agree with the motion to amend the Federal Constitution Bill tabled by Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali today.

She made her stand clear that she supported the motion “for the sake of Sarawak and the people” before pointing out the fundamental difference between the federal and Sarawak governments on the issue of the bill to amend the Federal Constitution on April 9 was how “it should be done”.

The difference was that the federal government wanted to restore the status first, while the Sarawak government wished to do “everything in one go”.

“It is my stand that I agree with the PH government that the amendment of Article 1(2) should precede any other steps. A restoration of this status as spelt out in the supreme law of the country is necessary to provide each player with the right basis to their claim of equal status and in the negotiations for the return of autonomous rights thereafter.

“The claims to want a complete package of amendments to restore Sarawak rights can only come later and certainly not at this juncture. This was borne out by the words of the PM (Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad), when he tabled the Bill at the Second Reading, that it was the first step to be followed by the necessary consequential amendments on issues raised or to be raised by the steering committee,” she said when debating on the Amendment Bill proposed by Sharifah Hasidah at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly.

Chang believed that it would be impractical to have a complete package of amendments on the Federal Constitution and do it in one go.

“It is foreseeable that it would be practically impossible to have a complete package in one go but rather that it would be a restoration by stages in accordance to the priority of importance to both Sabah and Sarawak and the practical ability of the federal government and the Malayan States to accede.

“If we are to wait for the finalisation of all negotiations regarding the complete package, it might make take another 10, 20 years. Would our people be willing to wait that long after already waiting for half a century? And furthermore, as in any new venture, the first step has to be taken to take the project off the ground.

“Once that is done, a direction would have been set on how to proceed with the rest,” she said.

She then pointed out that it was her personal view that the motion that was tabled in Parliament could have been drafted with more clarity as required by a good bill.

“A good bill should be one that should leaves no room for ambiguity and conjectures. Here, Tuan Speaker, I must differ slightly from my friends from this side of the House.

“With due respect to them, it is my view that if the proposed bill had been passed on April 9, the matter (i.e. the status of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak) might still not be put to rest.

“It would definitely have put us in a better position than we are now. But the question is whether that would have been sufficient for our people.

“And if we had taken that step, would another chance be given to us to further ‘upgrade’ our status? Of course, we know that if the state government changes hands, the possibility of that is high.

“Therefore, no matter what, the paramount issue in the amendment of Article 1(2) should somehow, or the other, inject the spirit of MA (Malaysia Agreement 1963) into the FC (Federal Constitution).

“Therefore, if we think along that line, then maybe it is indeed more prudent to add in the words ‘pursuant to Malaysia Agreement 1963’ to the proposed amendment in order that there shall be no ambiguity whatsoever that the Article is to be construed along the spirit of MA 1963 and to leave no possible room of doubt of what is exactly our status within Malaysia.

“We do not want our children and children’s children to be still engaged in the same battle in years to come,” said Chang.

Chang said it has been quite obvious that a lot of tidying up of the Federal Constitution is required.

“But that should be left to another day. On behalf of the people, I urge both the state government and federal government not to burn the bridges behind them but to put aside their political baggage and start afresh,” said Chang. — DayakDaily