Chong: Ascribe the term ‘Sarawakian’ into the State’s Constitution

A little Chinese-Bidayuh girl, all dressed up in traditional garb. The term 'Sarawakian' is not in the Constitution says Chong. PHOTO CREDIT: Joseph Masilamany

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 12: The word “Sarawakian” must be ascribed in the Sarawak Constitution to give proper and specific definitions to reflect the true identity of Sarawakian.

Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen pointed out there was not a single word of “Sarawakian” mentioned in the whole Constitution of the state of Sarawak.

“Then it is high time, we ascribed a definition of Sarawakian which is accepted to all, and to both sides of the House and to the people of Sarawak.

“Otherwise, the word ‘Sarawakian’ does not even appear in our Constitution,” he emphasised during the tabling of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020, this morning.

Chong had earlier formally proposed that the word “born in the state” in the second part of the amendment to Article 16 of the State Constitution, be replaced with “is a Sarawakian”.

“I concurred with my friend Ba Kelalan (Baru Bian) that the place of birth does not accord a person with his association or connection with Sarawak.

“Why do we not make it clear in our amendment to this Article to insert Sarawakian instead of a place of birth as a reference to determine the eligibility of a person to be elected to this House,” he said.

Chong emphasised that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), which has been shouting about fighting for Sarawakians, should make it clear in the amendment to avoid and disallow any loophole to the interpretation in the future.

He added that it was because of the confusion to the definition or interpretation of the ‘Resident of the state’ that the first amendment bill was deferred and later withdrawn.

“That is the problem that has been created by our drafter of the Constitution. As such it is time when we are seeking amendment to this Constitution, we ascribed a definition who is Sarawakian.

Chong (lower left frame) arguing his points while Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar (lower right frame) listens.

“Of course, one of the criteria (to be a Sarawakian) is a place of birth, secondly domicile and thirdly, intention to reside in the state.

“But it is time that the word Sarawakian be defined in this Constitution and if you are serious about fighting for Sarawakian rights, then you define it,” he reiterated.

Noting that the Sarawak administration now recognised the need to amend the Constitution to give better clarity, Chong stressed that he agreed to the amendment but it must be done properly to ensure only Sarawakian is allowed to be elected to this House and not by way of origin or place of birth.

“Don’t bulldoze it like that, let us sit down with the consultative committee and discuss and when this amendment goes through it will defend the rights of all Sarawakians for all generations to come without leaving some loophole here and there.

“With these observations, I cannot support the amendment because it is unclear,” he added. – DayakDaily