Chong: Proposed amendment clears way to elect non-Sarawakian lawmakers into DUN

Chong making his points when debating the amendment bill today (Nov 10, 2020). Screenshot taken from the Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas) livestream of DUN proceedings.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 10: Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen slammed the state government over the proposed amendment on the interpretation of ‘resident’ in Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution, arguing that it would allow non-Sarawakians to become elected members of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN).

He expressed dissatisfaction with the ‘glaring errors’ in the bill’s wordings, particularly Clause 2(1)(c) which provides that “resident in the state in this article meaning a citizen belonging to the state of Sarawak in accordance with Section 71 of the Immigration Act 1959/63”.

According to Article 71(1), Chong explained: “For purposes of Section 66, a citizen shall be treated as belonging to an East Malaysia state if – (a) he is or has the preceding two years been a permanent resident in the East Malaysia state”.

“Only two years of PR and the person is allowed to be elected as a member of this House? What loyalty will he have with two years’ permanent residency?,” he questioned.

He said that in tabling this amendment, the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) state government is open to allowing West Malaysians with PR of only two years to sit in the august House as lawmakers to decide the laws and policies of Sarawak.

“Can we allow that? My answer here is clearly a ‘no’. We should not allow this to happen. Mr Speaker, this amounts to the ‘sell out’ of our state rights and privileges of Sarawakians,” he thundered when debating the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in the DUN sitting here today.

Instead, he urged Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah to withdraw the Bill, or remove Section 2(c) and if intending to make an amendment, provide clarity to the ambiguity of the definition for ‘resident in the state’ in Article 16 by replacing it with ‘Sarawakian’.

“If GPS claims to be the defender of Sarawak’s rights, then this ambiguity should be removed and replaced with ‘a Sarawakian, born to the parents or parent of a Sarawakian’.

“How can it be to open up and make it clearer and easier for a non-Sarawakian to be elected the member of this House?

“DAP (Democratic Action Party) Sarawak strongly objects to this amendment Bill. And if you are capable and competent enough, put in a clause to remove ‘resident in the state’ to make the qualification of this DUN exclusively Sarawakians,” he added.

Referring to former Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon’s case, Chong reminded the august House that the Council had submitted so strongly to the loyalty of the state.

“Dr Ting Tiong Choon, was born in Sarawak and is a true and true Sarawakian though he has acquired citizenship of Australia and later surrendered it. That you questioned his loyalty (when) he has come back, stayed for two years and was elected. That you questioned his loyalty,” he said.

The State Legislative Assembly, Chong pressed, is the last bastion of the rights and privileges of Sarawak where state laws and policies are made.

In expressing his disappointment towards GPS, which has touted itself as the defender of Sarawak’s rights, for proposing this amendment, he said: “How can we (Sarawak DAP) allow that? That is hypocrisy of the highest degree.

“It just goes to show that GPS in their claim to defend Sarawak rights is not acting in the best interest of Sarawak, the so-called local party protecting Sarawak, that is rubbish. That is only for political propaganda, when it suits your purpose, you claim to be the defender of Sarawak rights,” he emphasised.

Chong also questioned if there was a deal between the state government and the ‘backdoor’ federal government which led to this proposed amendment, purportedly to open the door for West Malaysians to enter DUN.

Tupong assemblyman Fazzrudin Abdul Rahman quickly interjected to urge Chong to withdraw his statement accusing GPS of having struck a deal with the federal government that led to the proposed amendment.

“According to Standing Order 32(6), I request YB Kota Sentosa to withdraw the statement insinuating we had a deal with the federal government to come to the amendment of the bill.”

Chong argued that he was only putting across a question to the government over the issue “which they must come clean, be transparent about it and be frank to Sarawakians.”

“Is this a sell out? Why the coincidence that after the payment of the (State) Sales Tax (SST) payment, immediately we come to the amendment of the Constitution, opening this state assembly to West Malaysians.

“That is a valid question, that is a question in the right minds of all thinking Sarawakians,” he hit back.

He also asked why the state government proposed this amendment with the state election on the horizon and if there are already candidates from Peninsula Malaysia lining up.

Stressing this is an important bill that will have long and wide ranging effect on Sarawakians, he advised GPS to “…not be the culprit who opened up the DUN for a non-Sarawakian to be elected as the member of this House where laws and policies are made.”

On the proposal to lower the minimum age of Sarawak’s elected representatives from 21 to 18, Chong said that Sarawak DAP has no objection.

“After all it was the PH (Pakatan Harapan) government that had made the proposal to Parliament to lower the voting age so as to allow more youths to participate in the election process,” he added. — DayakDaily