Chong: Proposed SMA bill will be toothless because it clashes with federal laws

Sarawak Legislative Assembly Sitting, November 2017

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KUCHING, Nov 8: Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen is arguing that since telecommunication is under the Federal List, the proposed Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) bill holds no constitutional power.

Chong said International Trade and E-commerce Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh cited List Two, Item 14 of the State List to give constitutionality to the bill.

“This clause under the constitution refers to the setting up of a corporation and it does not give power to the corporation,” said Chong while debating the SMA bill proposed by Wong in the State Legislative Assembly sitting today.

Chong who is state Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman also said communication and transport are under the Federal List which means they are the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government.

“All telecommunications are under the federal (government’s) purview. It is not under the concurrent list.”

He said Sarawak may set up any corporation or statutory bodies but questioned whether the new bill could undertake matters which fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government.

“Or is this bill tabled just to give a fake impression that we have the autonomy already?” he asked.

Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen is seen speaking in the State Legislative Assembly in this screengrab.

Chong also pointed out Clause 29 of the bill was too vague and too open and it made it hard for the opposition representatives to support it despite their support for the digital economy.

Clause 29 states that “Any person who fails to disclose or omit to give an relevant information or evidence or document that he knows to be relevant or has reason to believe to be relevant in connection with any matter arising under this ordinance, committed any offence, and shall on conviction, be liable to an amount not exceeding RM100,000 or imprisonment of a term not exceeding three years.”

Chong requested the bill to be amended.

Meanwhile, Chong also brought up that there are other federal laws which contradict the SMA Ordinance, in particular the Communications and Multimedia Act.

In light of the contradiction, Chong said he was sure that the federal law will prevail.

Chong also questioned the reason for the discrimination in sending the proposed SMA bill to the opposition elected representatives as they had received it only at the last minute.

In addition, he also questioned why Wong was the one tabling the bill but Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was the proposed chairman of SMA.

He took the initiative to speculate, putting forth two explanations. Firstly, he questioned if it was because Abang Johari had no confidence in Wong or whether it was because Wong was too busy fighting Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) that Wong was only tasked to table the bill even though he is the E-Commerce Minister.

Wong is president of the United People’s Party. Both Barisan Nasional-friendly UPP and Barisan Nasional component party SUPP are vying for their candidates to be nominated to contest for BN in Chinese majority seats in the next general election. — DayakDaily