DUN Sarawak: ‘Negeri’ should be dropped as Sarawak is a region

Asfia and Deputy DUN Speaker Datuk Idris Buang addressing a press conference after the PBB pre-council meeting at party headquarters on May 4, 2024.

By Karen Bong and Marlynda Meraw

KUCHING, May 4: It is only logical and axiomatic that the word ‘negeri’ (state) be dropped since Sarawak is recognised as a region and not one of the 13 states within Malaysia in accordance with the spirit and intentment of Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

With that, Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Tan Sri Mohammad Asfia Awang Nassar said the State Legislature of Sarawak should be Dewan Undangan Sarawak.


“…because you (Sarawak) are no longer a state but a region.

“If you are to use the word ‘wilayah’, it will reduce the status of Sarawak to that of the Territory of Labuan and Federal Territory,” he told a press conference after the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) pre-council meeting in conjunction with DUN Sitting at the party headquarters in Jalan Bako today.

In his book titled ‘Change and Continuity’, Asfia underscored the historical significance of the Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak (DUN Sarawak), highlighting its distinction as the oldest legislative assembly in Malaysia.

The assembly’s origins trace back to Sept 8, 1867, when it was known as the General Council. Subsequently, it underwent name changes, being gazetted as the Council Negeri until 1976, when it adopted its current name, Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak.

Delving into the etymology of the term ‘council’, he explained the word is not an English word, but comes from Latin (concilium) and French (conseil), meaning a group of people gathering.

The word ‘negeri’ at that material time (1867), he added, meant ‘country’, which meaning after the formation of Malaysia in 1963 was reduced to mean one of the states of Malaysia.

“So when stated Council Negeri at that material time, it is meant as a country, not a mere state,” he pointed out.

Similarly, Asfia elucidated on the origins of the term ‘parliament’, also not an English word but derived from Latin (parlia) and French (parler) which means ‘to speak’, while ‘ment’ in French means institution, signifying that parliament as an institution to speak.

Expanding on governmental terminology with attributing ‘government’ to the French word ‘governor’ and Latin ‘gubernare’, he emphasised its connotation to direct, guide and govern, which defined government as an institution to rule.

“Members of the Commonwealth countries used the parliament terminology for their national and state legislature. Malaysia as a member of the Commonwealth, we also look at the practices of some of the Commonwealth countries like some states in Australia, the state legislature is called state parliament which comprised the upper and lower houses,” he said.

Regarding the potential amendment to drop ‘negeri’ from Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak, Asfia said he would leave it to the executive powers, having provided historical context, facts and practices of Commonwealth countries.

Pressed whether media organisations should begin adopting the legislative assembly as Dewan Undangan Sarawak , Asfia reiterated his view that the word ‘negeri’ be dropped since Sarawak is no longer a state but a region, while Sarawak should not be referred as ‘wilayah’ (territory) as it would downgrade Sarawak’s status.

Whether dropping ‘negeri’ takes effect immediately or there would be a need to wait for an official notice, Asfia said, “It is the choice of media organisations. If you keep the negeri, you are out of date. It will inflict on yourself as negeri and not a region.”

On terminology for assemblyman, presently referred to as ADUN or Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri, Asfia simply replied, “Member or ahli Dewan Sarawak, Speaker of Dewan Sarawak will do. We stick to the definition.”

Asfia asserted the unique characteristics of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly, boasting the largest membership with 82 honorable members as compared to the compositions of other legislature in other states in Malaysia.

“It passes the biggest budget with a double digit figure, as Sarawak’s revenue has surpassed RM11 billion in 2023, with the potential to reach triple digits in the reasonably foreseable future.

“It is unique and fair because it allows all Bumiputera races to speak their mother tongue, either in Malay, English, Iban, Bidayuh or Orang Ulu, if they choose to. There is no legislature of Parliament in Malaysia, if not in the world, that allows members to speak in their mother tongue so as to be unique and fair to all Bumiputera races in Sarawak.

“It practices high parliamentary democracy in debates with impeccable decorum. Legislature must not be judged only by the budget it passes but the minimum yielding among the members,” he added. — DayakDaily