Equal status: There’s a need to amend Article 160 also, says SUPP sec-gen

Datuk Sebastian Ting

By Jaythaleela K

MIRI, March 10: Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) opines that Sarawak and Sabah will not be equal partners with Peninsular Malaya by just amending Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution but without amending Article 160.

Its secretary-general, Datuk Sebastian Ting, said they have to be amended together to give the effect.

“It is pertinent that in the amendment Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, it must also include amending the definition of `the Federation’ in Article 160 so that the established Federation will be based on the Malaysia Agreement 1963,” he said in a statement today.

Ting said presently the Federal Constitution defines Malaysia as a Federation established under the Malaya Agreement 1957. Hence, it was not correct right from the beginning because Sarawak was never involved in the formation of Malaya.

“Secondly, this definition, when read together with Article 1(2), gives the perception or implies that Sarawak and Sabah had joined a Federation called Malaya, which later on was renamed as Malaysia, instead of forming Malaysia as equal partners.”

Meanwhile, the people of Sarawak and Sabah, he added, would also like to ask and know what constitutes as “equal partners”.

“Is it merely a change of status? Or it is with substance, such as giving back our autonomy over our oil and gas resources, increasing financial grants to Sarawak, giving us equal development projects similar to the peninsula and many more, in particular those agreed upon as contained in MA63, Cobbold Commission, Inter-Governmental Committee Report and Malaysia Act 1963 (Chapter 35).”

Ting also highlighted the need to get the federal government to increase the parliamentary seats for Sarawak and Sabah.

He said both Borneon states could not depend on the current 56 parliamentary seats (25.23 per cent of the total 222 parliamentary seats) to protect its constitutional rights in the Federal Constitution from being overridden by the peninsula’s two-thirds majority.

“Without increasing the number of parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak to at least one-third of the total 222 seats, our rights in the Federal Constitution would always be at risk as the peninsula can easily remove our rights in the Federal Constitution at will.

“SUPP firmly believes that it is a fair and reasonable request to increase the number of parliamentary seats for Sarawak and Sabah since we are to be equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia.”

Ting also argued that Sarawak, with an abundance of natural resources, had contributed so much to the federal coffer in the past 56 years; hence, it would be “very wrong” if Putrajaya decides not to increase the number of parliamentary seats for Sarawak and Sabah.

“We want to have a louder voice in parliament so as to protect our interest as equal partners.”

SUPP, Ting said, hoped all 31 MPs from Sarawak, irrespective of political affiliations, would have a healthy and meaningful debate on the Federal Constitution Amendment Bill 2019, “bearing in mind that the interest of Sarawak must always come first”. — DayakDaily