Fierce like Bujang Senang: Wan Junaidi recounting 1993 fight to keep Sarawak’s gambling rights

Wan Junaidi speaking during the celebratory and thanksgiving dinner on his appointment as Dewan Negara president held at Sarawak Islamic Complex on Aug 8, 2023.

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By Shikin Louis and Karen Bong

KUCHING, Aug 8: Tan Sri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has vowed to uphold his fierce spirit like the killer crocodile Bujang Senang in the pursuit to see the remnants of Sarawak’s rights and demands enshrined under Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) realised, just like he did in 1993 where be became the first member of Barisan Nasional (BN) in Parliament to oppose the Gambling Bill that sought to repeal gambling under the Sarawak Ordinance.

The Speaker of Dewan Negara recounted that in 1993, as the Gambling Bill was tabled in Parliament to nullify Sarawak Ordinance on gambling, thus transferring the gambling authority to Peninsular Malaysia, he was the first BN MP to stand against a parliamentary Bill in Malaysia.

“I opposed because that was the right of Sarawak under MA63 which was taken by Peninsular Malaysia.

“Subsequently, I faced harsh criticism and censure from fellow parliamentarians, including those from Sarawak, who scolded me. But I don’t care because I know what I was doing. Of course, I did not succeed as merely 29 members supported my stance in the parliamentary vote,” he shared during a celebratory and thanksgiving dinner on his appointment as Dewan Negara president held at Sarawak Islamic Complex here tonight.

The significant occasion was graced by the presence of Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

The legislative journey culminated with the passing of the Gambling Bill, leading to the transfer of Sarawak’s jurisdiction to the Peninsular Malaysia. Consequently, Sarawak relinquished its power to grant gambling licenses and collect related fees.

“As a result, I was put in the fridge for seven years, not allowed to go here nor there,” he said.

This ordeal ignited his conviction that the Parliament must be autonomous and remain unswayed by external entities, including the Finance Ministry.

The Speaker of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar, once likened Wan Junaidi’s indomitable spirit to that of notorious Bujang Senang.

With an impressive political career spanning 42 years, including 32 years as a MP and various ministerial posts, the 78-year-old remains steadfast in his dedication to safeguard Sarawak’s rights outlined in MA63.

Despite his relatively short tenure (August 2021 to November 2022) as the Minister of Law, he orchestrated four amendments to the Federal Constitution, making him the first minister in the country since Malaysia’s independence in 1957 to do so. Among his paramount accomplishments was embedding the recognition of MA63 in the Federal Constitution.

Throughout the arduous process of integrating MA63 into the Federal Constitution, Wan Junaidi admitted that he even contemplated resigning “because I was so angry with the Cabinet for not supporting me.”

However, bolstered by the encouragement and backing from Abang Johari, he persevered and fulfilled his duty, culminating in the realisation of MA63. He attested, “It was the Premier’s unwavering support that provided me the strength to endure.”

Appointed as the 19th President of the Senate on June 19, Wan Junaidi humbly acknowledged that this accolade signifies Sarawak’s standing and acknowledgement from Putrajaya, a testament to its achievements and progress guided by the Premier’s vision and mission.

“I felt the excitement within me that I am participating and involved with what is on in Sarawak.

“I’m confident Sarawak is in really good hands under Abang Johari’s leadership. The Premier is farsighted, stepping far forward in terms of visions and missions in governing Sarawak. Let’s rise together to safeguard and strengthen the Sarawak government.

“We will see to it that the remnants of the demands by Sarawak under MA63 be realised,” he asserted.

For that, Wan Junaidi hopes his appointment will facilitate the central government stability that would yield economic returns and gains, and empowering Sarawak government to strategise major agendas and initiatives in propelling Sarawak to greater heights, including the sovereign wealth fund to secure Sarawak’s future. — DayakDaily