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By Nigel Edgar
KUCHING, March 31: Former Bintulu MP (1974-1990) Ting Ling Kiew today revealed why Parliament’s Hansard did not record him voting when voting was called to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution in 1976.
Ting, from the defunct Sarawak National Party (SNAP), said he was in Singapore that day — on purpose.
Speaking to reporters at the state Democratic Action Party (DAP) headquarters here today, he said he disagreed with the amendment to the Federal Constitution to downgrade Sarawak from a territory to a state.
Ting recalled that many Sarawakians and Sabahans did not know the amendment back then, and felt it was not right for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government at the time to go ahead with the amendment.
He said when he first received the papers of the amendment bill in 1976, he told Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) founder and president at the time, the late Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui, that he would not support the bill because it was to be voted in a short amount of time and that many Sarawakians and even Sabahans were not aware of it.
“So, I asked him if we can delay it till the next election, but he (Ong) said we cannot. Otherwise, the BN leadership will take action against me,” claimed Ting.
He also met his party president, the late Datuk Amar Dunstan Endawie, and asked if he were to vote against the bill, would the party expel him.
“Dunstan said he personally would not take action against me, but being in BN, the coalition leadership might pressure the party to take action against me.
“So, that night, I went to Singapore and stayed there (during the voting of the amendment bill),” said Ting.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Chong Chieng Jen, who was also at the press conference, advised Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to tell Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) MPs to support the Federal Constitution Amendment Bill scheduled to be debated and voted on April 8 and/or 9 next week.
He said back in 1976, Sarawakian MPs from Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and SUPP voted in favour of the 1976 Amendment Bill to the Federal Constitution, which downgraded the status of Sarawak from one of the three territories in Malaysia to one of the 13 states in Malaysia.
Chong said PBB and SUPP, at the time, had committed blatant betrayal to Sarawakians who had voted them into the Parliament to uphold and defend Sarawak’s rights.
Now that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) has taken over the federal government, it has made efforts to restore Sarawak’s rights as for how it was before the 1976 amendment in less than a year after taking over.
As such, Chong said, if Abang Johari wanted to right the wrongs his predecessors had committed in 1976, he should tell his GPS MPs to support the amendment.
“I wish to remind Abang Johari that PBB and SUPP had betrayed the trust of Sarawakians once in 1976. This is the time for you to redeem yourself and to do justice to Sarawakians who have placed you in the position of the government all these years.
“So, it is only right that MPs from PBB, SUPP, including Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), should wholeheartedly support the amendment bill to the Federal Constitution and not play politics by giving lame excuses for not supporting,” Chong said.
Chong opined it was one of the fundamental changes that the PH government had brought to restore Sarawak’s rightful position in Malaysia, something the Barisan Nasional (BN) government had failed to do.
“On the contrary, the BN government has done the damage, and we are now repairing the damage, and yet this ex-BN people in the GPS — PBB and SUPP — tried to use their position and numbers in Parliament to hold the PH government to ransom. I think this is totally unacceptable,” — DayakDaily