‘GPS dropped the ball in negotiating, fighting for Sarawak’s rights’

Iswardy stating his views during his debate against Idris.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, April 28: Pro Reformist 98 Sarawak chairman Iswardy Morni questions the readiness of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) to fight for restoring Sarawak’s status as an equal partner in the Federation of Malaysia.

In a debate today, he argued that the GPS state government had six months to come up with a proposal after the Special Cabinet Steering Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was set up by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government, which Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad chaired with its members comprising leaders of Sabah and Sarawak.

He said the Sarawak government also formed a Consultative Committee on MA63 and all leaders from Sabah and Sarawak including the Attorney-General as well as judiciary and legislative experts had also attended the first Steering Committee meeting chaired by the Prime Minister.

“Was this issue (pursuing to the recent constitution amendment bill) not refined? Why (was it) only when the Bill (to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution) was tabled that the state government demanded for negotiation and discussion?” he questioned.

“The GPS state government (formerly Barisan Nasional Sarawak) was the ruling government at one time for 42 years. Does this mean for 42 years, GPS is not ready at all with the proposed amendment or have you not thought about this issue before?” he asked further.

Iswardy thus asked his debate counterpart Muara Tuang assemblyman Datuk Idris Buang if the GPS state government had actually come up with recommendations or counter proposals as it had many months to do so, from October 2018 until May 2019, since the Steering Committee was formed.

He then claimed that the reason GPS refused to vote for the amendment bill was because they wanted to politicise the issue.

“I feel that the narrative (of GPS strategy) was simple. GPS has been politicking things for the past 42 years, and they are using the ‘narrative’ on restoring the rights of Sarawak which had been eroded to sell to the Sarawak people. This is just an excuse,” he said.

Iswardy opined that people must properly understand the history of Malaysia’s development in order to question the grounds of the constitutional amendment bill.

He explained that according to the Constitution, the Federation of Malaya was formed in 1957 and there was the Malaya Agreement 1957 which led to the first Malaya (Tanah Melayu) Constitution being created.

Article 1 (1957) reads: “(1)The Federation shall be known by the name of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (in English Federation of Malaya). (2) The States of the Federation are Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu (formerly known as the Malay States) and Malacca and Penang (formerly known as the Settlements of Malacca and Penang (formerly known as the Settlements of Malacca and Penang).”

“Later the Federation (of Malaya) viewed of the need to bring Sabah and Sarawak into the Federation. This led to the creation of Malaysia Agreement 1963 in which Sabah and Sarawak agreed with the condition that MA63 be accepted and subsequently the Malaysian Act 1963 and as such the amendment to the Constitution,” he said.

As a result, he added that the provisions based on the MA63 was amended in the Constitution in 1963 and the exact wordings in that provision on Article 1(2) was brought verbatim into the Constitution without changes in the 2019 amendment bill.

“It partly reads ‘The states of Malaya shall be (a) Johor, Kedah, .. the 11 states.. (b) the Borneo states, namely, Sabah and Sarawak; and (c) the state of Singapore,” he said.

“But what happened in 1976 was that this was amended, which was supported by 130 MPs including BN Sarawak and BN Sabah, where the words ‘the Borneo states’ was eliminated and putting Sabah and Sarawak same (with other states) in the Federation,” he continued.

After that amendment, the provision reads: “(2) The States of the Federation shall be Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu.”

“At that time, only four (MPs) from DAP were against it and therefore, it was enshrined and it repealed what we called the MA63,” he said.

“PH wanted to restore this status as per MA63. How difficult is it to understand? It is reverting back to the orginal agreement which had been changed,” he added.

“The question is who caused the phrase ‘the Borneo states’ to be lost? Malaya or Sarawak herself? One-hundred and thirty people supported the amendment before,” he reiterated.

The forum and debate titled ‘Should Sarawakians support the Amendment to Federal Constitution 1(2) Bill as tabled in Parliament on April 9, 2019, in light of Malaysia Agreement (MA63)?’ organised by DayakDaily at Kuching Civic Centre attracted a 700-strong crowd. — DayakDaily