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KUCHING, April 11: Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian said he could not find any merit in the arguments of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) MPs for not supporting the bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution on Tuesday (April 9).
Baru, who is also Works Minister, said the purpose of the intended amendment was to reinstate the position of Sabah and Sarawak to the pre-1976 days by adopting the exact phrases and wording used in 1963, but without the mention of Singapore.
“This was after the proposal was made by the government’s MPs and the GPS MPs. The PH government showed their sincerity and goodwill by acceding to their request, but when it came to the crucial vote, the GPS MPs showed their true colours by refusing to vote.
“Their behaviour begs the question whether they are sincere in wanting to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s status, which all Sabahans and Sarawakians had been dreaming of all these past years,” said Baru in a statement today.
In response to their arguments that the bill should be referred to a select committee, to the Sarawak State Assembly (DUN), or to the Agong, he said the question was whether this was the procedure in 1976 when Article 1(2) was amended.
“The answer is no. So, why should it be so now? In fact, on the alleged need to refer the matter to the Sabah and Sarawak DUN, I would have thought that the proposed amendment in 1976 would have been sent to the Sabah and Sarawak DUN for their consent because it involved a downgrade in the status of Sarawak.
“In contrast, our recent proposal was not to the disadvantage of Sarawak but instead to restore her to her former status, and, therefore, it was not necessary to bring the matter to the Sarawak DUN.”
As for the definition of ‘the Federation’, he said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had explained why it was not in the proposed amendment.
“He said, ‘The government does not plan to amend the interpretation because such interpretation is intended for use in some other provisions of the Federal Constitution that are still in force.’
“That is a clear and simple explanation and, in fact, that is true if one reads further to a few Articles after Article 160,” asserted Baru.
Baru pointed out that throughout the years, the accepted composition of ‘the Federation’ had been as set out in Article 1. In addition, there must be a reason why the interpretation of ‘the Federation’ in Article 160 (2) was not amended in 1963 when the Federation of Malaysia was formed and in 1976 when the constitution was amended.
“The legal advisors to the government at those times were not so careless or ignorant to have omitted such a fundamental provision by oversight.
“In addition, the proposed amendment to Article 1(2) can be done independently of any other provisions of the Federal Constitution. So, to talk of a holistic amendment as stated by the GPS MPs is but excuses without merit.”
Baru argued that should there had been any doubts about the sincerity of the PH government’s moves to amend Article 1(2), these doubts should have been allayed by the clear, concise and precise assurance by the Prime Minister in his opening and winding-up speeches that this proposed amendment was merely to amend the law first and that all of the other issues under MA63, which remain unfulfilled, were currently being discussed in the Steering Committee, the Technical Committee and the various cluster groups.
He said the proposed amendment could be done independently of the present discussions under the Steering Committee.
“Had the amendment been passed, Sabah and Sarawak would have been able to participate in the discussions as rightful equal partners, their status having been restored.
“So, as I had said earlier, the argument to have a holistic amendment after referring the matter to a select committee has no merit in light of all the committees that are discussing the MA63. And there are Sarawak government representatives in every one of these committees.”
Baru said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had agreed at the Steering Committee to the amendment of Article 1(2) first in the spirit of MA63.
“The actions of his MPs must have caused great embarrassment to him.”
He said another telling fact from the vote on April 9 was the fact that the Sabah opposition MPs (with the exception of one), whatever they might have said in their debates, voted with their conscience and principles to support the government’s bill, unlike Sarawak’s GPS MPs who preferred to abstain with Umno and PAS.
“That, in itself, paints a very clear picture of these so-called Sarawakian YBs, and Sarawakians should question their motives.
“It would have been better for them to be elsewhere on the night of April 9 than being present in the Dewan and abstaining from voting.
“To me, it was a clear dereliction of their parliamentarian duty and a betrayal of the trust given to them by Sarawakians.”
Baru reminded GPS that as opposition in Sarawak, PH assemblymen supported the government’s motions on the Territorial Sea Act and the demand for 20 per cent oil royalty (both of which originated as opposition motions) because Sarawak PH knew it was the right thing to do in safeguarding Sarawak’s interests.
“It is truly shocking that the GPS MPs do not hold similar principles but have proven that they are willing to betray Sarawakians at such a crucial moment in our history, which any reasonable person would suspect, in all likelihood, was for their own selfish political gains.” — DayakDaily