MA63 Technical Committee to meet next week

By Lian Cheng and Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Apr 12: The Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) Technical Committee will resume further discussion next week, revealed Sarawak Legal Adviser Dato Sri JC Fong.

He said the rejection of the Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution in Parliament on Tuesday (April 9), as of now, has no impact on the on-going negotiation between Sarawak and the federal government.

“Meetings are continuing. There are meeting plans for next week. So nothing has changed and nothing should change really, because the amendment to the constitution is just one part of the process.

“We still have to proceed to talk about other important issues, more important than the Article 1(2) because the discussions will address three fundamental issues,” he said in an exclusive interview with DayakDaily today.

According to Fong, the three fundamental issues that needed to be dealt with are the restoration of the status before Malaysia, the legislative authority of the State and the financial autonomy issue.

Fong stressed that the restoration of status of Sarawak did not just involve the amendment of Article 1(2).

“It is not just amending Article 1(2). You have to amend the definition of the term ‘federation’ so that it is really a federation formed under the Malaysia Agreement. On top of that, the constitution has a definition for Merdeka Day — 31 August, 1957, but there is no definition for Malaysia Day.

“Malaysia Day is not recognised by the Federal Constitution even though the word Malaysia Day is used in many parts of the Constitution,” he explained.

He believed all that was not right in the Constitution needed to be amended.

“So all these things got to be remedied. Whether this sort of omission is by design or because of inadvertence, they must be rectified because to many Sabahans and Sarawakians, 16 of September is a historical day, as historical to the Merdeka Day to the Malayan.

“That was why I have always maintained that any amendments to the constitution must be studied carefully and must be done in a rational manner not influenced by emotion or political consideration, because the constitution is the supreme law. You just can’t play politics with it.”

On the legislative authority, he said there were legislative list, federal list, state list, the supplementary to the state list to Sabah and Sarawak, the concurrent list where federal and state has the same power, and the supplement to the concurrent list for Sarawak and Sabah.

Anything not in these lists were in the residual list and the residual power is with the State, he continued.

“Over the past years, they have been changing the legislative list to the detriment of the State, so we have got to fix this.

“We have got to put into the Constitution that the Parliament cannot disturb the legislative list without the consent of the state legislature, to be expressed by a resolution passed by the DUN (Sarawak Assembly).

“Otherwise, you will wake up one day, where Parliament will take out all your legislative power just like that,” he said.

Fong reminded that when Malaysia was first formed, Malayan had two-third of MPs while Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore had one-third.

However, when Singapore left, the seats under Singapore were taken over by Malaya, resulting in Malaya having two-thirds majority and thus, able to amend the Federal Constitution anytime.

“So you have got to build in the Constitution to protect yourself and not allowing anyone to disturb the legislative list. After all, it is the power of DUN and if you want to take away the power of DUN, don’t you think its fair that DUN must agree?”

On financial autonomy, he said when Sarawak first joint, it was supposed to have greater financial autonomy so that the state can manage itself.

He cited the sales tax and special grants as sources of revenue that were entitled to Sarawak.

“If these revenues continue to lessen, you will lose your financial autonomy and to progress, you must have money. Even if they give us the status back but the legislative power is not protected, our financial autonomy will erode,” Fong cautioned. — DayakDaily