NGO: Use “constituent province” instead of “state” for Sarawak, Sabah and cement status in constitution

Peter John Jaban

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KUCHING, Jan 16: Sarawak Association for People’s Aspiration (Sapa) calls on Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg to consider the term ‘constituent province’ to replace the term “state”.

According to Sapa publicity and information chief Peter John Jaban, the use of the term “constituent province” will settle the ongoing debate about terms to describe the two Borneo States, as it reflects Sarawak’s political aspirations for autonomy.

“More importantly, whatever term is settled on must be backed by a proper definition and implementation of rights and protections for the two Borneo States through the Federal Constitution,” said Peter John.

He said the term “provinsi” (province) works well in Malay, and in English and French, the international languages of business and diplomacy, to convey an appropriate status.

He pointed out it is used, in the Province of Quebec in Canada or the Province of Aceh in Indonesia, both of which have autonomy over various matters including language, economy, taxation, education and even resource rights.

“Moreover, it is not a term currently in use within the Malaysian Constitution to describe a different status,” said Peter John who is also the vice president of Global Human Rights Federation.
He opined the term “region” has no defined political meaning internationally. It is a geographical term while “territory is even less appropriate as it suggests, in international terms, a subordinate relationship.

He added, in Malay, “wilayah” becomes problematic because of the way it has been applied under the Federal Constitution.

“Clearly neither Sabah and Sarawak will accept the same description as Labuan or Putrajaya. Sabah and Sarawak are both Constituent States of Malaysia, but we need a term to distinguish them from the Federated States of Malaya.
“A decision must be made and must be made quickly. We will only be able to move the debate on when our status as an autonomous province is spelled out fully in the Federal Constitution.

“It must be made clear through legislation that this is not simply a geographical description but also a statement about our political and legal status in the nation.

“This will avoid further instances in which our Premier is forced to repudiate the statements of Federal Ministers. We need to settle on a term that represents our position as equal partners within Malaysia, both nationally and internationally,” said Peter John.
He asserted endless uncertainty is not only stalling more pressing negotiations, it is also exposing issues in the perception of Sabah and Sarawak and their position within Malaysia among the various parties.

Regardless, he said, the endless discussion must come to an end.

“Find a term that all can agree on, define it clearly and move on to legislation that will cement the status of the two Borneo Constituent Provinces in the Constitution.” — DayakDaily