Proposed Bill to restore Sarawak and Sabah status futile without amending Article 160

Datuk Sebastian Ting

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By Jaythaleela K

MIRI, April 5: The Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, in its current form, does not appear to put Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia in the Malaysian Federation.

Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting said many Sarawakians were unhappy and disappointed with the proposed amendment that was tabled for the first reading by de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

“The federal government appears to be most insincere in wanting to restore Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners by just merely dividing the current Article 1(2) into 2 sub-clauses.

“The Bill has no meaning and it is just merely reconstructing the sentences and playing with words,” he said in a statement today.

The amendment stated that the States of the Federation shall be:

(a) Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu, and

(b) Sarawak and Sabah.

“Basically, it means the same thing with or without the amendment,” he added.

Ting reiterated that Sarawak and Sabah would not be equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia by just amending Article 1(2) without amending Article 160.

“No matter how they reconstruct the sentences in Article 1(2), as long as the Putrajaya maintains the definition of ‘the Federation’ as Federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957, then we will continue to remain merely one of the 13 states like the rest.

“Is that what we truly are? We were never involved in the formation of Malaya in the first place. Why should Pakatan Harapan government refuse to acknowledge this fact?” he questioned.

He pointed out that the amendment did not alter the functions of the federal and state governments under the concept of federalism, raising questions whether the concept of federalism was based on 1957 or 1963.

He added that most people would not be wrong if they were to believe and think that Pakatan government was still insisting on using the old structure of federalism of Malaya Agreement 1957, lumping Sarawak and Sabah as two of 13 states.

“We would also like to point out that nothing was mentioned in the proposed amendment Bill about returning our rights, our oil or increasing our financial grants. Nothing was mentioned on increasing the parliamentary seats for Sarawak and Sabah to one-third of the total 222 seats.

“If the federal government is serious about making us equal partners to Peninsular Malaysia, they would have included these in the amendment as well,” he said.

Ting said he had raised in the State Legislative Assembly sitting last November the need for Sarawak to introduce its own Referendum Bill for the assembly to “discuss and debate on important matters” for 2019.

A Referendum Bill, if passed, would become our Sarawak Referendum Ordinance, where important matters would be decided by the people of Sarawak, he explained.

SUPP appealed for all 31 Sarawak MPs to put Sarawak interest first and vote against the Bill, he continued. — DayakDaily