Sarawak in a better position now to reclaim state’s rights — PBB leader

Datuk Idris Buang

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By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, May 4: The recent unanimous decision by state lawmakers in passing the ministerial motion on the state government’s view on the need to amend the Federal Constitution in line with the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), including Article 1(2) and Article 160(2), has been regarded by many Sarawakians as politically and legally correct.

The motion, which was tabled by Sarawak’s de facto Law Minister Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) on Tuesday, is a watershed for the state because it signifies that no matter how deep the political partisanship, Sarawakians could still agree on a common issue that touches on the basic rights of Sarawak.

“Such unanimity galvanised the much-needed cooperation of all concerned in order to have a better bargaining power with the federal government for the Constitution to be holistically reviewed and amended in ways that strengthen both the state and the federation on all fronts and in the spirit of MA63,” PBB information chief Dato Idris Buang told DayakDaily today.

He said with the decision made by Sarawak DUN, the state government was now mandated to formally present its views to Putrajaya through the good office of de facto Law Minister Datuk VK Liew on matters that needed to be acted upon, in order to take stock and henceforth sync the Federal Constitution with Sarawak’s rights to all constitutional safeguards, assurances, undertakings and recommendations as guaranteed by the MA63 and the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report annexed thereto.

It is anticipated that Liew would then present them to the federal government and, henceforth, to Parliament along with the federal government’s own proposal of setting up a Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) to delve on matters pertaining to MA63 and the Federal Constitution.

“We ardently hope that Sarawak’s views and/or proposal would be sincerely taken as part of the permanent agenda of the said PSSC,” Idris said.

The PSSC, he added, would then need to consult the relevant stakeholders, such as Sarawak and Sabah, to get their opinions on their eroded rights that needed to be restored along with the terms that are contained in the MA63.

“They will have to hear the voices of both Sarawak and Sabah and then they will be debated in Parliament. The select committee will be an investigative committee, and we hope that it will be holistic enough to include the voices of the people,” he emphasised.

The Muara Tuang assemblyman reiterated that the federal government had to constantly consult the Sarawak government on important issues that affect the state government as it is an important stakeholder in the formation of Malaysia.

“The PSSC should engage with all stakeholders, such as Sarawak and Sabah, who are equal partners that signed the MA63 along with the Federation of Malaya and the United Kingdom,” he said as a matter-of-factly.

Idris noted that it was no surprise that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had now back-paddled from their earlier stance in rejecting the idea proposed by Santubong MP Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to form the PSSC because such a committee is aptly appropriate and necessary due to the seriousness and the nature of the issue.

The amendment of Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution was first tabled by Liew and the second reading was tabled by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on April 9, which was later rejected as it did not garner the necessary two-thirds majority support.

Along the way, PH MPs from Sarawak accused the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) MPs with colluding with Umno and PAS for not supporting the Bill.

However, when it mattered most, state PH assemblypersons supported Sharifah Hasidah’s motion, which puts Sarawak in a much better position to further negotiate with the federal government on its eroded rights and how they could be restored.

Liew, meanwhile, during his recent courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had assured the state government that he would monitor closely the proceedings of the DUN regarding the matter and assured that he would do his part accordingly. — DayakDaily