Term “wilayah” to refer Sarawak as a region will require amendment to the Federal Constitution

Sharifah Hasidah going through her slides as she presents a talk on MA63.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Aug 13: The term “wilayah” to refer Sarawak as a region needed to be clearly and legally defined which would require amendment to the Federal Constitution for it to be acknowledged and given the force of law.

De facto Law Minister Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali pointed out that to legally defined Sarawak as “wilayah”, there is a need to look into the definition including amending the Federal Constitution, which is the supreme law of Malaysia.

“The term ‘wilayah’ (region) was first mentioned by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin when he visited Sarawak (in April this year).

“I think what he (Muhyiddin) meant was that he recognised Sarawak and Sabah as an entity on its own, meaning partners who have come together to form the country Malaysia.

“But to legally defined Sarawak as ‘wilayah’, we need to look into the Federal Constitution in detail and by amending the Federal Constitution to clearly define the ‘wilayah’ as he meant it,” she said in a webinar organised by Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak (YPS) yesterday.

Sharifah Hasidah, who is also Semariang assemblywoman, said it is for this reason, Sarawak has proposed a comprehensive amendment to the Federal Constitution that aims to reinstate the status of Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Sarawak has among other things proposed for the amendments on Article 1(2) to add “pursuant to MA63” in Clause 2; on Article 160(2) on definition of the federation to mean federation established under MA63 and not Federation of Malaya 1957; inserting definition of Malaysia Day; on Article 85A as a new provision; on Article 95B; and on Article 161A(7) to include the Ibans, Bidayuh and Lun Bawang as natives of Sarawak.

“The amendments include on the definition of the federation and definition of the state based on the Federation pursuant to MA63,” she said.

In the discussions under the Rakan Sekutu (allies) Committee formed under the Special Committee on MA63 chaired by Muhyiddin, Sharifah Hasidah revealed that the three entities of Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia agreed that for now, the term “wilayah” needed to be defined clearly and must be in consonance with the Federal Constitution.

“But for me to say for sure what it means to federalism, we need to really look into the definition and that would include amendments to the Federal Constitution,” she reiterated.

The term “wilayah” came about when Muhyiddin, during a working visit to Sarawak on April 2 this year, mentioned that Sarawak and Sabah were more than just states but a region as stipulated in the MA63 prior to the formation of Malaysia.

This issue had then triggered a huge response across both sides of political divide as well as the general public with State’s leaders welcoming the intention while certain quarters criticised the move as gimmick and some questioned the differences it would bring to the federalism.

The webinar was moderated by Angkatan Zaman Mansang (Azam) Sarawak honorary secretary Ariff Irwani Azahari.

Other notable speakers featured including deputy dean and senior lecturer at Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Dr Arnold Puyok, Associate Professor Dr Rahman Tang Abdullah of History Programme Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of Universiti Malaysia Sabah and law student and Undi 18 public relations officer Adillah Zaki.— DayakDaily