KUCHING, Nov 24: Those who disagree with the amendments to Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution may bring a case for a legal test in court to determine if the amendments have eroded the rights of Sarawakians.
Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP), in a statement today, challenged Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) to file a judicial review with the court as ‘the only fit and proper avenue’, to test the relationship between the law and the purpose.
“If not, the purported interpretation of the amended Article 16 by PSB and DAP should be regarded as a meaningless hear-say only,” SUPP asserted.
This challenge was issued by five SUPP branches, namely Bukit Assek, Bawang Assan, Dudong, Pelawan and Nangka following PSB placing a full page advertisement containing information, which they viewed, as highly misleading to the people of Sarawak for alleging that the amended Article 16 has eroded the rights of Sarawakians.
The SUPP legal team argued that the amendment has in fact further preserved the rights of Sarawakians by restricting the criteria for a person to be qualified as an elected member of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (ADUN).
“Whether or not the person is born in Sarawak should not be the focus of argument because one cannot say that the pre-amendment of Article 16 specifically prevented those who are not born in Sarawak to run for ADUN.
“If the pre-amendment did not exclude it, how can the leader of the opposition claim the post-amendment is an erosion of Sarawakians’ right?,” SUPP questioned back.
Comparing the pre-amendment and post-amendment of Article 16, SUPP stressed that the Explanatory Statement of the Amendment Bill clearly mentioned that the purpose of the amendment was to define ‘Resident of State’ with putting two extra caveats over the qualification of ADUN — “a. Parents or either of them are born in Sarawak and; b. He is normally resident in Sarawak”.
“In other words, to qualify as ADUN now, not only one has to be a resident of Sarawak but his parents or either of them must be born in Sarawak too.
“Further restriction is that such a person must be ‘normally resident of the state’. The keyword here is ‘normally’. Although no further definition is to define what ‘normally’ means, applying its literal meaning and common sense, it should mean a person who ordinarily lives or dwells or resides in Sarawak,” SUPP explained.
The latest amendments to Article 16 now provides that a person to be qualified as an ADUN must be “a. A citizen; b. Over 18 years old; c. If born in Sarawak, his parents or either one of his parents must be born in Sarawak; d. If not born in Sarawak, his parents or either one of his parents must be born in Sarawak; e. He is normally resident in Sarawak.”
The pre-amendment provided that a person qualify as an ADUN must be “a. Citizen of Malaysia; b. Over 21 years old; and c. Resident of the State of Sarawak.”
Hence, SUPP pointed out that the phrase ‘Resident of the State of Sarawak’ is left open to various possible definitions and can be confusing.
“The first two requirements are easily comprehensible but the third requirement could cause confusion as there is no hard and fast rule to define what actually constitutes as ‘Resident of the State’.
“Does the word “resident” in the pre-amendment of Article 16 mean being a Sarawakian or permanent resident would suffice? And have we actually pondered what ‘Sarawakian’ actually means and whether there is actually such a legal phrase of ‘Sarawakian’ in any written law? I am afraid it could not be found.
“There may be some references or reliance on Immigration Act previously to define residency of the state but by far, they are quite confusing and also untested in the court,” SUPP emphasised.
Providing a case scenario, SUPP said: “Assuming a Sarawakian couple, both husband and wife were transferred out of Sarawak to work in Peninsular Malaysia and whilst there, gave birth to a boy.
“After completing their services in Peninsula Malaysia, they returned to Sarawak. By virtue of Article 16 of the amended Sarawak State Constitution, the boy born in Peninsular Malaysia is a Sarawakian.”
Based on this example, SUPP thus questioned how can the rights of Sarawakians be eroded after the recent amendment as claimed by PSB president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh.
“PSB could choose a candidate resembling the characteristic of the example enunciated by the leaders of PSB and DAP to contest in the coming state election so that the case can be tested in the court of law.
“If PSB and DAP were parties of political principles, they should have the political courage to bring the amended Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution for a judicial decision,” SUPP added. — DayakDaily