Kota Marudu Member of Parliament

Bill to restore Sabah, S’wak status tabled for first reading amid protests

KUALA LUMPUR: The government took another step closer to fulfilling its promise of restoring the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in the federation after a bill to amend the constitution was tabled for the first reading today.

However, this was not before several opposition lawmakers from the two states protested the move, claiming many of them were not consulted and called for the tabling of the bill be postponed until further discussions were conducted.

They also pointed out that the steering committee to review the Malaysia Agreement 1963 was still sitting for meetings and that its final report would only be ready in June.

Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili (PBS-Kota Marudu) argued that the matter has to be deliberated by all stakeholders first as the implications for such an amendment was wide-ranging, and said there should be a clear explanation on the proposed amendments.

“It seems like the minister in charge hasn’t consulted (the relevant stakeholders), and we (lawmakers) are at a loss. It is best that we refer the matter to a parliamentary select committee first,” he said.

Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (GPS-Santubong) pointed out that lawmakers were not given the required 24-hour notice before a bill was tabled in the house for the first reading.

Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan (STAR-Keningau) meanwhile urged the government to retract the bill as the matter also needed to be deliberated in the two-state assemblies.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also pointed out that the proposed amendments lacked any comprehensive details, and seemed as though the government was fooling around.

Despite the protests, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof allowed for the first reading of the amendment be tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong, saying he was satisfied with the notice that was given the night before.

Liew said the second reading would be tabled by next week.

To this, Wan Junaidi urged the government not to bulldoze the bill and to allow for the matter to be discussed in a select committee first before the second reading, according to the parliamentary standing order.

Mohamad Ariff however said should there be any disagreement pertaining to the bill, the MPs could write in a motion formally to him.

According to the bill provided to the media, it seeks to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution by separating Sabah and Sarawak from the other states in the federation.

Currently, Sabah and Sarawak are read together with the other 11 states in the federation under a single clause.

“The new Clause (2) seeks to specify all the constituent states of the federation by restoring, with modifications, the provision during the formation of Malaysia in 1963. This amendment is made in line with the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement concluded in 1963.

“This amendment does not, in any way, alter the functions of the federal and state governments under the concept of federalism,“ the bill reads.

Source : The Sun Daily