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It is not the end of the road, the struggle to reinstate Sabah’s equal partner status in Malaysia continues: Shafie

By Chris Maskilone

KOTA KINABALU: It is not the end of the road as the state government will continue to fight for what is due to Sabahans under the Malaysia Agreement 1963(MA63), assured Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.

The failure of the Federal constitution amendment bill to get a two-third majority yesterday was unfortunate, he said.

Mohd Shafie (centre) greeted by the State Secretary Datuk Hashim Paijan (right) and cabinet ministers upon arrival at KKIA today. SNT pix/Mohd Adam Arinin

‘As all Sabahans and Malaysians realised, we have done our level best to make sure it can go through.

“I also spent a little bit of my time trying to convince those people, not only after my deliberation but also mingle with those people, the MPs, explaining to them what we really want is just to reinstate and not add in anymore other than what had been agreed by our forefathers in 1963,” he said.

“What really saddened me, the bill was there and we had our chance, but of course if you look into it there was 138 (MPs) who voted for the bill, and rest abstained, meaning they didn’t reject and also didn’t vote for it.”

“So we’ll continue our effort to ensure we can realise what has been the desire of our fellow Sabahans here and we were so bogged down with the campaign to make sure what is right for Sabahan, to include the 40 per cent tax collected by federal, we continue to fight for that, as well as oil royalty,” he said.

Mohd Shafie was asked about the amendment bill defeat in Parliament last night upon arrival at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport here this morning.

The Semporna MP said it was imperative that Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to be amended and returned to its original form.

He said Sabah’s claim for the grant from tax collection and oil royalty would not be affected since it does not need laws to be amended or passed in Parliament since its just a matter of execution by the Federal Government.

But, he said Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution was the mother of all as it spelled out the status of Sabah and Sarawak.

Mohd Shafie fielding questions from the media. SNT Pix/Mohd Adam Arinin

“Sabah and Sarawak are not a state, it has a special right in the Federation of Malaysia not only in terms of immigration, land but it is a party to signatories to the formation of Malaysia.

“It is not the same to the states of Johor or Perlis, but now we are back to it. That’s a bit unfortunate, but we’ll continue our struggle,” he said.

Mohd Shafie said there was some concern when the bill was tabled for the first reading last week but amendments were done in the second reading tabled by the Prime Minister yesterday.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed had said that the wordings in the amendment bill were back to its normal old form, which was signed by our forefathers in 1963.

Asked if he would be discussing with Sarawak to look at the bill again, he said the intention of the bill was to reinstate Sabah’s legitimacy as one of the signatories to form Malaysia.

“We had a chance to put it back as one of the three but now we’re back to among the 13 (states) yesterday.

“It could have been three, of course our neighbour would love to have some additional content, some of the acts that is going to be included, amendments of few articles such as 160 and a few others,” he said.

But, he said the steering committee on MA63 (chaired by Tun Mahathir and which both chief ministers of Sabah and Sarawak are in it) had decided that the Constitution (Amendment) Bill on Article 1(2) to be tabled in Parliament first as soon as possible.

According to him, the Prime Minister’s office had conducted engagement with the Sarawak MPs where discussions were held and opinions obtained even up to the last minute.

He said the Prime Minister had taken note of the Sarawak’s MPs concern and had said during the winding up speech that the words “pursuant to MA63” would be included.
 
“I am thankful to the Prime Minister for his effort to listen and did not even bother to go home instead listened (to the debates) and importantly to give us opportunity to do so since achieving independence.

“These calls are not new and had been voiced out for a long time but it is only now and we are really thankful that our voice is being heard, not only that, it is tabled in Parliament,” he said.

Unfortunately, it could not go through due to failure to garner two-third support from members of the Parliament.

Asked if he thinks the Sarawak MPs were playing politics and did not vote for the amendment because they did not want Pakatan Harapan to gain credit, he said:

“I wouldn’t say that, but of course they voted in blocks. But its okay, we have to work further, I don’t want to accuse my counterparts, we are working together with them.

“I will reach out to them, I do hope we can work it out. There are issues they agreed in the commmittee without question. I do hope in future we get it through.

“Because it will take another effort to make sure we can table in Parliament. It is not so easy getting people with that sort of numbers,” he said.

Mohd Shafie also declined to speculate or make accusations of who did not vote for the bill although the figure and identity are known to Parliament.

“We’ll wait until the Prime Minister’s Office determine the date and time for us to sit down again,” he said on whether he expects the bill would be tabled again.

“This is the first step after 55 years getting things to be done and (even at) the first step we cannot do it,” he lamented.-SabahNewsToday