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Opposition MPs urged to put aside political differences temporarily

KOTA KINABALU: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Member of Parliament for Kota Kinabalu Chan Foong Hin has appealed to his colleagues from Sabah and Sarawak opposition parties to set aside political differences for a little while and support the Constitutional Amendment Bill that is up for second reading in the next few days.

Chan took great pains to emphasise on the grave consequences of the non-passing of this constitutional amendment, which is bringing adverse impact towards the ongoing negotiation on the implementation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Chan Foong Hin. SNT File Pix

The amendment to Article 1(2) in 1976 received overwhelming support from Sabah and Sarawak MPs then, namely 23 out of Sarawak’s 24 and 10 out of Sabah’s 16.

The remaining seven representatives from Borneo did not vote against the amendment but simply gone absent during voting.

“To these MPs who intend to oppose this amendment, especially those from Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), what kind of message are you sending to the Federal Government?

“That you would prefer the 1976 amendment which your MPs have supported? The 1976 amendment has undisputedly downgraded the status of Sabah and Sarawak to one of the 13 states within Malaysia and equal to the other states in Malaya! It is a shame if PBB prefers it.”

Chan stated that there is a clear difference between having all states including Sabah and Sarawak in a single line in between Perlis and Selangor, and for Sabah and Sarawak to be re-grouped into another subparagraph.

“Sabah & Sarawak are being differentiated from the other states in Peninsula Malaysia to show that Sabah & Sarawak are not of the same level as other states in Peninsula Malaysia like Perlis.

“We are doing that now, so please support us. It is not easy for Datuk V. K. Liew, a fellow Sabahan, to successfully convince his colleagues in the cabinet to agree to bring this amendment, and it is time for us to support him in restoring the status of Sabah and Sarawak vis a vis other states in Malaya.”

On the question why the amendment does not further separate Sabah and Sarawak into two separate paragraphs, Chan stated that it is because the 1963 version already states “(b) the Borneo States, namely Sabah and Sarawak”. To change and separate Sabah and Sarawak into (b) and (c) would be to go further than what the constitution was in 1963 and is beyond the scope of this amendment whereby this amendment is only to restore rights, no more, no less.

“The wordings appearing in (a) “the States of Malaya, namely” are not reintroduced because the terminology is not relevant to the present state of Malaya, and in (b) “the Borneo States, namely” were not reintroduced because it will have implication with other sovereign countries such as Brunei and Kalimantan of Indonesia who are also part of Borneo,” Chan said.

When questioned why was the word “negeri” retained, Chan stated that it was already stated in the 1963 constitution.

Furthermore, the word “state” has to be retained for Sabah & Sarawak to continue to function under the constitution.

“The current amendment is sufficient to differentiate Sabah & Sarawak from the other states in Malaya without the need to use “wilayah”, “negara”, or other terms,” Chan said.

Chan gave the example of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution where List II is known as “State List” and it applies to Sabah & Sarawak, and here, there is no intention to give up any of the powers to legislate listed therein.

“I would like to emphasise and remind everyone that this is just the first amendment. The MA63 committee is still doing its work and more amendments are in the pipeline.

“We all know the political reality that it is massively difficult to get a consensus across all political divisions to come to an agreement on any matters involving Sabah & Sarawak matters.

“Since the fact that Sabah & Sarawak are different from the rest of the Malayan states is not disputed, then there is no need to wait for this amendment to be tabled with the other amendments.”

“However, if this amendment fails, that might be the end of the MA63 committees.”

“Let us pass this amendment first. Once done, we will then be able to further our negotiation within the MA63 committees for more powers either through government policy or administratively.

“We might be able to suggest further amendment to the constitution to give details on autonomy, to better define “Federation” and “Malaysia Day” in the constitution, and to review the special grant. Wouldn’t that be better?”

“Let us all be patient and not lose focus on our struggle. Let us proceed step by step. It is utmost important by showing that we Sabahans and Sarawakians are united in demanding for our rights.” Chan said.

“Therefore, I am begging you, please stop playing politics just for the moment and put the interest of your fellow Sarawakian and Sabahan above your own political interests,” Chan said.

In reply to Datuk Yong Teck Lee, president of the opposition party Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) who in a statement yesterday described the proposed amendment as an insult, Chan retorted, “it is an even bigger insult to allow the current form in the federal constitution to remain. I don’t need a lecture from him on that.”

Chan further added that if PBS and Star can attend the launching of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) in Sabah held in ITCC Penampang yesterday, they have shown their political affinity towards the leader of the political coalition ruling the Federal Government.

Therefore they should cease all their meaningless attack on the proposed amendment and move forward by helping their fellow Sabahan Minister in the Federal Cabinet (Liew) to push for the passing of this amendment.

DAP did not attend the PPBM launching as they were still mourning the death of the late Sandakan MP Datuk Stephen Wong Tien Fatt who passed away recently on 28 March.-SabahNewsToday