Kota Kinabalu: “While Sabahans and Sarawakians are generally eagerly awaiting the proposed amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s equal status with the Federation of Malaya, scheduled on 9th April, there are apprehensions and reservations because it seems to be shrouded in secrecy”, said Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, the Member of Parliament for Keningau, Sabah, in a press statement released today.
As Article 1(2) goes to the root and fundamental basis of the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. It has far-reaching consequences and may affect the future of Malaysia. As such, its proposed amendment should not be rushed, and sufficient space should be given to all stakeholders and parties to study and deliberate on any proposed amendment.
The proposed tabling in Parliament on 9th April 2019 ought to be deferred. It should be tabled holistically with all other proposed amendments after the entire concept of the formation of the federation of Malaysia and equal partnership.
The equal partnership amendment will need many consequential amendments to restore equality in reality. Article 160 defines the ”Federation” as that created by the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957 which means “Malaya” and does not include Sabah and Sarawak, and not “Malaysia” which was created by MA63. This means that Article 160 needs to be amended at the same time as Article 1(2).
There are many other consequential amendments too. For instance, there will be a need for the existence or reactivation of the Government of the Federation of Malaya and the restoration of the Head of State for Sabah and Sarawak to be equal with that of the Federation of Malaya. The Head of State of Sabah and Sarawak should be Yang DiPertua Negara as was the case in 1963. With each of the three (3) nation-States to have a Head of State, there should be a Federal Head of State for Malaysia. The representations of Members of Parliament, both Representatives and Senators would need to be revised to reflect the equal partnership as well as composition of the Federal Cabinet. The flag of Malaysia would need to be changed to reflect a federation of three (3) Nation-States not 13 States and the Federal Territories. These are merely a short list of food for thought on equal partnership.
“True equal partnership between the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak is not just a simple amendment of Article 1(2) to revoke the previous 1976 amendment that down-graded Sabah and Sarawak to be the 12th and 13th States of Malaya masquerading as Malaysia” add Dr. Jeffrey.
In any event, the amendment of Article 1(2) in 1976 is not constitutional as it was without the consultation and consent of Sabah and Sarawak. Accordingly, whether it is revoked or amended, it has no valid or legal effect on the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners.
The deferment of the tabling on 9th April, is also appropriate considering that the Cabinet Steering Committee on MA63 is scheduled to present its final Report in June/July 2019 on the proposals on Sabah and Sarawak’s rights in Malaysia.
It is only appropriate that the Article 1(2) amendment be tabled together with all the other proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution and after time and space have been given to all stakeholders and parties to deliberate on them.
Closer to home, the Sabah government has failed to involve all stakeholders in the deliberations of Sabah’s equal status and rights in Malaysia.
They should look at the actions and sincerity of the Sarawak government in being bi-partisan and in involving the participation of the opposition and civil society in the Sarawak committee deliberating on MA63.
Unfortunately, in Sabah, the MA63 committee only comprises of government and pro-government leaders. Many of them are not ardent fighter or supporters of Sabah’s rights in Malaysia. Worse still, many of them have in the past, being pro-Malaya and pro-federalist and were against the rights of Sabah, MA63 and the 20-Points. The Rights of Sabah in Malaysia should be a bi-partisan effort representing all Sabahans.
After the bi-partisan deliberations, any amendments should be table and debated in the Sabah State Legislative Assembly.
For the sake of the future of a NEW MALAYSIA as envisaged by the Pakatan Harapan Federal government as well as the future of Sabah and Sarawak in the Federation of Malaysia, the tabling of Article 1(2) amendment on 9th April should be deferred until the Report of the Cabinet Steering Committee Report on MA63 and deliberations by all stakeholders and the respective State Legislative Assemblies.