By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KUALA LUMPUR: Sarawak opposition lawmakers shot themselves in the foot as they washed out any hopes for the Borneo States to return to equal status.
Some 59 MPs from Gabungan Parti Sarawak, Umno and PAS abstained in the vote that failed to give the 148 votes needed to amend the Constitution in the 221-member house.
(Parliament has 222 seats but with Sandakan vacant following the death of Stephen Wong).
All Warisan lawmakers plus the lone MP from UPKO, Wilfred Madus Tangau and even PBRS Arthur Kurup of Pensiangan and Kimanis Independent, Anifah Aman supported the amendment.
None of the lawmakers present disagreed with the Bill but 59 of them abstained from voting. Some 24 other lawmakers were not present when voting took place.
The debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 lasted more than six hours, receiving the support of Members of Parliament, who requested for a postponement to further scrutinise it.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (PH-Port Dickson) said the amendment to Clause (2) Article 1 of the Federal Constitution was historic and meaningful to the people of this country, especially from Sabah and Sarawak.
However, he was surprised that certain parties questioned the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s efforts to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia.
“The matter (amendment) has been debated for a long time and we have heard the complaints and sadness of the people of Sabah and Sarawak. This move also confirms what our Independence fathers agreed on in 1963.
“I don’t understand why this meaningful step is being disputed. Some say this move is ineffective but at least under PH, the prime minister (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) has taken a meaningful step while BN (Barisan Nasional) never moved an inch even after half a century in power,” he said to rapturous applause in the Dewan Rakyat.
The prime minister, when tabling the bill for second reading, said the amendment was the PH government’s first step towards realising the wishes of the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
Dr Mahathir said the move would restore Sabah and Sarawak’s status as equal partners of Peninsular Malaysia as stated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) during the formation of the country.
Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee (PH-Beluran) said the bill must be approved by the MPs, especially those from Sabah and Sarawak, as it had long been anticipated to lift the ranks of the two states.
“For 43 years, Sabah and Sarawak’s equal ranks with Peninsular Malaysia was sidelined by the government…there were some efforts made by the previous government, which formed a Special Cabinet Committee to look into this.
But the best, the closest thing the previous government could do was to lower the power, a process called devolution of powers, and said that autonomy had been given to Sabah and Sarawak, but not to the level of amending Clause (2) Article 1 as being done by the present government,” he said.
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BN-Bera) said the amendment to the Constitution was done in haste and should have been referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee for thorough discussion before tabling it in the Dewan Rakyat.
Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri (GPS-Batang Sadong) expressed support for the amendment, but recommended postponing it until after the Cabinet Committee’s negotiations to address the issue of MA63 to restore the privileges to Sabah and Sarawak.
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