Sabah Assembly backs Pakatan’s constitutional amendment for state’s equal status

Julia Chan
Karanaan assemblyman Datuk Masidi Manjun said it was imperative that the House made a stand and give the mandate to the MPs and other leaders to negotiate and debate the constitutional amendments where necessary to make the people’s aspirations a reality. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KOTA KINABALU, April 18 — The Sabah State Legislative Assembly has unanimously supported a motion to endorse an amendment to the Federal Constitution that will restore Sabah’s and Sarawak’s status as equal partners in the Malaysian federation.

All members — minus Sungai Sibuga assemblymen Tan Sri Musa Aman and Sulaman assemblyman Datuk Hajiji Noor who were absent — approved the motion during a sitting today, with the hope that a fresh constitutional amendment Bill will be tabled in Parliament.

The motion came after the Pakatan Harapan government failed to secure the two-thirds support in Parliament on April 9 needed to pass an amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to make Sabah and Sarawak equal partners in the federation.

The Bill had required 148 votes but only garnered 138 votes after 59 MPs abstained. Those who abstained were opposition MPs from Sarawak as well as some from the peninsula and the sole Umno MP from Sabah, Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin.

The motion today was tabled by Karanaan assemblyman Datuk Masidi Manjun who said it was imperative that the House made a stand and give the mandate to the MPs and other leaders to negotiate and debate the constitutional amendments where necessary to make the people’s aspirations a reality.

“I know there’s a difference in opinion in the interpretation of the amendment when it was read in Parliament but the question is not the interpretation but if we refuse does it indirectly mean we agree with the change of status?

“Which is better, the original version made in 1963 during the formation where Sabah and Sarawak were equal partners in the federation or the amended version in 1976 where Sabah and Sarawak became states under Malaysia?,” he said.

Masidi said any excuse not to support the constitutional amendment was “irrational” and urged the assemblymen to come together as Sabahans despite the political divide and claim the state’s rightful status.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, in his winding up speech, said that the move to recognise Sabah as one of the signatories of the formation of Malaysia was a fundamental, important and significant step that would not inhibit the pursuit of other rights.

“Of course, the 40 per cent is important, the Petronas royalty, stamp duty, all are also important, but we don’t need an amendment for that, we just need to implement it,” he said, referring to the 40 per cent return of revenue to the State and an increase in oil royalty.

“This MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963) was an international agreement signed by our forefathers, why should we change it? Why should we be downgraded to just another state in Malaysia?

“We are hungry for it now. We waited for 50 years, why should we wait?,” he said.

Shafie told reporters earlier that it was important that the motion be endorsed and supported by all so that it can be brought to the attention of the Prime Minister and hopefully be tabled again in Parliament as soon as possible.

“Our intention is to get it to Parliament again. We are hoping to bring it back as soon as possible and ensure it can be tabled, it can be supported,” he said.

He said that while Sabah’s motion was straightforward, it was likely Sarawak would also debate the subject at their Assembly but will include their own interests such as Article 160 and 162.

“For us, it is good enough. It is a simple motion to reinstate what was spelt out. Whatever the content, ‘pursuant to MA63’, is just the use of the words, it is legitimising whatever is already there, so in a way it is pursuant to MA63,” he said.

On some assemblymen’s comment that the motion was rushed, Shafie said it had been in the offing for months and there was ample time for the assemblymen to prepare.

“These issues have been there for months and months, and has been debated at parliament and committee levels. Ample time has been given. Those people with opinions, this is the platform they want to present their views. Unless they want to delay this again,” he said.

Tambunan assemblyman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, in supporting the motion, said that the amendment is better than what Sabah was currently accorded.

Kemabong assemblyman Jamawi Jaafar, Pitas assemblyman Datuk Bolkiah Ismail and Matunggong assemblyman Julita Majungki also debated and supported the bill.

Majungki, speaking on behalf of Parti Bersatu Sabah(PBS) said her support, along with four other PBS member’s support came with the condition that all members including the opposition have their opinions taken into account, and the amendment was not just cosmetic but holistic.

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