KUCHING: A motion has been tabled in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly asking for any amendments to Article 1(2) of Federal Constitution to have clear provisions in protecting the rights and safeguards that were accorded to Sarawak for its agreement to join Malaysia.
Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali said the ongoing discussions with the federal government on the implementation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) presented the state with both a challenge and an opportunity.
“The challenge is to secure the federal government’s agreement for the restoration of those rights and sources of revenues which have been diluted and eroded and to reclaim those items of assigned revenues which we have lost, including our rights to a more equitable share of revenues from oil and gas produced within our state’s boundaries.
“There is also the opportunity to recover those lost rights and revenues and to critically examine the performance of the federal government on those subject matters such as on medicine, health and education,” she said when tabling the ministerial motion at the State Assembly here today.
She said the voice of Sarawakians expressed through the August House should send the right message to the federal government that the state’s resolve in facing this challenge would never be diminished, even after the Constitutional Amendment Bill, which the state government found to be inadequate, had failed to be passed by Parliament.
Sharifah Hasidah said any amendment to the Constitution must safeguard the legislative powers of the August House and the executive powers of the state government apart from correcting the imbalance of Members of Parliament from Sarawak and Sabah.
She said the combined strength of the MPs from Sarawak and Sabah was less than one-third of the total membership of both Houses of Parliament, thus no longer able to prevent constitutional amendments that had the effect of altering the legislative lists in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.
As such, it was proposed that any amendment to the Legislative List of the State or the placement of residual subject matters on any Legislative List must have the consent of the August House to be expressed in the form of a resolution duly passed by a majority of its honourable members.
“We need to entrench clear provisions in the Federal Constitution to safeguard our financial autonomy including protecting sources of revenues assigned to us, the special grant and enforcing compliance with the mandatory requirements to have periodical review of the Special grants; the protection of the territory of the State including the continental shelf and the territorial waters which are within the boundaries of Sarawak as on Malaysia Day,” she said.
Apart from the need to give due recognition to MA63 and Malaysia Day, she said, the various races forming the native population of Sarawak should also be properly defined.
Sharifah Hasidah said in its current form, the natives of Sarawak were not comprehensively defined and it was proposed that this list be reviewed to ensure it covered them.
She said that after years of campaigning, Malaysia Day, September 16, 1963 was officially declared as a national public holiday to commemorate the birth of Malaysia.
The Federal Constitution made reference to Merdeka Day, August 31, 1957. However, there was no definition of Malaysia Day even though this term was used in separate parts of the Constitution such as Articles 19(4), 95C, 161(1), 161A(6)(b), she said.
“If Merdeka Day could be constitutionally defined, why can’t ‘Malaysia Day’ be specifically defined in Article 160(2). This motion proposes that any future amendment of the Constitution must incorporate a definition for ‘Malaysia Day’.
“Thus, I am moving this motion so that this House has the opportunity to express in clear and explicit terms what amendments to the Federal Constitution must be included in any future constitutional amendment Bill to be presented to Parliament,” she said.
She said it is also to ensure the Parliamentary Select Committee that is to be formed would be able to understand and endorse these proposed amendments from this august House.
The federal government’s attempt to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution on April 9 did not bear fruit when opposition MPs from Sarawak abstained from voting, arguing that it be referred to a select committee, the Sarawak Legislative Assembly or Yang di-Pertuan Agong. — Bernama