PETALING JAYA: A leading Barisan Nasional component in Sarawak has apologised for having supported the amendment to the Federal Constitution in 1976 that led to the downgrading of the state from its previous sovereign status.
Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Secretary-General Sebastian Ting Chew Yew admitted that his party had not objected, and had helped to pass the amendment which essentially reduced Sarawak from its 1963 status as a founding partner to the peninsula-based government, to simply being one of 13 states in Malaysia, The Borneo Post reported Thursday.
“The present leadership accepts this responsibility and, on behalf of the party, I would like to apologise to party members and the people of Sarawak as a whole,” Ting said in a statement released by the party Wednesday.
The amendment to Article 1 of the Federal Constitution in 1976 through Act A354, saw Sarawak downgraded from Region 2 in the Federation of Malaysia, to being one of 13 states in Malaysia.
“It is the most critical and fundamental ‘discrepancy’ found in the Federal Constitution.
“This is because, as a result, it has tremendously curtailed the disbursement of federal funds for Sarawak and Sabah to a level of state, rather than two of the three founding partners.
“In other words, both Sarawak and Sabah have been short-changed in financial allocations from the Federal Government,” Ting said in the statement.
He expressed his party’s support for Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s call to amend Article 1 of the Federal Constitution in Parliament to its original wording.
Ting also supported Deputy Chief Minister Dr James Masing’s call for all MPs from Sarawak and Sabah to put aside party allegiances and political differences in order to get the Federal Constitution amended to restore the constitutional position of both Sarawak and Sabah in the Federation of Malaysia.
“According to Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), there shall be no confusion that the Federation of Malaysia is a federation of nations, unlike the former Federation of Malaya which was a unitary state system with the centralisation of governing powers,” he said, referring to the agreement as an association of equal partners which combines each other’s strengths and resources with each individuality retained.
Ting added that the Sarawak government now wanted to use the Cobbold Commission, Inter-Governmental Committee, MA63 and the Malaysia Act 1963, that could not be altered or overridden by any act of Parliament, in order to claim the rights and entitlements which belonged to Sarawak with the signing of the MA63.
SUPP currently has one MP, Richard Riot, who is also minister of human resources, and seven state assemblymen, in the PBB-led BN coalition government.
The SUPP statement also came out strongly in criticising Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UMP) lecturer Professor Ramlah Adam over her presentation at a seminar entitled “A Journey To Merdeka: Sarawak in Malaysia” last Sunday.
“She appears not to understand that Sarawak is not a state like any of the other states in the peninsula but as a founding equal partner to the Federation of Malaya, which originally comprised 11 states.
“Most people would not know that her (Ramlah’s) own state was not a signatory to the Malaysia Agreement, and as such, not invited to the negotiation table to set up the new nation in 1963. So how can Perlis be on equal status with Sarawak?” Ting asked.