Not what we want, dismayed Sabah politicians say of constitutional amendment bill

Kimanis MP and former federal minister Anifah Aman.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah politicians described the bill to amend the constitution tabled in Parliament today as inadequate and a “mere rush job” by the federal government.

Kimanis MP and former federal minister Anifah Aman said the federal government should have given more time to MPs to study all aspects of the proposed amendments before tabling it in Parliament.

“The proposed amendment of Article 1(2) should be bipartisan and involve all stakeholders. Specifically, the draft amendment bill must be debated in both the Sabah and the Sarawak assemblies and each assembly must pass a resolution adopting and approving the contents of the proposed amendment.

“Only then will Parliament have the political and socio-cultural legitimacy to pass the proposed amendment.”

Henrynus Amin.

He urged the federal government not to be hasty. “We should be able to study all aspects of the proposed amendment before it is tabled in Parliament. Therefore, the deliberations on the Article 1(2) amendment should be deferred to the next sitting of Parliament,” he said.

Anifah’s proposal was supported by Parti Kerjasama Anak Negeri president Henrynus Amin, who said there had been a lack of transparency in the process of creating the proposed amendment.

Even worse, he said, the wording of the bill did not reflect the original wording of Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution prior to the amendment in 1976.

He accused de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong of insulting Sabahans over the “deception” and urged the Batu Sapi MP to withdraw the proposed amendment to allow for the necessary changes to reflect the original wording.

Tengku Fuad Tengku Ahmad.

“Sabah and Sarawak MPs must reject a watered-down draft which offers nothing except a mockery of the PH election promises and is an insult to the intelligence of ordinary Sabahans and Sarawakians.”

He said if indeed Sabah and Sarawak could not achieve their political objectives on state rights through friendly negotiations, Sabah and Sarawak must jointly seek a judicial review over the fulfilment of the terms of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Lawyer Tengku Fuad Tengku Ahmad said the proposed amendment was inadequate as it did not change the meaning or substance of Article 1 in its present form, where Sabah and Sarawak are lumped as among the 13 states in Malaysia.

“When interpreting a constitutional provision, the structure of the Article is as important as the words it contains. This is because one can discern the meaning, intention and purpose of a constitutional provision from the way it is set out and how certain words or sections are emphasised,” he said.

Yong Teck Lee.

As such, Fuad said it was important, in the case of Article 1(2), that any amendment should reflect that the federation of Malaysia comprised three nation-states, namely Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.

“This is a disgrace after all of the hype and promises.”

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president and former chief minister Yong Teck Lee said the last sentence in the explanatory statement proved the amendment meant nothing to Sabah and Sarawak.

This last sentence reads: “This amendment does not, in any way, alter the functions of the federal and state governments under the concept of federalism.”

He said: “This amendment changes nothing. Look at this last sentence.”

Jainab Ahmad Ayid.

Sabah Umno Wanita chief and former state minister Jainab Ahmad Ayid also expressed unhappiness over the proposed amendment, especially because it was “nothing like what Sabahans have been expecting and wanting”.

“We want our status as equal partners recognised. This is simply shifting our position from being listed together with the states of the Federation of Malaya to another group.

“It means nothing and it says nothing about the financial implications of the ‘new’ changes,” she said.