DAP accuses Sarawak’s GPS of playing politics ahead of vote on amending constitution

Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen.

KUALA LUMPUR: A Sarawak DAP leader has accused the state’s ruling coalition of playing politics in its decision not to support a bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution on the status of Sabah and Sarawak under the Malaysian federation, which will come up for a vote tomorrow.

Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen urged Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) to prioritise the interests of the two states.

“My message to GPS is to support the bill. It’s an important bill and will restore the constitutional status of Sabah and Sarawak.

“You may have other interests in mind, your political or survival interests. But I think it’s important that the interests of the state should be made first priority,” he told reporters in Parliament today.

The coalition had criticised the proposed amendment, saying it would not mean much in making Sarawak and Sabah equal partners under the federation as stated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

The government recently agreed to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to ensure equal development between Sabah and Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, in line with Pakatan Harapan’s election promise last year.

The constitution currently stipulates that the states of the federation are Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Selangor, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak.

The bill tabled on Thursday proposed that the constitution be amended to say the states of the federation consist of the 11 states as well as Sabah and Sarawak, which critics say is “not much of a change”.

Sabah’s Keningau MP Jeffrey Kitingan.

Sabah opposition leader and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku president Jeffrey Kitingan told FMT that the wording of the proposed amendment should be changed as it does not reflect the promise of equal partnership for Sabah and Sarawak.

“The bill should also revert to the original wording,” he added.

“In a sense, what has been presented to us makes it worse. It does not mention anything about being equal partners, so we are not happy.

“What we need is to have one definition of the federation that relates to Malaysia and then say that the federation shall consist of a) the federation states of Malaya, b) Sabah and c) Sarawak. It’s very simple.”

Asked if he would support the bill when it is brought up for second and third reading, Jeffrey said: “We will support the bill based on what we are expecting should be there.”

Sarawak’s Batang Sadong MP Nancy Shukri.

GPS’s Batang Sadong MP Nancy Shukri, however, said she would not support the bill at present, adding that it should be deferred until after the Special Cabinet Committee (Steering Committee) to Review the Malaysia Agreement 1963 makes its recommendations.

“We should not be politicking on this,” she said, “but this is in the interest of not just Sarawakians but the whole of Malaysia. Therefore, we do not want this to be rushed.

“There are other things that need to be amended,” she told FMT when met in Parliament today.

She said the special committee was already negotiating Sarawak’s 5% tax for oil and gas sales as well as the review of grants from Putrajaya.

As such, Nancy questioned the Cabinet for “jumping the gun”.

“If these are not deliberated on, then the people who will be the losers are Sarawakians. Already we are far behind in terms of infrastructure and development,” she said.

“So we want something more substantive for Sarawak. Don’t just put words in (with regards to the proposed constitutional amendment on the wording).”