Govt fails to get two-thirds support to amend constitution

KUALA LUMPUR: The Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019, which seeks to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak, was defeated at the Dewan Rakyat tonight.

This comes after Pakatan Harapan failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed for the bill, which seeks to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to be passed.

A total of 138 MPs voted for the amendment and 59 abstained. There are 221 MPs in the house.

A total of 148 votes, or two-thirds, were needed for the constitutional amendment to be passed.

Sighs of disappointment could be heard after the decision was announced by Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof.

Shouts of “betrayal” and “Sabahan and Sarawakian voters will punish you” were also heard, as MPs slowly exited the house.

The proposed amendment sought to list Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu as states of Malaya, while Sabah and Sarawak would be called the Borneo States, overall forming the states of the federation.

A total of 46 MPs had debated the amendment bill. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad later gave a winding-up speech.

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (GPS-Santubong) had earlier attempted to refer the bill to a special select committee through a motion filed last Thursday. However, it was thwarted with 136 MPs voting against it, 60 for it, and one abstaining.

The federal government recently agreed to amend Article 1(2) of the constitution to ensure equal development between Sabah and Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.

Restoring the status of the two states was one of the pledges in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) 14th general election manifesto.

The PH government then formed the Special Cabinet Committee to review the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), chaired by Mahathir himself.

It also formed a technical committee to study the claims of Sarawak and Sabah for the return of rights enshrined in the constitution and which have been eroded or surrendered to Putrajaya over the years.

In an immediate response, Mahathir told reporters at the Parliament lobby he did not blame the Sabah and Sarawak MPs for sabotaging the bill.

“No, I do not. They have their right to vote against whatever,” he said, adding that the result was not what he had expected.

De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong expressed sadness at a lost opportunity for the status of Sabah and Sarawak to be restored, with lawmakers abstaining from the bloc vote.

“This will go down in history, where our generation can see how the MPs have rejected this bill, to restore both states as equal partners with their peninsular counterparts.

“This is a loss to the rakyat as a whole, and to Sabah and Sarawak in particular,” he said.

The Batu Sapi MP said they had tried their best to accommodate the MPs, and that the MPs had also asked for a select committee to review the implementation of MA63.

“Mahathir had, in his winding-up speech, agreed to set up a select committee to review the MA63.

“But they still refused to accept and, at the same time, sidelined the aspirations of Sabahans and Sarawakians, just to satisfy their own political agenda.

“This is an unfair decision. History will punish them for jeopardising and causing this bill to be defeated,” he said.

On the next move to be taken, Liew said this was up to the government.

“On our part, we will not give up. The struggle of the people will continue. I hope the people can see what the opposition has done today,” he added.