Let amendment bill reflect original wording, says law society

A gathering in Kuching on Jan 19, calling for the restoration of Sarawak’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Law Society (SLS) says the bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution must read according to the original wording before its amendment in 1976, to reflect the consensus in the Malaysia Agreement 1962 (MA63).

“As the legislative process in Parliament provides for amendments to be made to the current bill, SLS advocates that the bill be amended to reinstate the original wording of the Malaysia Act 1963,” SLS president Brenndon Keith Soh said.

“(This is) to include ‘the states of Malaya’ in paragraph (a) and ‘the Borneo states’ in paragraph (b).”

He said this would go a long way in “respecting the intention and distinct recognition of Sabah and Sarawak by the framers of the Federal Constitution”.

Sabah politicians have reacted negatively to the tabling of the bill in Parliament by de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong, describing it as a rushed job and calling for the reinstatement of the original wording before the 1976 amendment.

In a statement, Soh said the Malaysia Act 1963 provides that “the states of the federation shall be – (a) the states of Malaya, namely Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu; and (b) the Borneo states, namely Sabah and Sarawak”.

After the amendment in 1976, he said, paragraph (b) was deleted and Article 1(2) amended to include Sabah and Sarawak with the other eleven states.

The bill to amend Article 1(2) says: “the states of the the federation shall be – (a) Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, Terengganu, and (b) Sabah and Sarawak”.

Soh said this should be amended to include the omitted words “the states of Malaya” in paragraph (a) and “the Borneo states” in paragraph (b).

“This would restore the original wording of the Federal Constitution in Article 1(2) when defining the states of Malaysia,” he added.

He said the constitution provides special rights for Sabah and Sarawak, additional grants and sources of revenue “over and above the other states in Malaysia, as detailed in the Ninth and 10th Schedules”.

The amendment to restore the pre-1976 version of Article 1(2) would therefore reflect the historical recognition of Malaysia’s formation as well as the special status of Sabah and Sarawak in the federation, he said.

“If passed by Parliament, the amendment would provide a platform for both Sabah and Sarawak to continue the journey towards implementation of MA63.”

He added, however, that the proposed amendment to Article 1(2) alone would not fulfil the aspirations of those in Sabah and Sarawak, as it would not achieve any actual change in the functions and relationship between the state and federal governments as presently stated in the Federal Constitution.

“Therefore, expectations are high that the special Cabinet committee formed by the Pakatan Harapan government to review MA63 will deliver both equitable and tangible results for the Borneo states,” he said.