Bill’s defeat a ‘horror show’, says MA63 activist

Zainnal Ajamain says Sarawak lost a rare opportunity to restore its rights under the 1963 agreement.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government’s adviser on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) is upset that MPs from Sarawak’s ruling coalition abstained during yesterday’s vote on amending an article in the Federal Constitution on the status of the two states.

“It was a horror show because I don’t know how long we will have to wait again before we get a similar chance. This is a really bad call,” Zainnal Ajamain told a press conference today, following failure to get two-thirds support from MPs for the Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019.

Zainnal said the Sarawak MPs were not being flexible, adding that they may not have understood MA63 as much as he thought they do.

He said while he could understand the protests over the bill’s first version, the modified bill correctly reflected the original wording in the spirit of MA63.

“It is true, when de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong issued the first reading, everyone was taken by surprise. And then we started talking about going against it.

“But we managed to campaign to get Putrajaya to change the wording,” he said.

“There should not have been any problem,” he said.

He said Sarawak MPs were still in the “first reading mode” and were still angry and upset.

Zainnal said he had spent more time talking about MA63 in Sarawak.

“I thought they understand. But it turns out, they don’t understand. They just assume they do. They are so rigid,” he said.

He said the Sarawak MPs’ decision to abstain from voting would not absolve them from committing the same offence the earlier Sarawak MPs in 1976 had committed in supporting the bill to change the wording of the Article 1(2) to its current form.

He warned that people would interpret the MPs’ action as wanting to keep the status quo.

Zainnal claimed that if the amendment had been passed, it would have given Sabah and Sarawak the legitimacy to reclaim its continental shelf and later press for the Borneo states’ rights to its oil and gas.

“The failure of the bill means Sabah and Sarawak have lost their opportunity to profit billions of ringgit in oil and gas,” he said.

The Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 which sought to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak was defeated at the Dewan Rakyat after PH failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed.

A total of 138 MPs voted for the bill, just 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution. 59 MPs abstained.

The proposed amendment seeks 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.

On demands that the federal government also amend Article 160(2) that interprets the word ‘the Federation’ as ‘the Federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957’, Zainnal said it should not be brought into the equation at the moment.

Amending Article 160(2), he said, is a new bill altogether since it was not even changed or touched upon in 1963.

“What the Sabah and Sarawak MPs should be doing is to grab what they can, not ask for new stuff again and again.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush but in the end, even that bird flew away because these MPs were too busy looking for the two in the bush,” he said.

But Zainnal believes there will be another attempt to table a similar bill in the coming months.