Ex-minister tells how to salvage bill after shot down in Dewan Rakyat

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Parliament building yesterday with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong (right). (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Former de facto law minister Azalina Othman Said today said the government’s bill to recognise Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with the peninsula could be salvaged if the present minister and the attorney-general advise the prime minister to look into the matter.

“They should understand the procedures in the Dewan Rakyat and advise the prime minister to allow a parliamentary select committee to look into the amendment.

“The government can also wait until the Special Cabinet Committee to oversee the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) completes its discussions,” she said in a statement.

The Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 was defeated in the Dewan Rakyat last night with 138 MPs voting for the amendment and 59 abstaining.

There are 221 MPs in the lower house. Two-thirds, or 148 votes, were needed to pass the constitutional amendment.

Azalina Othman.

Azalina said the bill was defeated due to the government’s rush to amend the constitution, and the lack of consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

Calling the proposed amendments “cosmetic”, she said they do not satisfy the people of Sabah and Sarawak who want “substantive change”.

“I believe all opposition MPs, especially from Sabah and Sarawak, welcome the effort to restore the status of the states as enshrined in MA63,” she said.

“But if the government is serious about restoring Sabah and Sarawak’s status in line with the spirit of MA63, the government should allow the parliamentary select committee to look into the amendments so that other laws can be brought together, including Article 60 of the Federal Constitution.”

Article 60, which deals with the definition of the Federation of Malaysia, states: “The federation means the federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957.”

Gabungan Parti Sarawak, the ruling coalition in the state, wants the article amended to recognise MA63, not the 1957 agreement.