Is this end of MA63 talks, asks ex-Sabah CM after bill fails to get support

Former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee.

KOTA KINABALU: Former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee is wondering whether the federal government will use the failed constitutional amendment bill yesterday to end talks on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

The SAPP president said the government knew the constitutional amendment bill would not attain majority support from MPs but still tabled it anyway.

“Will the government now review the defeated bill, involve Sabah and Sarawak MPs and re-table an improved version of the bill?

“Or will the government use the defeat as an excuse to kill MA63?

“If the government considers the MA63 as closed, then it means that the 2019 bill was a trap, a trick. We shall see,” he said when contacted.

The bill was defeated in the lower house last night after the government secured only 138 votes, 10 short of the two-thirds majority required to pass the bill.

Fifty-nine MPs of the total 221 abstained from voting for the bill.

Yong said some MPs demanded that the bill be sent to a parliamentary select committee for further discussion but this was rejected by the government MPs who formed a simple majority.

“The committee discussion would have given more time and space for the bill to be improved. Why were the MPs denied a chance to discuss this bill at the committee stage?

“Why rush the bill through knowing that it will be defeated? The government already knew it did not have 148 MPs to get the two-thirds majority,” he said.

Yong also said the move to amend the bill in a rush had put the MPs in a difficult situation.

“If MPs support the bill, they will be accused of abandoning MA63. If they reject the bill, they will be accused of not favouring ‘equal status’. Is there an ulterior motive to all this?”

Yong said the defeated bill did not seek to restore equal status to Sabah and Sarawak, according to MA63.

He said “equal status” could not be found anywhere in the bill or in the explanatory statement on the bill, adding the bill listed Sabah, like Sarawak, as one of the 13 states, like any other of the Malaysian states.

He added the bill also reiterated that the amendment does not, in any way, alter the functions of the federal and state governments under the concept of federalism.

“The bill left untouched the offending Article 160 defining ‘federation’ as the Federation of Malaya formed under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957.”