Sarawak MP tells why constitutional amendment bill failed

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Former federal minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said he chose not to support a constitutional amendment on the status of Sabah and Sarawak tabled by the Pakatan Harapan government yesterday because it was a “political ploy”.

The Santubong MP was among 59 MPs who abstained when the Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 was put to vote in the Dewan Rakyat.

The bill which sought to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak was defeated at the Dewan Rakyat last night after PH failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed for the bill.

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

Wan Junaidi said the constitutional amendment made in 1976 was supposed to correct the “mistake” made in the 1963 constitutional amendment which was to accommodate the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) that brought Sabah and Sarawak into the federation.

He said the proposed amendments tabled by PH also did not correct the mistake.

In 1976, Article 1(2) was amended to put all states as equals within the federation. The clause reads: “The states of the federation shall be Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu.”

The bill shot down yesterday sought to amend the clause to read: “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.”

Wan Junaidi said Sarawak’s ruling coalition, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, had proposed its own amendment to clearly mention MA63 in Article 1(2). The proposed changes read:

“The states in the federation shall be, pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement 1963, (a) Malaya (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Selangor, and Terengganu); and (b) the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.”

Wan Junaidi said MA63 is not mentioned in the constitution.

He said GPS was not interested in politicising the issue but wanted to do the “right thing”, adding that this was why he had proposed that a special select committee deliberate on the bill.

“The proposed amendment by the government was at best a cosmetic change or political ploy, to show that PH has fulfilled its election manifesto.

“We want something more substantive, solid and founded on the spirit of MA63.”

Meanwhile, activist Francis Siah from the Movement for Change Sarawak hit out at PH, saying it was trying to score political points.

He said the government should learn from the defeat of the bill.

“PH should not be exclusive in wanting to amend the constitution. These are things which should not be rushed.”

He said it was important to include proposed amendments in line with the spirit of MA63.

But Siah said he was disappointed that Sabah and Sarawak MPs were not united on such an important bill which could affect the two states.