Amend constitution to stop non-Sarawakians standing for state seats, says PBB man

Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution states that every citizen of or over the age of 21 years who is resident in the state is qualified to be elected to the state legislative assembly. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: A Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) leader has urged the state government to amend Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution in the coming state legislative assembly sitting to disallow non-Sarawakians from standing in state elections.

PBB information chief Idris Buang said Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution was “obsolete” and “irrelevant” to the present trend in Sarawak.

Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution reads: “Every citizen of or over the age of 21 years who is resident in the state is qualified to be elected as an elected member of the state legislative assembly, unless he is disqualified for being such a member by the Federal Constitution or this Constitution or by any such law as is mentioned in Article 17”.

Idris said: “The definition of ‘resident’ in Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution is quite loose. Any person who has been staying in the state for even a short period, say a few months or a year or so, may well have satisfied the requirement of the present Article 16.

“There is no minimum or specific length of time covering a particular stay or residency, so as to gauge a standard or an inductive meaning of the word ‘resident’ under Article 16,” he said in a statement today.

He said there was a need for an amendment to disallow “just any Tom, Dick and Harry” from outside Sarawak, even though a Malaysian citizen, to vie for a state assembly seat.

The Muara Tuang assemblyman said the proposal to amend Article 16 of the State Constitution did not mean that Sarawakians were “scared of any outsider” but to protect the state from the “virus” of the “nasty political culture” affecting parties in the peninsula.

Idris said this following the Federal Court’s decision that the Sarawak legislative assembly had the power to disqualify the DAP’s Dr Ting Tiong Choon over his alleged dual citizenship.

“I observe with deep amusement some comments in the social media these few days that suggest any Malaysian citizen, whether he or she comes from outside Sarawak, should be allowed to stand in any state election.

“I believe that suggestion does not augur well with the spirit of patriotism that the present political realisation and scenario in Sarawak demands.”

Only “true blue” Sarawakians can represent Sarawak in the state legislative assembly and Parliament, he added.