Piasau Assemblyman, Datuk Sebastian Ting speech to second motion on amendment to the Federal Constitution.
1.1 I rise to second the Motion.
2.0 EQUAL PARTNERSHIP
I am a Sarawakian, proud Sarawakian. I will always speak for Sarawak and to get the best for Sarawak, without fear or favor. When we talk about Sarawak’s rights, our minds and hearts must be with Sarawak and the people of Sarawak. Indeed Sarawak must always come first. For this, we cannot and must not dance and sing the same song with people not from Sarawak.
Today is a historical day for Sarawak because for 56 years, since 1963, this will be the first time we table a Motion to seek the Federal Government to amend the Federal Constitution to restore Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia to be equal partners and to prevent further encroachment on our special constitutional rights and safeguards provided or promised to Sarawak under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
The formation of Malaysia would not be realized without the support from the Dayak community, who formed the vast majority of those unsure whether or not to embrace the idea of Malaysia. The British and the Malayans knew that without the support from them, the idea of Malaysia would not have succeeded at all.
This resulted great efforts from both the British and the Malayans working together to convince the Dayak community that Malaysia was a good thing for Sarawak. Their method included bringing prominent Dayak leaders to the Federation of Malaya to see for themselves how well the Malayans managed and brought developments in their own country Malaya.
Notwithstanding, there were still some Dayak leaders feeling skeptical to the whole idea of Malaysia and one of them was Temenggong Oyong Lawai Jau, the highly influential Paramount Chief of the Orang Ulu. According to the book entitled “Deals, Datus And Dayaks” by Professor Michael Leigh, Temenggong Oyong said this on behalf of his people at Long San,
“I see Malaya like a fruit garden, a garden already flourishing with ripened fruit and ready for eating. Furthermore this garden is fenced round securely, with a fence made of belian. On the other hand what can I say about Sarawak? If Tengku (referring to Tunku Abdul Rahman) could only see for himself he would see how small the garden is, how freshly planted it is, not yet fully matured, not yet firmly established. He would see that it has a fence indeed but only a shaky one, one made of bamboo…..What happens to a garden when you try to plant trees and shrubs under big tree? They are simply eclipsed by the shadow of the big tree…..and never bear fruit”.
This was the concern expressed by Temenggong Oyong as he recognized how backward Sarawak was at that time compared to a more advanced country like Malaya and he worried that once we became part of Malaysia, we might end up always behind a more advanced Malaya and could never grow at par to Malaya in terms of development, economy and opportunities. Temenggong Oyong opined was to give more time for Sarawak to develop before deciding on merging with a more advanced country or we risked ending up losing everything.
Indeed, Lord Cobbold concluded his commission report in paragraph 237 by saying,
“It is a necessary condition that, from the outset, Malaysia should be regarded by all concerned, as an association of partners, combining in the common interest to create a new nation but retaining their own individualities. If any idea were to take root that Malaysia would involve a “take-over” of the Borneo territories by the Federation of Malaya and the submersion of the individualities of North Borneo and Sarawak, Malaysia would not, in my judgment, be generally acceptable or successful”.
Some of our forefathers were concerned that we would be substituting one colonization with another, feared of being taken over by the Federation of Malaya, feared of losing our individualities once we became part of Malaysia. For that reason, the promise of “equal partnership”, an association of partners between Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah was the paramount condition for Sarawakians to embrace Malaysia.
2.9 Without the assurances of “equal partnership” between the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah, most of our forefathers would not have signed the MA63 and therefore there would not be a Malaysia. Indeed, it is always right and proper that we continue to speak and emphasis on this “equal partnership” between us and Peninsular Malaysia because this might be the last straw for keeping the Federation alive as we continue to be under the shadow of Malaya.
3.0. THE PROPOSED FEDERAL CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT BILL 2019
On the March 9, 2019 the Federal Law Minister, as reported, announced that the Federal Cabinet had agreed to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to restore Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia as equal partners as promised by the Malayans.
Upon hearing this announcement we were looking forward for details of the proposed Federal Constitution Amendment 2019. We waited but none came until the April 3, 2019, a day before the first reading of this Amendment Bill 2019, despite numerous requests for release of those details by politicians of both Borneo States. Even at this stage all the GPS Members of Parliament did not have a copy of the proposed Amendment Bill. On the March 31, 2019, the Honourable Member of Kota Sentosa urged GPS MPs to support the Amendment Bill but no details were given, so support what? It is indeed most inappropriate for the Honourable Member of Kota Sentosa to request GPS MPs to support blindly. It is akin to asking a client by a lawyer to agree to something that he does not have any knowledge or detail of what he is agreeing to.
On the 4th April 2019, the Law Minister tabled the first version of the amendment Bill 2019, which reads as follows,
1(2) The States of the Federation shall be -
(a) Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu; and
(b) Sabah and Sarawak.
With these wordings, it was not a surprise at all that the first version of the amendment Bill was totally unacceptable by GPS, both members of Parliament and Sarawak ADUN as well as Sabah politicians. Because, with this amendment, we continue to be the 12th and 13th States of the Federation. But Sarawak DAP leaders said it was alright to accept this first version and that Sabah and Sarawak would be equal partners to Peninsular Malaysia and no longer the 12th and 13th States of the Federation of Malaysia, upon the passing of this first version of the proposed Federal Constitution Amendment Bill 2019. These same DAP leaders even urged GPS MPs to support this first version of the proposed amendment Bill.
People on the ground asked and we ask: what would be the status of Sabah and Sarawak if GPS did not object the first version? Sadly Sabah and Sarawak will still be the 12th and 13th States of Malaysia.
From the feedback we received, the people on the ground do not have good feeling for Sarawak DAP leaders for not objecting to the first version which merely reconstructed the sentence and playing with words. Basically, it means the same thing with or without the amendment.
There were so many fierce, hard and strong statements made against the first version. Because of this, the first version was amended by following the Malaysia Act 1963 text.
The Malaysia Act 1963 was a Malayan Bill passed by the Malayan Parliament on August 20, 1963. It is important to note that the drafting of the then Malaysia Bill was done by the Malayans with inputs by the British. The Malaysia Act 1963 and the second version of the proposed amendment Bill did not clearly express the equal partnership amongst Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.
In the year 1963 and 1976 amendment, you and I were not there. But now, in 2019, you and I are here, together we must do the right thing and make a difference, for us, our children and future generations. We are more educated, more knowledgeable and we are aware of our rights. Therefore it is now incumbent upon us to push for our rights to be implemented as contained in the Malaysia Agreement 1963, the Cobbold Commission, the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) and the Malaysia Act 1963 (Chapter 35).
Today we wish to include the words “pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement 1963″ in Article 1(2) to reflect the equal partnership. It is important to give the amended provision, clarity and certainty so that any court of law can easily interpret the equal partnership amongst Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia as contained in the Federal Constitution.
Unfortunately, both the first version and second version of the proposed Federal Constitution Amendment Bill 2019 failed to express so, perhaps lack of sincerity of wanting to do so.
We must be clear in our mind that amendment to the Federal Constitution especially to make Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia as 3 equal partners does not come often and once an opportunity is given, we must be very comprehensive, holistic in nature to cover all areas in so far as possible. The amendment must be able to achieve the aspirations of the Sarawak people. Our people will not benefit at all if we continue to look at faults, the past and thereby neglect our duty to look forward, to create values and provide hope and aspirations to our people. Ultimately, we must strive to raise the living standard of our people and reduce the cost of living.
While we propose to amend Article 1(2) to make Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners to the Peninsular Malaysia, the present definition of “the Federation” in the Federal Constitution Article 160(2) as the Federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957, must also be amended to mean the Federation established under the Malaysia Agreement signed on the 9th day of July, 1963. Sarawak and Sabah cannot continue to be under the Federation of Malaya 1957.
It is crucial to have the words “Malaysia Agreement 1963″ inserted into the Federal Constitution in order for the supreme law to recognise the MA63 so that henceforth, any discussion to restore or reclaim the rights of Sarawak and Sabah can be conducted under a document which the Federal Constitution recognises.
Courts will only interpret and give the force of law of what they see in front of them, written black and white, in the Federal Constitution. If MA63 is not there, the judges would find it challenging and difficult and might not have any right to refer to MA63 in any court proceedings in Malaysia.
As part of the current discussions between the Federal Governments and the Governments of Sabah and Sarawak on the implementation of Malaysia Agreement (MA63), amendments of the Federal Constitution would be necessary to safeguard the special interests of the 2 Borneo States as agreed.
After Parliament failed to pass the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Opposition in this august House blamed the GPS MPs for abstaining when the Bill was put to the vote in Parliament. The GPS Members of Parliament had wanted the Bill to be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee for further deliberation as they were of the opinion that the amendment Bill was rushed but this was rejected by the Federal Government.
Since then the Opposition in this august House has been playing a blame game, accusing the GPS State Government of many other things, not supporting the restoration of ‘equal status’ for the Borneo States by reinstating the wordings of the original wordings of Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution. The PH MPs’ arguments that by having the original version of Article 1(2) reinstated, Sarawak and Sabah would have equal status with Peninsular Malaysia and the rights granted to us by MA 63 would not be eroded, are, incorrect, misleading and fallacious.
Even before 1976 when Article 1(2) was amended to put Sabah and Sarawak at par with the States of Malaya, the constitutional rights of Sarawak have been eroded by actions taken by the Federal Government, such as:-
i. By extending the Continental Shelf Act, 1966 and Petroleum Mining Act, 1966 to Sarawak in 1969 so as to take control of petroleum;
ii. Mining in the Continental Shelf within the boundaries of Sarawak;
iii. Restricting the operation of the Oil Mining Ordinance of Sarawak to only onshore areas by promulgating the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance, 1969 (even though oil mining offshore was in no way associated with the May 13 unrests which justified the enactment of the Emergency Ordinance;
iv. Enacting the Petroleum Development Act, 1974 to vest the rights to petroleum both onshore and offshore of Sarawak on Petronas;
v. Proclaiming the 1966 Emergency in Sarawak so as to enable Parliament to amend the State Constitution to enable Council Negri to meet and remove a Chief Minister.
Therefore, the amendment proposed recently to Article 1(2) is no insurance against future erosion or encroachment on the State’s constitutional rights and safeguards of our special interests. Thus, it is our duty as legislators and elected representatives of the people, to ensure that amendments to the Federal Constitution should be made to prevent further encroachment on our special constitutional rights and safeguards provided or promised to Sarawak under MA63 to secure Sarawak’s agreement to join in the formation of Malaysia.
In our efforts to reclaim those rights which have been eroded, special grants which have not been reviewed for over 4 decades, and revenues assigned to Sarawak which have not been fully paid, we Sarawakians must stand united. This august House had decided to form an all party Consultative Committee in November 2018 to determine which are the matters that should be put forward to the Special Steering Committee for the Implementation of MA63. Members of the Opposition were included in the Consultative Committee which deliberated on the scope of the constitutional amendments required to put forth for consideration by the Technical Committee in January, 2019.
Despite all these efforts made by the State Government to have a consensus on this vital process to regain our lost rights guaranteed under MA63 and the documents annexed thereto, the PH MPs have started bickering on to gain political brownie points to argue that the recent attempts to amend Article 1(2) was enough to restore the status of Sarawak and recover the rights which have been eroded.
All these public bickering are sending a wrong message or signal to the Federal Government and the people in Peninsular Malaysia that we in Sarawak are divided in terms of what we want in this exercise to review the implementation of MA63.
Therefore, this Motion is to settle once and for all, what are the requisite or essential amendments to the Federal Constitution to meet the aspirations of Sarawakians as expressed by the Motion now before this august House. If the Honourable Members of the Opposition have any suggestion of what other amendments are to be made to the Federal Constitution, they are free to make their proposals when this Motion is deliberated. The Honourable Member of Semariang, the proposer, and myself are always ready to consider any constructive proposal from the Opposition.
Hereafter, there should be no dispute as the amendments sought by Sarawak and I sincerely hope the Opposition YBs will also support this Motion to put an end to any more unproductive and divisive debate as to what are the amendments to the Federal Constitution should be sought by Sarawak. All the blame game and bickering must henceforth stop with the passage of this Motion.
Our late Tan Sri Pehin Sri Dr. Adenan Satem started the movement of Sarawak’s autonomy which managed to unite all Sarawakians during his tenure as the 5th Chief Minister of Sarawak from 28th February 2014 to 11th January 2017. One of his famous quotes is “To love Sarawak is to care for Sarawak”.
Indeed Sarawak Must Always Come First.
I, therefore, beg to second. Thank you.
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