Law minister: Tabling of Bill on equality for Sabah, Sarawak in Parliament next week

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong speaks during a press conference at the Duta Court in Kuala Lumpur March 12, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong speaks during a press conference at the Duta Court in Kuala Lumpur March 12, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KOTA KINABALU, April 2 — The government is set to table amendments to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) in Parliament next week, Datuk Liew Vui Keong said today.

The de facto law minister added that MPs will be free to ask questions after it is read in the Dewan Rakyat as the Bill is currently categorised as confidential under the Official Secrets Act.

“The amendment, at this moment is on schedule. I have been notified that the papers are all ready, and will be submitted to the Dewan Rakyat office for the Bill to be tabled.

“Hopefully, I will be able to do the first reading if not this week, then next week, then the second and third reading will be done after that,” Liew told reporters after the official opening ceremony of the Sabah court house here.

The amendment effectively seeks to reinstate Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners to the peninsula.

When asked to comment on state Opposition politician Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan’s criticism that the amendment was shrouded in secrecy and not comprehensive, Liew said that the papers could not be made public yet, but that there will be opportunity for Members of Parliament to give feedback after the first reading.

“I am going to have a pre-council with all the MPs including the Opposition and also GPS.

“At the pre-council they can ask any questions. We welcome comments and views from various quarters, of course the MP’s views are very important because they are representing the rakyat,” he said.

GPS refers to Gabungan Parti Sarawak, the ruling coalition in Sarawak.

Liew said that based on the contact he’s had so far from both divide, they are happy that the Bill is finally going through, and believe it will benefit Sarawak and Sabah.

“So we are looking forward for this major amendment in the constitution where we can actually move forward and then unite under one country,” he said.

The amendment follows a long-time grouse of Sabah and Sarawak who have complained of being sidelined by the federal government and robbed of their rights initially given during the formation of Malaysia – as per the Malaysia Agreement 1963 they are a tripartite party equal in status to West Malaysia.

Following an amendment made in 1976, Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution stated that the Federal states comprised Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu, rendering the two Borneon states of the same status as the states in the peninsula.

The government is now seeking to reinstate Sabah and Sarawak’s status which Liew said will pave the way for the return of certain autonomy to the states, back to its pre-1976 position.

“The other amendments can come in later, because there are certain amendments that are consequential in nature, that may not necessarily require it to be tabled in Parliament; it can be done administratively. But to me this is the major one that requires the two-thirds majority,” he said.