GPS says constitutional amendment bid didn’t go far enough

Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof (centre) speaks during a press conference in Parliament April 4, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof (centre) speaks during a press conference in Parliament April 4, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUCHING, April 10 — Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) MPs did not vote on a constitutional amendment Bill to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s status in the federation as it was not comprehensive enough, coalition whip Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof explained.

He said the Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution also failed to consider the wishes of the Sarawak government and its natives.

“Firstly, our hope is that the amendment should not have been hastily drafted, and should have been made after the special steering Cabinet committee, of which Sarawak and Sabah are part of it, had agreed to whatever was being discussed.

“After that then we could come up with more comprehensive amendments to the Federal Constitution,” Fadillah, who is also the Petrajaya MP, said in an interview with the Sarawak Public Communication Unit (UKAS) of the chief minister’s office last night.

He said the Bill should have been first referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee for review and in-depth study, and its report and recommendations should then be scrutinised by the Cabinet committee.

“After that, the report and recommendations should have been brought back to Parliament for support,” he said.

“That was the process which we had hoped to be followed, and we hope that we can continue to discuss with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government on ways to improve the process before any amendment to the constitution is made,” he said.

Fadillah believed that the amendment Bill would have received the required two-thirds support in Parliament had it been comprehensive enough, not hastily drafted and tabled.

“That was why we agreed in principle to support the Bill presented by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government. Our only hope was that they inserted our views,” he said.

He said the GPS government had wanted the term “pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement 1963” to be inserted into the amendment Bill to indicate the basis in forming the Federation of Malaysia.

He said it should read “The States of the Federation pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 shall be” to indicate Malaysia was formed in 1963, not in 1957.

“This is the wish of the state government, after having discussions with the Sarawak State Assembly Consultative Committee.

“We have discussed a number of times with the minister to convey our wishes and our commitment was that we would support the Bill if the term ‘pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement 1963’ was inserted,” he said, referring to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

He said the GPS government had also listened to a lot of views from the legal fraternity, especially on the interpretation and definition of the “Federation of Malaysia” under Article 160(2) of the Federal Constitution.

He said Article 1(2) appeared to contradict Article 160(2) which stated that “The Federation means the Federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957”.

Fadillah said the Federation of Malaysia was formed in 1963, not in 1957, adding that Malaysia Agreement 1963 was never mentioned in the Federal Constitution despite the fact that it was the basis in the formation of Malaysia.

“That was why we wanted MA63 to be taken into account in the drafting of the Bill,” he said.

The amendment Bill, tabled on April 4 for the first reading, failed to receive the necessary support of two-thirds or 148 lawmakers out of the 222-seat Parliament.

It was supported by 138 federal lawmakers from PH while 59 lawmakers from GPS, Barisan Nasional and PAS abstained.

No lawmakers opposed the amendment Bill.