Sarawak, Sabah may have to wait 60 years for another shot at equal status, says Liew

De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong today said Sarawak and Sabah may have to wait decades for another chance at restoring their status as equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong today said Sarawak and Sabah may have to wait decades for another chance at restoring their status as equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong today said Sarawak and Sabah may have to wait decades for another chance at restoring their status as equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia.

He told The Malaysian Insight that Pakatan Harapan’s Federal Constitution Amendment Bill, which failed to garner the two-thirds support of the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, was a missed opportunity for the two states.

“It was a golden opportunity for Sabahans and Sarawakians to have the states’ status restored after a 43-year wait.

“I don’t know when such a chance will come by again. Maybe in another 60 years,” he told the news portal.

The Bill, which sought to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, was met with opposition when Liew presented it to Parliament on Thursday.

Lawmakers from Sabah and Sarawak had said the Bill was just cosmetic, falling short of the wishes of the two states for their rights to be returned as equal partners in Malaysia.

The Bill garnered 138 votes in Parliament last night — 10 short of the two-thirds required — after 59 MPs had abstained.

Liew also told the news portal that no fresh Bill would be tabled without the support of the 59 MPs who had refused to vote yesterday.

Pointing out that Sarawak MPs had insisted on adding the words “in pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63)” in the Bill, Liew said the attorney general had advised against it as the signatories to MA63 had included Singapore, which left the federation in 1965.

He said the words would “complicate the spirit of MA63”.

“I’m not sure why they opposed the Bill. We were trying to reinstate the original words used in 1963 that was amended in 1976,” Liew said in the report, adding that it was the first step for Sarawak and Sabah to regain their rights.