KUCHING, April 12 — Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg today blamed a weakness in the “secretariat” which led to Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) federal lawmakers abstaining from voting for a Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution in Parliament last Tuesday.
“I tell you, through my meeting, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is very sincere to bring about the change in the restoration, but I think there was a weakness by the secretariat in the handling (of Sarawak’s views on the amendment Bill).
“If there had been a good handling on the part of the secretariat under de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong and us, then you have a very strong platform and understanding among us.
“The wording (of the amendment Bill) could even be better,” he told reporters after presenting certificates to 44 Certified Integrity Officers here.
Abang Johari said he had told the minister that any constitutional amendment, including on the definition of the “Federation” under Article 160(2), must be made within the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
“If there had been a face-to-face discussion, I don’t think there would be a problem. Of course, we would have given our support to the amendment Bill.
“initially, it was alright, but when it was not done as what we had expected because my submission was for the amendment to be made within the perimeter of the Constitution and MA63, GPS lawmakers then abstained from voting.
“MA63 must be there in the amendment,” he said, adding he would bring up the matter at the next special cabinet steering committee meeting.
Abang Johari said he does not know if the Bill will be re-tabled in Parliament.
The Bill, tabled for the second reading by the prime minister, was defeated when it failed to receive the required majority support from two-thirds of the 222 lawmakers in Parliament.
It received 138 — 10 short of two-thirds majority support — from Pakatan Harapan and most lawmakers from Sabah while 59 others, including 19 from GPS, abstained.
There was no vote against the amendment.