Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Decision on Sarawak-PN ties to be constitutional, not political, CM says

Abang Johari Openg says the decision to which he referred yesterday was in the context of the proposal to amend the constitution to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in the federation.

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Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg today clarified that the decision to be made on the state’s ties with the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government which he had mentioned yesterday was in the context of the proposal to amend Article 160 (2) of the Federal Constitution to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in the federation.

Speaking to reporters after attending an event in Kuching, he said some media had portrayed the matter as being of a political nature rather than constitutional.

“I just want to clarify that,” he said. “Yesterday when I was in Lubok Antu, I was talking about the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), which the federal government agreed to relook to amend the provision under Article 160.

“Then, a sort of decision will be made concerning MA63.”

He also thanked Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for agreeing to further discussions on the proposal, saying a decision would be made after that.

The amendment to Article 160 sought by Sarawak would see the word “federation” defined in reference to MA63 instead of the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957 as is currently the case.

Speaking today, Abang Johari said the state government would give its full support to the federal government if the decision to amend the defintion of “federation” is made.

“When Pakatan Harapan (PH) proposed that the provision be amended, we wanted it to be interpreted like this, but they refused.”

Sarawak is governed by GPS, a coalition formed after the 2018 general election by Sarawak parties which left Barisan Nasional (BN).

While GPS is not a part of the PN government, Muhyiddin came into power in 2020 with critical support from the coalition’s 18 MPs.

Abang Johari, who is GPS chairman, said the proposed amendment has nothing to do with the coalition.

“What we are talking about is Sarawak’s rights and autonomy, and when we talked about MA63, (Putrajaya) agreed.

“I said to them, the federation now is based on the 1957 Malaya Agreement. We want it to be based on MA63. Only by doing this will the relationship between the federal and state government be realigned.”

He added that Sarawak had been firm about amending the provision, saying PH’s foiled bid to amend Article 1(2) to change the status of Sabah and Sarawak in 2019 was due to a failure to address the constitution.

“We want to change this as (the Federal Constitution) is based on the 1957 Malaya Agreement. If there is any problem legally, the judge would interpret it as such.”

He was referring to PH’s failure in 2019 to obtain the two-thirds majority needed to amend Article 1(2) to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with the peninsula.

PH had secured 138 of the 148 votes needed, although MPs from GPS and BN had abstained from voting.

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