Monday, January 24, 2022

MPs unanimously vote for constitutional amendments to empower Sabah, Sarawak

All 199 MPs present in the Dewan Rakyat today voted in support of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2021.

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The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2021 was passed with a two-thirds majority after its second reading in the Dewan Rakyat today.

This is the second time in the Dewan Rakyat’s history that MPs have voted unanimously in support of a bill to amend the constitution, after the Undi 18 bill in 2019.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun said the bill received the support of 199 MPs after the debate which continued for nearly six hours with the participation of MPs from across the political divide.

Twenty-one MPs were absent from today’s session.

Law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar who presented the bill for debate by MPs said a big weakness was that the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was not included in the constitution.

“Meanwhile, with the establishment of the Federation of Malaya in 1948, all agreements between the Straits Settlements were included in the 1948 agreement,” he said.

“The 1957 agreement refers to the 1948 agreement. Unfortunately when Malaysia was established in 1963, the constitutional amendments did not include MA63.”

Among the matters amended is the interpretation of “federation” in Article 160(2) of the constitution which now takes into account the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957, MA63 and the Singapore Agreement.

“The proposed amendment to this interpretation is to provide a correct and accurate definition of the term ‘federation’ in the Federal Constitution,” Wan Junaidi said.

To a question by Chong Chien Jen (PH-Stampin), he said the federal government together with the governments of Sabah and Sarawak could use Article 80 in the devolution of power for issues involving health and education without needing to amend the constitution.

He said while there had been calls for Sabah and Sarawak to be given equal status with the Federation of Malaya, there were no provisions for this in either MA63, the constitution, the Malaysia Act or any other related laws.

Matters related to the status and rights of Sabah and Sarawak had been championed by both sides of the political divide.

In 2019, Pakatan Harapan sought to amend the constitution for the same purpose but did not obtain the two-thirds support needed in the Dewan Rakyat.

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