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Abang Johari to be Malaysia’s first ‘premier’ under proposed amendment to Sarawak constitution

The bill to be tabled next week also proposes that the post of 'assistant minister' be changed to 'deputy minister'.

Staff Writers
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Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg.
Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg may become the country’s first premier if a proposed amendment to the state constitution is passed, in a symbolic move to show more clout for the Bornean state under the Malaysian federation.

The Borneo Post, citing a bill to be tabled at the state assembly next week, said the amendment would see the title “chief minister” in Article 6(3) of the state constitution replaced with “premier”.

Another proposal in the bill to be tabled by state tourism minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah is for the post of “assistant minister” to be changed to “deputy minister”.

According to the Borneo Post, the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill 2022 is one of five bills to be tabled at the special sitting which starts tomorrow.

The move comes two months after constitutional amendments were passed in the Dewan Rakyat on Dec 14, to reinstate the rights of Sabah and Sarawak in line with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

They were unanimously passed by all MPs present, the second time that MPs have put aside their party affilitions in support of a bill to amend the constitution since the bill to lower the voting age in 2019.

Even before the bill was passed, the then Perikatan Nasional government had in 2019 issued a directive to replace all references to “state” with “region” for Sabah and Sarawak.

Muhyiddin Yassin during his visit to Sarawak in April last year had said that Sarawak was a region or “wilayah”.

“From now on, we should not forget that Sarawak is a ‘region’, ‘wilayah’. I feel like it is a great region. I can’t say it’s a state because it’s big though the population is not big,” he had said.

Karim had then welcomed the remarks, saying the status of Sabah and Sarawak was not the same as that of the other states in the peninsula.

“Their formation is different. They are included under what we call the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957,” he was quoted as saying.

“We cannot be part of the smaller states. How can you put Perlis and Sarawak at the same level?”

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