KOTA KINABALU: The status of Sabah and Sarawak has not been downgraded because both states have enjoyed special status all the while as provided under the Federal Constitution, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Raymond Tan Shu Kiah.
“If you read the Federal Constitution and Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), Sabah and Sarawak have special rights, not Johor, Kedah or Selangor.
“So how can you say the status of Sabah and Sarawak has been downgraded? If you ask me, both states have special status.
“More importantly, the State Government will strive to defend the special rights provided under the Federal Constitution,” Tan said to Bingkor assemblyman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan in the State Legislative Assembly sitting yesterday.
Jeffrey said that the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution on August 12 and 13, 1976 which downgraded Sabah and Sarawak to the 12th and 13th states in Malaya had violated the foundation of the formation of Malaysia.
If the Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) government was sincere, Jeffrey said the State Government should table a motion in the State Assembly to recognize that the amendment to Article 1(2) was invalid and contradicted with the safeguards of Sabah and Sarawak’s rights as stated in the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report and Federal Constitution.
In response, Tan said the Article 1 of MA63 stated that the colonies of North Borneo shall be federated with the existing states of the Federation of Malaya as the states of Sabah and Sarawak at that time, Singapore, to form the Federation of Malaysia.
Tan, who is also Tanjung Papat state assemblyman, said Article 1 of the MA63 referred Sabah and Sarawak as the states under the British colony.
“There is none, in the legal context, that we will redefine the status of Sabah and Sarawak other than reference under Article 1 of the MA63 that they are states from the Island of Borneo.
“I don’t think, in terms of legal definition, we have ever over last 50 years, disputed Article 1 of MA63.”
As to Jeffrey’s claim that the status of Sabah and Sarawak has changed because of the 1976 amendment, Tan said that Sabah and Sarawak would remain as states by definition of Article 1 of MA63.
“What has changed in the amendment in 1976 is that when we read it, we no longer refer the two states (Sabah and Sarawak) are from Borneo as in Article 1 of the MA63,” he explained.
Jeffrey also alleged that there had been sinister intention by the Federal Government and Malaya in changing the structure of the Federation of Malaysia in 1976 as the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution at that time had eroded the rights of Sabah and Sarawak.
In response, Tan said Jeffrey should have referred to the Parliament’s record in 1976 on the debate of the amendment.
“From what I understand, the amendment made does not have sinister intention to downgrade the status of Sabah and Sarawak.
“Look at all the members of parliament’s debate records, which one has accused the government for downgrading the status of Sabah and Sarawak?”
He said none of the lawmakers, including the opposition leader, have mentioned about downgrading Sabah and Sarawak’s status in the records.
“We should not guess or make assumptions that the leaders who were involved in the debate on the amendment in Parliament in 1976 had sinister intention.
“You cannot make suggestions or create perceptions on what happened in 1976,” Tan said.
To a question by Api-Api assemblywoman Christina Liew, Tan said the State Government had already agreed that the state and federal-level committees would discuss anything that had gone wrong with regards to State rights and status.
“Please accept the fact that we are all in this together to make sure those special rights, those things under the Constitution and MA63 will be protected.”
However, Tan pointed out that the opposition did not have clear understanding of MA63, Federal Constitution or even the Parliament’s records when they talked about the 1976 amendment.