KUCHING: The best way to find out if MPs support the return of equal status of Sabah and Sarawak is to table a bill on the matter in Parliament, said Karanaan (Sabah) assemblyman Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun. He said no one should assume that the opposition would not support the bill.
“Making an assumption that the opposition won’t support it would only create a suspicion that the government of the day is not serious in getting it done, i.e. a convenient excuse not to proceed with giving Sabah and Sarawak their rightful place in the Federation,” he reasoned.
Masidi, who is former Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment minister, said all leaders from Sabah and Sarawak should put aside politics to ensure that equal partnership among the regions of Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia (or Malaya) is restored.
He expressed confidence that all Sabah and Sarawak MPs from both sides of the political divide will vote for the amendment because it would be short of political suicide for any MP from the two states not to support the amendment.
“It is high time for leaders of both states to look at common issues beyond our own politics,” Masidi said. Sabah and Sarawak have a total of 56 MPs.
He also believes that MPs from Umno and PAS in Peninsular Malaysia will support the amendment, knowing the political repercussions if they do not.
“In a tight election, any party or parties from the Peninsula need the support of East Malaysian MPs to form the government of the day. Support from Sabah and Sarawak MPs determines who take over the Federal Government,” he said.
He was reacting to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad’s view that, to restore equal status of Sabah and Sarawak a two-thirds majority in Parliament is needed.
“Sabahans and Sarawakians are closely watching the reaction of Peninsular Malaysia MPs to the proposal to return the rights of the two states as stipulated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“Failure to get it done could result in another political realignment in GE15 (or next general election). This won’t be good for the country,” Masidi claimed.
To find out if Dr Mahathir is right or wrong it would be better for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to table the necessary constitutional amendment in the Dewan Rakyat, preferably during this coming October sitting, he said.
Yesterday, Dr Mahathir told reporters in Kota Kinabalu that he was not convinced that the opposition would support the move to restore equal partner status to Sabah and Sarawak. He said the opposition’s support was needed to make up the necessary two-thirds majority before the Federal Constitution can be amended.
In order to restore equal partner status to Sabah and Sarawak, Article 1 (2) of the constitution would need to be changed and restored to the wording prior to the 1976 amendment which indicated the East Malaysian states as a separate territory from the Federation of Malaya.
“At the moment, we don’t have a two-thirds majority. If we want to change the constitution, we need to figure out how to get a two-thirds majority,” Dr Mahathir said.
“But in the meantime, we have to study what needs to be repealed and substitute them with new revisions in the constitution. There will be some laws which we will look into.”
He said although the opposition appeared to support the idea now, it had been proven that they might say one thing and do another when it matters the most.
As an example, Dr Mahathir pointed out that the law on fake news, which the government had thought would get the full backing of the opposition, was not passed by the Senate where PH did not have the majority.
“When they talk, they say one thing. Then when they are there, they get a whip to tell them not to give their support, and we have problems like this,” he said while urging people to continue pushing the issue, especially those in the Sabah and Sarawak governments.
Dr Mahathir’s view that two-thirds majority in Parliament is needed for the return of equal status to Sabah and Sarawak in the present circumstance does not hold water as far as Santubong MP Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar is concerned.
Wan Junaidi, who is a former Parliament deputy speaker and a federal minister, said the move to return equal status to Sabah and Sarawak and change the Federal Constitution can also be done through negotiation.
He said all that the PH government needs to do is for the Federal Constitution to be amended to reverse the decision made in 1976.
“To amend the constitution requires two-thirds majority. While this is correct, it does not mean that the PH government needs to win the two-thirds majority in Parliament to bring the law to amend the constitution. They can always invite all the MPs who are not with PH for a discussion and to strike an agreement for support,” he said when asked to comment on Dr Mahathir’s latest take on the status of Sabah and Sarawak.
“This (discussion) has been done in all developed countries in order for their parliamentarians to get policy or law passed by legislature when there is no majority. I know this has never been practised by Malaysia parliament. One thing I am certain with is that MPs from Sarawak and Sabah irrespective of their political affiliation will support the Bill.”
Wan Junaidi was confident that Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) MPs would also agree to the move to restore the equal status of Sabah and Sarawak.
“I believe BN and PAS will be amendable to the idea of returning Sarawak and Sabah rights. PH must discuss and have dialogue with them. Sarawak MPs surely could assist to convince them. If they are not supporting, then they must be forever silent on the issue, Sarswak and Sabah would never trust them again. PH must try,” he said.
Batang Sadong MP Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the announcement by Dr Mahathir was not news as people had been hearing similar tone several times before.
Nancy, a former law minister in the previous BN government, said what is important now is for the Prime Minister to recognise Sabah and Sarawak as regions of equal partnership.
“As far as I am concerned, the recognition of status would be meaningless if it is not translated in terms of various developments which a region should be getting. The status of a region need not be the same with a state within Malaysia,” Nancy argued.
She said now is the opportune time for all Sarawakians to be united in getting the rights of Sarawak and enhance the works of the Special Committee for addressing issues surrounding the devolution of power.
Sarawak had good relationship with the previous BN federal government, therefore the Sarawak government must continue to voice out its concerns like control over oil and gas ownership and oil royalty to the PH federal government, she stressed.
BN strongman Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said he personally supports giving equal status to Sabah and Sarawak but incidentally it (equal status) means that Peninsula Malaysians do not have to show their passports when entering Sabah and Sarawak.
“When there is no more restriction, then only are we equal,” he said.