KOTA KINABALU: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) supported the altered proposed amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, but with conditions.
Its president, Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, said that he signed to support the amendment after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad agreed to refer the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
“It is not that we did not support, we supported with conditions, which means neither did we support blindly. In fact I was one of the 138 signatories. All the Sabah MPs, except for one from Umno, responded positively to the amendment,” he said on the party’s stand to the proposed constitutional amendment to Article 1(2).
Maximus disclosed that in debating the bill when it was tabled recently, he said support will only be given after hearing the Prime Minister’s winding up speech.
“We (PBS) did say that returning Article 1(2) to the 1963 version is an achievement, but it is not enough because nothing is said about equal status, only left to be implied and interpreted.
“But when PM finally said the MA63 will be referred to the Parliamentary Select Committee, we decided to compromise and give it a chance,” he said.
He said the proposed amendment did not get constitutional support because there was no mention at all of MA63 in the Federal Constitution.
“It only mentions the Malaya Agreement 1957 in Article 160 (2), hence matter of equal status for Sabah and Sarawak vis-a-vis Malaya since 1963 is only implied and left to interpretation.
“No article, nor constitutional statement, or clause, to that effect. That is why we have never been treated as equal partner as promised by the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman,” he said.
He noted that unlike the Article 121, referring to the High Court of Borneo and High Court of Malaya, it specifically states that the two High Courts are equal in status.
“This is what PBS has insisted to be included when amending the Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.
“Plus, PBS also wants the MA63 be included, either in Article 1(2) or in 160(2). Without inclusion, the effort to restore the 1963 clause of Article 1(2) is very hollow and incomplete,” he said.
He stressed that the best move was to amend the constitution holistically, once and for all.
“There are lots to do, and need thorough planning. That is why PBS, through me, appealed that we do not rush the amendment. It has to be done in stages, first form the Select Committee to get widest feedbacks and inputs from as many groups as possible, as well as from the rakyat.
“Next step is to refer these proposed amendments to the state assemblies of both Sabah and Sarawak, and upon approval, table it at the Parliament. That is how it is supposed to be done.
“Now that the Federal Government has agreed to form the Select Committee on MA63, we urge the Prime Minister to honour the undertaking and form the Parliamentary Select Committee soonest,” he stressed.