Sunday, November 29

‘Malaysians not born in Sarawak can now be DUN member’

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Wong addresses the press, flanked by Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian (left) and PSB secretary-general George Lo.

KUCHING: The passing of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill 2020 in the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) last Thursday means that Malaysians who are not born in Sarawak are now eligible to become a member of the DUN and even Chief Minister, said Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh.

He said despite Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian asserting otherwise in a recent press conference, the amendment Bill clearly stated that a person need not be born in Sarawak in order to become a member of the august House.

“During the press conference, Dr Sim, the president of SUPP, a component party in GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) said it not once but three times, that the amendment to the Constitution states that ‘You must be born in Sarawak’.

“Dr Sim had said ‘In order to be a resident of Sarawak, you must be a Malaysian citizen first. You must be born in Sarawak, and then you must be resident in Sarawak… and then we define the resident of Sarawak.

“The resident of Sarawak has been very clearly defined now as you must be born in Sarawak. And then not only clearly define that you must be born in Sarawak, you must live in Sarawak…,” said Wong in a press conference at PSB’s headquarters, here yesterday.

The Bawang Assan assemblyman, who is also DUN opposition leader, said he was “appalled” that Dr Sim had chosen to mislead Sarawakians by his remarks.

“We do not believe that his (Dr Sim) command of English can be so poor that he cannot read or understand the meaning of the words in the Bill that he and his party SUPP voted for.

“If he could not understand the words in the Bill, then he must come out and apologise to the people of Sarawak that his party misunderstood what they voted for,” Wong added.

He stressed that PSB aimed to make it clear to all the GPS DUN members who had voted for the Bill, that the amendment now meant that a person no longer had to be born in Sarawak to be eligible to become a member of the DUN or even Chief Minister of Sarawak.

“The amendment is clear and anyone with basic command of English should be able to understand it.”

He asserted that the new clause allows any Malaysian citizen, whether or not he or she was born in Sarawak, to be eligible to become a DUN member as long as he or she has one parent who was born in Sarawak and if he or she is normally a resident in Sarawak.

Wong went on to give an illustration of the impact of the constitutional amendment, saying: “Leila is a West Malaysian born in Sarawak when her West Malaysian parents were working in Sarawak.

“Leila left Sarawak as a baby after the family moved back to Peninsular Malaysia and she never returned to Sarawak again. Leila later married a West Malaysian man and they have a daughter, Putri who was born in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Putri came to work in Sarawak as a policewoman and stays on as a permanent resident. According to the new amendment, Putri is qualified to stand for election as an ADUN (DUN member) even though she was born in Peninsular Malaysia because: (1) she is Malaysian citizen and her West Malaysian mother was born in Sarawak, and (2) she is now normally a resident in Sarawak.

“But Putri is still not a Sarawakian,” Wong contended.

He went on to question how a parent’s birthplace could give the right to their non-Sarawakian children to stand for election in Sarawak, saying a ‘true Sarawakian’ could not be determined by the birthplace of either parent.

“Therein lies the flaw of this amendment which sadly was missed by all the GPS ADUNs.

“This matter is of grave concern to all Sarawakians as it is about the risk of erosion of the very basic rights of Sarawakians, not merely in relation to the right to contest in elections in Sarawak but also the very real possibility that this is the prelude to opening the floodgates and may intrude into the composition of employment in the state civil service and the practice of certain professions like the legal profession,” said Wong.