Tuesday, November 24

Chong claims constitutional amendment can also deny true S’wakians right to be elected as assemblyman


Chong Chieng Jen

KUCHING (Nov 20): Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Chong Chieng Jen has claimed that the recent Sarawak Constitution amendment on the qualification to be elected to the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) can also deny a ‘true Sarawakian’ the right for election.

He said DUN Deputy Speaker Dato Gerawat Gala and Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei had defended Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s (GPS) support for the amendment by claiming that the word ‘parents’ in the amendment connoted ‘biological parents’.

Therefore, Chong, who is Kota Sentosa assemblyman, asked why the word ‘biological’ was not included in the amendment Bill, which was tabled and passed in the august House last week.

“The simple question is that if biological parents were truly intended by the amendment, why was the word ‘biological’ not included in the amendment bill? And why are the GPS ministers so quiet about it, leaving it to an ex-DAP state assemblyman (Wong) to lead the defence for GPS?

“In fact, with the new amendment, not only that a non-Sarawakian can be an ADUN by virtue of the birth place of his or her parents, on the other hand a true Sarawakian may be denied the rights to be an elected ADUN of the state,” Chong said in a statement today, using the Malay acronym for assemblyman.

To illustrate his point, he gave an example of a Sarawakian couple, while temporarily working in West Malaysia, has a son who is a Sarawakian and whose identity card has the number ’13’ and the letter ‘K’.

He said after the birth of the son, the family moves back to Sarawak and the son grows up in the state.

“If the son married someone who is also not born in Sarawak, under the new amendment, the son’s children will not be eligible to be elected as a member of the Sarawak State Assembly even if they are Sarawakians and reside in Sarawak their whole life,” Chong said.

As such, he said under the new amendment, being a ‘Sarawakian’ was not one of the criteria for the eligibility to be an assemblyman, but the ‘birth place’ of the parents or one of them was the criteria for eligibility.

“Undeniably, there are thousands of Sarawakians not born in Sarawak because at the time of their birth, their parents were working outside Sarawak.

“The children of these Sarawakian not born in Sarawak will thus be disqualified to be elected as an ADUN even if they are Sarawakians and have the letter ‘K’ in their identity cards.

“Therefore, because of the rush job in the amendment of the State Constitution, not only a non-Sarawakian may be allowed to be elected as an ADUN, but at the same time, a Sarawakian may be disallowed to be elected as an ADUN,” he said.

“The GPS Government should learn to be more consultative when it comes to the amendment of the Constitution and not bulldozing through the amendment with the might of its more than two-third majority in the State Assembly.”

DAP and Parti Sarawak Bersatu had opposed the amendment Bill during the sitting last week, which had sought to lower the age of eligibility to be elected into DUN and define the words ‘resident in the state’ in Article 16 of the constitution.

While the opposition bench supported the move to lower the eligibility age from 21 to 18, they disagreed with its definition of ‘resident’.

The amendment says only two categories of people would be qualified as “resident in the state” – a citizen born in Sarawak, whose parents or either of them was also born in the state and he is normally resident in the state; or a citizen, though not born in the state, whose parents or either of them was born in the state and he is normally resident in the state.