Calls for bill to amend Federal Constitution

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Ranbir Singh Sangha

KUCHING: The Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) is calling upon the Federal government to introduce a bill in Parliament to amend the Federal Constitution to allow an extension of the term of the current State Legislative Assembly (DUN).

“Sarawak needs to hold its state election as the DUN term is expiring middle of next year. Hence, there is a need to put forth such amendment to avert a new wave of Covid-19 infections nationwide.

“AAS views the ability to determine when it is safe to dissolve the DUN and hold elections a fundamental component of Sarawak rights.

“Consequently, we are urging the Sarawak government to request the Federal government for such amendment,” said AAS president Ranbir Singh Sangha today.

He said AAS would, in the coming days, make representations to the Federal and Sarawak Attorney General’s Chambers to ensure that all the necessary safeguards towards preserving democracy were put in place for such an amendment.

“Just as in 1968, the amendment sought is temporary. Unlike in 1968, the situation today is grave,” he said.

Ranbir explained that in 1963, prior to the formation of Malaysia, Sarawak had an indirect three-tiered electoral system, namely district council, divisional council and Council Negri.

“Due to the Election Commission’s difficulties in holding Sarawak’s first direct elections, the term of the Council Negri in 1968 was extended to expire together with Parliament in 1969, which was beyond the usual period of five years.

“As such, to facilitate this, a temporary amendment was made to the Federal Constitution to extend the term of the Council Negri (now DUN), followed by a consequential amendment to the Sarawak Constitution,” he said.

Ranbir said the association also acknowledged the call by Layar assemblyman Gerald Rental Jabu at the DUN sitting on Nov 11 for the current DUN term to be extended for up to six years or until Parliament was next dissolved (whichever came first) in response to the impact of Covid-19.

“We also endorsed the views of Emeritus Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi on the constitutionality of the proposal to extend the term of the current DUN term by way of amendment to the Federal Constitution to defer the state elections,” he said.

Ranbir added Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in his address on Nov 18 also said that the third wave of Covid-19 infections in the country today was caused by the Sabah state election.

“Therefore, we are mindful of the political challenges if the bill for such amendment is put to Parliament. However, our Members of Parliament (MPs) have in 2019 proven capable of acting in one voice when they unanimously passed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. 

“Hence, the association urges all MPs to uphold their oaths to the office to protect, preserve and defend the Federal Constitution which guarantees the right of life of Malaysians by supporting the bill for such amendment,” he said.

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