Hang on there, better deals are on the way

Sarawakians don’t have to agree with state PH chairman Chong Chieng Jen who appears pissed off because the GPS people are not listening to him.

He called their apparent hesitation in support of the amendment Bill as “utter disservice to Sarawak” and accused them of playing politics and giving excuses.

“Don’t give any excuses saying that we need to look at the wording and see whether there are actual benefits or not.

“Once the status of Sarawak is put in the right place to be one of the three territories in Malaysia, other autonomies and rights that come in will fall into place. You just need a starting point,” he was quoted as saying.

Really? Pass this amendment and everything will fall into place? That easy?

No, Sarawak will not buy that. GPS will not buy that, so the MPs really don’t have to listen to Chong.

We were told the second reading of the amendment Bill to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution is expected to be either on April 8 or 9 and to pass it requires a two-thirds majority, or 148 votes, out of the 222 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House).

But GPS people aren’t too excited about the Bill because with only days to the sitting, they are in the dark as to what the Bill is all about.

They have been asking for copies of the Bill because they need to know what exactly the change(s) will be but strangely, even Chong, a Sarawakian, isn’t willing to allow fellow Sarawakians have a peek at the draft Bill.

“Give us the draft, let us go through it first,” said Batang Sadong MP Nancy Shukri.

In fact, MPs in Sarawak and Sabah have been asking to have a look at the draft of the proposed amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution before it is tabled in Parliament.

It is only right that they should want to know because the proposed amendment concerns them and the future of Sarawakians and Sabahans.

Here we are talking about wanting to restore the status of the two states as equal partners with Malaya in the Malaysian federation, yet our MPs aren’t part of the designers of the Bill. That’s not right.

What good is a new law if it’s only window dressing? What we want is something substantive and meaningful.

Yes, if need be, let’s not rush the amendment through. If it requires further changes, let’s get those changes done first.

As Nancy says, we are all for the amendment but if the Bill is not satisfactory, the amendment can wait. Sarawakians can wait.

Looking back, luckily Sarawak did not fall for that pre-May 9 ‘new deal’. But of course hardly anyone believed Sarawak would even bother to read through the offer seeing that it was made in the midst of an election when nothing was for sure. After all, no one knew if PH would win and if it did, who the PM would be.

As it turned out PH did win, but the PM didn’t come from the parties of those who signed that new deal, therefore it would be foolish to believe Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad would go with that ‘new deal’ hook, line and sinker.

And that ‘new deal’ wasn’t a perfect one. While Chong and company were willing to give 20 per cent O&G royalty and 50 per cent of taxes collected from the state, they also wanted the state to assume full autonomy of education and healthcare matters, including undertaking all financial obligations incurred by these two ministries.

Two months after GE14, Chong came up with a revised ‘new deal’, saying, “This 5 per cent (remains because it) is an agreement between Petronas and the state government and cannot be varied unless the state government voluntarily gives it up.”

Sarawak still refused to sign, why? Because the signatories of the July ‘new deal’ didn’t have the locus standi to make that kind of offer; because the PM and his Cabinet played no part in that deal which was drawn by PH Sarawak; and because it was still far from perfect, Chong and company were bound to make more offers of newer deals.

And which is why Chong is now peddling this proposed amendment, the details of which he does not want GPS MPs to know. This time it is the PH’s latest deal.

“Don’t give any excuses saying that we need to look at the wording and see whether there are actual benefits or not,” he cried.

With so many unfulfilled promises, U-turns and back-and-forths, it’s really too early in the day for GPS to take his words as the gospel truth.

Besides, knowing his generosity in giving one new deal after another and making new offers on top of earlier offers, the GPS MPs really have no good reason to be as excited as Chong.

He probably will soon work out something much better for Sarawakians. The only thing is he needs time, too, perhaps to convince himself and then his Malayan masters that Sarawakians do deserve more than he is capable of thinking on his own.