KUCHING: The change from “chief minister” to “premier” is a step to elevate Sarawak’s status as one of the four countries or regions that originally got together to form Malaysia.
Safiee Ahmad (GPS-Daro) said the amendment is also important to maintain that status as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“We adopt the concept used by other commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada, each one headed by a prime minister whereas the head of a federal region is called premier and any other head of state is called chief minister.
“The amendment is appropriate as it lifts the original spirit of the parties to the MA63, which has been restored by the amendment to the Federal Constitution,” he said when debating in support of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) yesterday (Feb 15).
He urged the federal government to recognise the change and amend the federal Constitution accordingly. That way, he said, the position of the premier of Sarawak would be higher than the chief ministers or ‘menteri besar’ in Malaya.
This, he stressed, would affect protocols in official events and meetings at the federal level.
Regarding the amendment of “Assistant Minister” to “Deputy Minister”, he regarded it as the state government’s way of elevating the status of the leaders concerned, but also that of Sarawak in relation to other states.
“We must understand that Sarawak’s position is not the same as those of other states. We are equal partners of Malaya and Sabah. As such we are entitled to have our own exclusive administrative and management systems.
“The constitutional amendment is also part of the state government’s fight for our rights and privileges contained in the MA63,” he said.
“In addition to the proposed amendment, I also propose that Article 6 (3) (b) of the Sarawak Constitution be amended so that the number of members of the Sarawak Executive Council be increased to more than 10 to keep up with current needs and developments.
“It will make the administration and management of Sarawak more effective, efficient and focused on efforts to achieve a developed status by 2030,” he said.
Safiee’s colleague, Royston Valentine (GPS-Tellian), also agreed that the word “premier” is one way to elevate Sarawak’s status higher than the Malayan states.
He argued that there is no need to oppose the amendment because whatever is good for the state should be supported.
“Politically, Sarawak is not of the same level as the states that have chief ministers or ‘mentri besar’ as the heads of government. Therefore we must position ourselves higher in line with our status as equal partners in the federation.
“The road is open for us to correct what needs correction, and to fight for Sarawak’s right. This is the right time. This amendment will show that we are different,” he said when debating in support of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
Royston added that the rights and distribution of financial allocations must also be different commensurate with its “equal partner” status.
Sarawak, he argued, is entitled to a higher percentage in federal funds by virtue of that status alone.