Moving forward, amending the Sarawak Constitution

The Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and all matters arising from it, is a continuous source of news and is becoming ever more part of the fabric of everyday conversation and politics in Sarawak.

Rightly so, because of its importance to our future.

Great courage but at the same time, great care is needed to pursue the road to equal partnership.

Just imagine if miraculously (and hopefully) everything was resolved.

MA63 recognised in the Malaysian Constitution, Autonomy in Sarawak, PDA not applicable to Sarawak, Territorial Sea Act not applicable to Sarawak and various others laws and administrative procedures amended to facilitate Sarawak’s Autonomy.

Wow, all done! What are many of the MA63 experts and commentators and columnists going to do?

Look for more problems I suppose. There are plenty always around the corner.

Anyway, since there is still no light at the end of the tunnel, (lots of fake lights along the way) experts and writers have nothing to fear.

It looks like MA63 etc. is still on the menu for quite some time to come.

In the meantime, many variations and variables seem to be cropping up every day. Some even to the point that M63 is now void due to one reason or another.

Even I am losing track. I really need that memory Vitamin B; I think it is B17.

On to what happened at the recent shenanigans in Parliament last week.

Sarawak “GPS MPs stood up to the might of the PH government to protect Sarawak” or “Sarawak GPS MPs dashed the autonomy aspirations of Sarawakians”.

Either one of the above headlines could be used depending on which perspective you take after the recent attempt to amend the Federal Constitution of Malaya … oops, I mean Malaysia.

As you well know by now, all our GPS MPs stood firm and abstained from voting for the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution in the Parliament.

The denial of a two-thirds majority led to the failure of the amendment to “restore” the status of Sarawak as one of the Partners in the Formation of Malaysia.

The general sentiment here in Sarawak is that the proposed amendment, even though it was the original clause from the 1963 Federal Constitution, was not sufficient and that it was merely cosmetic.

With all the erosion and non-implementation of Sarawak rights since the formation of Malaysia, it would definitely be better if a thorough and proper effort was made to make all the necessary amendments.

In the latest twist, the Federal de facto minister of law said that the reason why the request by Sarawak to add the reference to MA63 in the Malaysian Constitution was that it might complicate matters.

Apparently, this ‘complicates matters’ statement came from the Attorney General’s Chambers.

How can MA63 complicate matters? It is the very foundation of the Federation of Malaysia.

Without MA63, there is no Malaysia!

This refusal to add the reference to MA63 in the Federal Constitution is a clear signal the Malayans now fear MA63.

Perhaps they fear that they might lose access to Sabah and Sarawak oil and gas.

It is just like a drug addict who is so used to a constant supply of drugs and will do all things necessary to secure his or her source of supplies.

Similarly, for the Malayans, they are now hooked onto the billions of ringgit from Sabah and Sarawak oil and gas (their drug).

I suppose the Malayans (the addicts) will do all that is necessary to secure their drug supply (our oil and gas monies).

If the Malayans with their Sarawak underlings are still busy pussyfooting around with future proposed amendments, why not look closer to home for potential partial solutions.

Can more changes be made to our ordinances here to assert our autonomy?

One such example that has already been done via the Oil Mining Ordinance (OMO) 1958 which empowers Petros.

Just this weekend our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said our rights over its oil and gas resources would be upheld and that this could be achieved through the enforcement of the Oil Mining Ordinance (OMO) 1958.

I am sure there are various other ordinances which need some tweaking here and there to claw back some autonomy.

However, perhaps the main one we can look at to amend is the Constitution of the State Of Sarawak.

According to Article 41 one clause states ordinances can be passed by a two-thirds majority to pass amendments to our Sarawak Constitution.

There have already been some proposals to amend our Sarawak Constitution to remove the reference to State by Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Youth chief Michael Tiang.

But why not go the whole distance?

Can elements of MA63 be incorporated into the Sarawak constitution?

Let’s have articles and clauses to the effect that “Sarawak entered into an Agreement under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 to form the Federation of Malaysia with the three current entities being Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.”

Obviously, I am no expert at drafting these clauses or on MA63 for that matter, (after all this column is called ‘Coffee Table Viewpoint’) but I do hope you get the gist of the point.

Would this approach to amendments to our Sarawak constitution strengthen our position?

If these amendments are found to be objectionable by Malaya, that’s fine.

They can always bring the matter to the Federal Court. They might even win. But at what cost?

Would it then not show all that they actually have no desire and political will to put Sarawak on equal footing as Malaya?

At least it will all be out in the open for all the people in Sarawak to see.

The underlings of the Malayan Parties will have a difficult time justifying their challenge to the amended Sarawak Constitution.

Sarawakians have to take note that the Prime Minister recently stated that the recently defeated amendment must be seen as one entity without separating East Malaysia and West Malaysia.

I disagree – a federation is always made up of different entities. Within the federation, we have to practise the concept of Good fences make good neighbours (not the Donald Trump kind of fence).

I mean each entity and, in this case, each partner must have clearly defined powers as per MA63 and all its associated documents together with the aspirations and the original publicly declared intentions of the all the parties to the Agreement.

Well Sarawakians, when we encounter hurdles let’s look at other options. Amending our own Constitution could be an alternative option to get things moving.

Our State Legislative Assembly session is coming up soon. Let’s keep “Sarawak First” at the forefront.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.