Only legislative, judicial, and executive action can completely guarantee the victory of the free world.

— Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., American politician and pastor

The State Legislative Assembly (DUN) is the last bastion in defending the rights belonging to Sarawak, make no mistake about it.

That is why the Bill that was passed on Thursday is pertinent as it sought to somehow safeguard the DUN from future threats in the shape of “parachuted” elected representatives.

The Bill sought to first lower the age of eligibility for elected representatives in the legislature from 21 to 18, in line with the recent amendment to the Federal Constitution where the age for voting is set to 18 instead of 21.

More importantly, it closed the loophole in terms of who is eligible to be a House member — making it the exclusive right and privilege of local Sarawakians, through an amendment of Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah in describing the Bill said there will be only two categories of persons qualified to be defined as ‘resident in the State’.

They are citizens born in the State whose parents or either of them was also born in the State and normally residing in the State; or citizens, though not born in the State, whose parents or either of them was born in the State and normally residing in the State.

“People with no Sarawakian connection either by birth or the birth of their parents and not normally resident in Sarawak will be disqualified,” he said when tabling the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

It sought to tighten the qualification needed for an assemblyman as previously, a resident, defined by the Immigration Act 1959/63 said a person that stayed in Sarawak for certain period of time, is eligible to represent its people.

While the notion of Sarawak for Sarawakians is popular and is the general idea of the Bill — at least in a way, what this means is that it guarantees that every community from every nook and corner of the state is duly represented.

This ensures all, be it Iban, Malay, Chinese, Bidayuh, Melanau, Kenyah, Kayan, Kedayan, Murut, Punan, Bisaya, Kelabit, Berawan and many more will be represented by their own people.

Also, in context, it would mean that future generations — be it a decade or a century from now — of Sarawakians would not need to compete with Malayans or Sabahans to be the YB (elected representative) for their kawasan (constituency).

The opposition bloc, led by the new opposition leader poked holes in the Bill that was introduced on Tuesday, distorting its meaning and significance.

The group also revelled in jubilation when the Bill had to be deferred due to anomalies and ambiguity, after painting the Bill as a sellout of Sarawak rights.

I think it is apparent that these people are a confused lot — the Bill that they are opposing is for all intents and purposes to safeguard the Sarawak DUN and not the opposite.

Of course, when they fully comprehend the meaning of the Bill that they just opposed, they were quick to formulate a new narrative that the amendment is not all-encompassing.

The question that needs answering is why were they fully adamant in not supporting the Bill. Was it politically motivated or were they just being silly and opposing for the sake of
opposing?

A total of nine assemblypersons rejected the Bill. What is noteworthy is that there are 11 opposition members in the Sarawak DUN.

Parti Sarawak Bersatu’s (PSB) Opar assemblyman Datuk Ranum Mina and Dudong assemblyman Datuk Tiong Thai King were those in support of the Bill.

Ranum, in a press conference with other opposition members said the reason for not objecting the Bill was that he was not focusing at all at the sitting as he had to take care of urgent
matters in his kawasan.

Tiong on the other hand was missing from the press conference and did not give any reason for his decision.

Regardless, the Bill is now passed, meaning not just any Tom, Dick and Harry coming from outside Sarawak, despite being a Malaysia citizen, can vie for a DUN seat in an election.

It would also mean that Sarawak will be spared whatever unhinged politics that is occurring in the other side of the South China Sea for the foreseeable future.

The right to represent the people of Sarawak as well as make laws affecting the people in the state now belongs exclusively to the people, as it should.