Jimmy Adit

With growing vigour Malaysians continue to debate the failed Bill that was proposed to amend Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution.

For most Sarawakians the furor is understandable as it concerns their constitutional rights, hence their future and the future of their children, grand-children and great grand-children.

There is, in fact, a growing fear among Sarawakians that the impasse is not going to pass quickly because there is nothing to suggest that.

Yes, de facto Law Minister VK Liew did say something about forming a select committee. But we now know under the Dewan Rakyat rules and procedures there are two possible select committees – the Special Select Committee (SSC) and Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC).

Santubong MP Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Taunku Jaafar said quite a bit to enlighten us on these committees.

“Under the present law, rules and procedures, the SSC is preferred in that it can draft the law and visit places and meet wider segments of the citizens.

“The SSC is backed up by the full rigour of the law, rules and procedures of Dewan rakyat.

“The PSC at the moment is an ad hoc committee which has no clout under the law and rules and procedures of Dewan Rakyat …”

So, which is it?

Unfortunately, instead of forming the committee, which would have brought down the heat of the debate somewhat, the de facto law minister kind of added more fuel to an already raging fire by announcing that he was moving the High Court Registrar’s office from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu.

That announcement drew flak from various quarters in Sarawak, notably politicians and the law fraternities who said the move was unconstitutional because the state government was never consulted.

The Federal Constitution says the state government must be consulted, meaning it has to give its consent.

But rather strangely the de facto law minister in his statement dated April 21 said there is nothing in law or the constitution for the Registrar of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak to remain in Kuching forever.

He went on to say that in fact it is to the contrary, as provided in Article 121 (4) of the Federal Constitution, which implies Sabah also has a right to house the registry.

He was quoted as having said, “The decision to move the Registrar to Kota Kinabalu was made by the top four judges sometime in March this year.”

According to Liew, last March, the CJ wrote for permission from the prime minister, who agreed and thereafter had the Yang di-Pertuan Agong grant his royal assent.

Undoubtedly, the weakness with Liew’s narrative is the by-passing of the Sarawak government.

The Constitution clearly states that Sarawak must be consulted, thus what has been done is a serious breach of the Federal Constitution and for that the federal government, the prime minister and Liew are the subject of a possible court action.

Now, that’s a shame.

Was the PM properly and sufficiently advised or briefed on the legal aspects of moving the registry HQ?

Incidentally, was the PM properly and sufficiently advised or briefed before that failed amendment Bill was tabled for the first reading?

Did the de facto law minister know that it is his bounden duty to advise or brief the PM on both matters? And to advise and brief him correctly, according to the rule of law?

Here we have a 93-year-old (going 94) prime minister who not too long ago admitted to having inexperienced people in the government, and the de facto law minister seems to have failed him on two occasions.

Even as I am writing this, words are making their rounds that the decision may be withdrawn.

If indeed it is going to be withdrawn, it will not change Sarawakians’ perception of the de facto Law Minister.

On the other hand, under the circumstances as I see it now, I would love to see the court action materialise, both to see incapable people in the government made to look so incompetent and the future of the state of Sarawak does not get compromised due to serious human shortcomings.