Putrajaya to amend constitution to restore Sabah, Sarawak status

Modified 8 Mar 2019, 3:04 pm

The cabinet has decided to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution with the purpose of restoring Sabah and Sarawak's status as equal partners with Malaya.

Law Minister Liew Vui Keong said once the constitution is amended, Sabah and Sarawak will no longer be known as "states".

He said the amendment bill will be tabled during the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting which begins on Monday.

"It will need a two-thirds majority to be passed. The ruling Pakatan Harapan government currently has 135 members of Parliament, including nine from Warisan and one from Upko. To have two-thirds majority support, we need at least 148 MPs.

"I'm confident that the MPs from Sabah and Sarawak will give their full support to restore Sarawak and Sabah as two separate territories in the Federation of Malaysia," he told reporters in Kota Kinabalu today, according to Bernama.

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Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution was amended in 1976. In its current form, it reads: "The states of the Federation shall be Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu."

Prior to 1976, Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution read: "The States of the Federation shall be – (a) the States of Malaya, namely Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Trengganu; and (b) the Borneo States, namely Sabah and Sarawak; and (c) the State of Singapore."

When read together with Article 1(3), the "Borneo States" and "Singapore" are considered separate territories or equal to the Federation of Malaya (the nine Malay states, Penang and Malacca).

A report by the Borneo Post in 2016 revealed that 130 MPs had agreed to the 1976 amendments including MPs from Sabah and Sarawak, while four - Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Kota Melaka), Tan Chee Khoon (Pekemas-Batu), Farn Seong Than (DAP-Sungai Besi) and Lee Lam Thye (DAP-Bukit Bintang) - opposed.

Opponents of the 1976 amendments had argued that it was in violation of the Malaysia Agreement in 1963 (MA63) which outlined the terms under which Sabah and Sarawak would jointly form Malaysia together with the Federation of Malaya.

As both Sabah and Sarawak already have a certain amount of autonomy, restoring Article 1(2) to pre-1976 conditions might affect Putrajaya's funding considerations towards both territories.

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