MA63 amendments a big step by Harapan – opponents have vested interests

Wong King Wei

Modified 6 Apr 2019, 4:47 am

ADUN SPEAKS | It saddens me to see negative comments against Pakatan Harapan, terming the Harapan government as the one who betrays Sarawak, lacks sincerity or even deceives the people of Sarawak.

The Harapan government could have done nothing which is exactly what the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government did, if Harapan had no intention to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak during the formation of Malaysia, or return the state rights to Sabah and Sarawak.

The Harapan government could have swept everything under the carpet but it did not.

Negotiate on equal footing

The Harapan government first formed a Special Cabinet Committee on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) to look into how to return the rights to Sabah and Sarawak, and even tabled an amendment Bill to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution in Parliament on Thursday, with the aim being to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak.

All these are signs that the Harapan government is sincere and determined to restore the status and rights of Sabah and Sarawak.

The Harapan government is willing to take the matter seriously and restore the original spirit of MA63. This is not an easy step, and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) is prepared to claim credit if the job is nicely done. But if the efforts happened to fail, Harapan will be branded a devil.

The proposed amendment is just a first step to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak, and once the status is restored, the Borneo states can come back to the roundtable in the Cabinet Committee for further negotiations on our rights.

The Harapan government could have not tabled the amendment Bill because we have already set up the Cabinet Committee to deliberate all MA63 issues. So why the proposed amendment?

The significance of such an amendment is that the Harapan government wants Sabah, Sarawak and the Federation of Malaya to regain their status as what it was in 1963, and then engage negotiations. Once your status is restored, you will have leverage to negotiate. This is what the proposed amendment is all about.

When it comes to negotiation, the status of a party matters and once you're placed on equal status, you have the advantage over others. It does not work in such a way that you come negotiating with a lower status. When it comes to the 'MA63 negotiation', the Harapan government is willing to let the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to negotiate through equal status. This is a significant beginning and will lead to a different outcome.

Let's take a look at the Federal Constitution dated 1963. Back then, the Federation of Malaysia comprised: (a) the 11 states in Peninsular Malaysia; (b) the 2 Borneo states; and (c) Singapore. Even though the Constitution read 'state' or in Bahasa Malaysia 'negeri', but 'State' could mean a territory.

The amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federation Constitution in 1976 merged (a) and (b) into one, making Sabah and Sarawak among the 13 states in Malaysia. The proposed amendment now is to restore the (a) and (b), and this is not 11+2.

What's more, this proposed amendment is straight to the point without the need to negotiate. This is because the Harapan government wants those who came together to form the Federation of Malaysia to have their respective status restored before negotiation.

The Harapan government is of the opinion that negotiation is not required to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak because the 1976 amendment has gravely undermined the status of Sabah and Sarawak. All we have to do is restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak to what it was when they formed Malaysia in 1963.

Therefore, the proposed amendment is set to restore the original spirit of MA63, and it perplexes me that GPS including SUPP and PBB who have been singing about the significance of MA63 were the ones who objected to the amendment Bill and criticised the move.

Unless all parties involved come together to renegotiate MA63, there is no way we can directly amend the points which were agreed upon in MA63. To renegotiate MA63, the status of Sabah and Sarawak has to be first restored, which is, to alter from among the 13 states to (a) and (b).

Some quarters who pointed out that the proposed amendment would not return the eroded rights to Sabah and Sarawak should understand that this is because further negotiations have yet to take place for mutual understanding. The proposed amendment is aimed at restoring the status of Sabah and Sarawak, offering the two Borneo states leverage to renegotiate MA63.

PBB and SUPP should wake up

I cannot comprehend why SUPP and PBB who assert so much on MA63 are not willing to accept the amendment Bill and would rather let Sarawak remain as one of the 13 states in Malaysia. Once this Bill is passed in Parliament, the status of Sabah and Sarawak will be elevated. But Umno and GPS would rather reject the Bill. Once our status is restored, we will be put in a better position to negotiate at the roundtable.

A two-thirds majority is required for a Bill to be passed. As we can see, the Harapan government does not have the required majority and it looks certain that GPS and other Sabahan MPs are not supporting the Bill, so this proposed amendment is not likely to get through.

I also wonder why GPS and BN MPs had to object to the first reading of the Bill. If they are not happy with any point, they can bring it up during the second reading of the Bill to seek further amendment. They can propose further amendments and seekthe support of a two-thirds majority of the House to be passed.

What we saw on Thursday was that they objected to the first reading of the Bill, and this obviously indicates that they are not objecting the content of the Bill but objecting on the opportunity to amend the Bill.

I regret that leaders of SUPP even went all out to mislead the people that the proposed amendment was worse than the 1976 amendment. In fact, they should admit it was their fault that the 1976 amendment downgraded Sabah and Sarawak to one of the 13 states, and now we have to clean up the mess that they left behind. However, when we are sincere enough to clean up their mess, they turn our efforts into a political conspiracy.

If the people of Sabah and Sarawak feel that this proposed amendment, which serves to restore the original spirit of MA63 is not a good thing and will be worse than the 1976 amendment, I think let the Bill not see the light of the day. Just let Sabah and Sarawak negotiate with their status as one of the 13 states.

I seriously think that the Harapan government has done its part.

We have served history well and we believe history will justify us one day.

WONG KING WEI is state assemblyperson for Padungan, Sarawak.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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