by P PREM KUMAR & DASHVEENJIT KAUTR / pic by BERNAMA
The Pakatan Harapan government failed to secure a two-thirds majority from legislators last night, preventing Putrajaya from amending the Federal Constitution and reinstating the position of Sabah and Sarawak within Malaysia.
The amendment to Article 1(2) of the Constitution, which will reinstate the two East Malaysia states to their original position in the 1963 version of the Federal Constitution, is seen as an acid test for the government.
Many legislators, especially from the Opposition, abstained from voting late last night when Pakatan Harapan required 148 votes.
The Opposition lawmakers’ decision to abstain showed partisan politics remained strong in the Dewan Rakyat.
Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, when asked about how he felt about the outcome of the voting for the proposed amendment, said: “Great.”
He also did not blame the Sarawak MPs, claiming it was their rights.
“They set their rights to go against whatever. Not what we expected.”
Fourty-eight lawmakers deliberated the amendment at length, many praising the Pakatan Harapan government’s courage and commitment to table the controversial amendment. But some lawmakers questioned whether the government would continue to honour the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
Dr Mahathir, who tabled the bill for second reading yesterday, said the amendment to Article 1(2) was the first of many reforms planned by the government.
The amendment would also be a precursor to the federal government’s move to honour MA63, said Dr Mahathir.
“Looking at the current legal landscape of the country, a proper amendment should be made to meet the needs of the people in Sabah and Sarawak.
“The Federal Constitution which is a living document should always be updated as per the will and needs of the country,” Dr Mahathir said, adding that the supreme law was last amended in 2007.
The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 seeks to amend Clause 2 of Article 1 in the Federal Constitution, which currently groups all federation states into one, to put Sabah and Sarawak in another grouping, albeit still describing the two as “the States of the Federation”.
“Twelve years have passed since the last amendment and there are many provisions of the Federal Constitution which have to be amended to be in line with the requirements and needs of the country. This was not done by the previous government,” he added.
The PM said a special Cabinet Committee to Review the Implementation of the MA63 — consisting of representatives of the federal government, Sabah and Sarawak — has agreed to reenact the same provisions as in the 1963 agreement with the necessary modifications.
Dr Mahathir said the federal government is committed to restoring affiliates status to Sabah and Sarawak.
“This is part of the process that will be implemented after the study of the MA63 is prepared (and) this is the first step to implementation,” he said.
The PM also assured that the commitment doesn’t stop with the current amendment but negotiations will continue until a consensus is reached to be accepted by all parties.
“Subsequently, once the proposed amendment to Clause 2 of Article 1 is agreed, other reasonable amendments will follow.
“This proposed amendment is a step to reform the law in order to achieve the goal for all Malaysians,” he added.