KUCHING: The Sarawak government remains firmly committed to reclaiming the state’s rights even though it has decided not to table a motion on the matter in the state assembly.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing said the state government would continue to engage the Federal Government in the devolution of powers to the state, with good progress made so far in ongoing talks on the process.
“The state government will report back to the assembly of the progress made and to seek honourable members’ support in passing or amending legislation needed to implement what has been achieved in discussions with the Federal authorities.
“We will do our utmost to satisfy the aspirations of the people that Sarawak shall enjoy the autonomy guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and have its rightful status in the Federation of Malaysia,” he told the state assembly when making a ministerial statement yesterday.
Masing said there was no need to introduce a motion on the state’s rights following the latest assurance from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that he was open to discussions on the matter.
Najib announced in Kota Kinabalu on Nov 12 that he was willing to discuss the Malaysia Agreement and that he would not take away Sabah and Sarawak’s rights but would defend them.
Placing on record the state’s appreciation to Najib, Masing said it was due to the Prime Minister’s support and understanding that the current talks on devolution were progressing well.
He said the first phase of talks had already yielded positive results, including the recruitment of more Sarawakians into Federal departments in the state, while various issues such as special grants, oil and gas and education were now being discussed by a technical committee chaired by the Attorney-General.
“Substantial progress has been made in all these areas under deliberation. We should now await the report of this technical committee on the priority subjects relating to financial and oil and gas issues,” he added.
Following Masing’s statement, assembly speaker Datuk Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar dismissed three motions on state autonomy issues submitted by opposition members.
He said this was because the issues raised in the motions were on the same matter as Masing’s statement and had been dealt with.
However, PKR’s Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian told reporters later that his motion was not about devolution of powers but reinstating the state’s status as an equal partner in Malaysia by reversing the 1976 amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, which downgraded Sarawak to one of 13 states.
“This is not subject to the talks on devolution. No amount of talking can get the pre-1976 status back. It has to first go through a motion in the assembly to make it clear that the amendment is invalid.
“I think it is a missed opportunity that my motion was not allowed to proceed in this sitting,” he said.
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