KOTA KINABALU: The government has not dismissed the possibility that the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak will be retabled again.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there was the possibility of holding talks with lawmakers on making a second attempt at pushing the amendment through after it was rejected by Dewan Rakyat.
Asked if the Bill should have first been referred to a Parliament Select Committee as requested by some lawmakers, Dr Mahathir said there were mixed signals.
“It has been a year since Pakatan Harapan took over the government and a lot of people ask why are we not doing this thing? That thing? And when we do it fast, they say we should slow down. So, we are very confused.
“Whether we should slow down? Or should we hasten the process?” DR Mahathir said.
In KOTA KINABALU, de facto law minister Datuk V. K. Liew said a fresh proposal would not be done anytime soon unless there was assurance from the 59 lawmakers who abstained that they will support it if tabled again.
He said he had personally engaged with the lawmakers, explaining various concerns and issues raised about the amendment that included the first draft that was sent to them a month before the tabling of the amendment last week.
Liew said his office addressed various concerns raised by the Sarawak lawmakers, including a call for adding of the words “in pursuant of the Malaysia Agreement 1963” to the amendments.
He explained that according to the Attorney-General, this was not advisable as the signatories had included Singapore (which left the federation in 1965) and “would complicate the spirit of MA 1963”.
On Tuesday night, Pakatan Harapan failed to obtain the two-thirds majority it needed to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.
The amendment would have been the first step in making Sabah and Sarawak equal partners with peninsular Malaysia in the Federation of Malaysia.
A two-thirds vote majority, which amounts to 148 out of the 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat is needed to amend the Constitution.
Pakatan managed to secure 138 votes, including from lawmakers from Parti Warisan Sabah with no lawmakers disagreeing.
It is learnt that the government coalition had also received votes from Sabah’s PBRS lawmaker Arthur Kurup of Pensiangan as well as from Independent Kimanis MP Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
However, 59 MPs abstained from voting, including 19 non-Pakatan lawmakers from Sarawak while the remaining 40 lawmakers who also did not take a vote are possibly from the Barisan Nasional and PAS bloc.
It is unsure how the remaining two Independents and Gagasan Bersatu Sabah MPs from PBS and STAR had voted.
Liew said other concerns were also explained, including the call for a Parliamentary Select Committee to be set up, adding that it was pointed out that a steering committee on Sabah and Sarawak rights – chaired by the Prime Minister with the Chief Ministers of Sabah and Sarawak involved – already in place.
“I don’t now why they were against it. We were just trying to reinstate the original wordings of the 1963 Constitution that was amended in 1976 that made Sabah and Sarawak one of the 13 states in Malaysia,” he said.
He said the aim of reinstating the article was the first step towards regaining lost or taken away state rights of Sabah and Sarawak.