KOTA KINABALU: A Bill to return Sabah and Sarawak to a position of equal status with peninsula Malaysia in the Federal Constitution is expected to be tabled in the next Parliament sitting, says Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) said this Bill is, however, different from the one tabled during the Pakatan Harapan era in 2018.
He said this decision was made following the Special Council on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MKMA63) meeting to agree to a proposal to amend Article 1 (2) and Article 160(2) of the Federal Constitution that would return Sabah and Sarawak back to a position of equal status.
“The amendments would redefine the meaning of Federation,” he said in a statement, Tuesday (Oct 19).
The proposal was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Parliament) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who also heads the MKMA63’s Equal Status Working Committee.
“The amendment would define the status of all states in Malaysia in line with the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957, MA63 and the position following Singapore’s exit in 1965,” Wan Junaidi explained.
Ongkili further added that the MKMA63 has agreed to the proposal to table the Bill at the next Parliament sitting while continuing to discuss outstanding matters in ensuring the rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians be restored.
In addition, the MKMA63 also agreed on empowering both the Sabah and Sarawak governments to issue licenses for deep-sea fishing.
During the meeting, Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee tabled a paper to seek approval from the MKMA63 to empower the Fisheries Departments in Sabah to issue licenses for vessels and fishing equipment for Zone C fishing spots, which is currently handled by the department at the federal level.
“Initially the request was put up by the Sabah government, but the council (MKMA63) has approved the request and to be extended to Sarawak as well,” said Ongkili.
In April 2019, a Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the federal constitution which among others aims to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s status as equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia was tabled debated in Parliament.
However, it did not get through block voting, which saw 138 MPs supporting the Amendment, none rejecting and 59 abstaining.