Bill to empower Sabah and Sarawak to be tabled in Parliament

KOTA KINABALU: A Bill to return Sabah and Sarawak to equal status position in the Federal Constitution will be tabled in the next Parliament meeting.

The first reading of the Bill is expected to be next Monday.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said the Bill was different from the one tabled during the Pakatan Harapan administration in 2018.

He said this decision was made following a Special Council on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MKMA63) meeting on a proposal to amend Articles 1 (2) and 160(2) of the Federal Constitution to return Sabah and Sarawak to equal status position.

“The amendments would redefine the meaning of Federation,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Also named in the statement were Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Parliament) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee.

The proposal was tabled by Wan Junaidi, 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,” said Wan Junaidi.

The MKMA63, said Ongkili, had agreed to the proposal to table the Bill in the next Parliament meeting while continuing to discuss outstanding matters in ensuring that the rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians be restored.

The MKMA63 also agreed on the rights of both state governments to issue licences for deep-sea fishing.

The statement said Kiandee had tabled a paper during the meeting to seek approval from the MKMA63 to empower the Fisheries Departments in Sabah to issue licences for vessels and fishing equipment for Zone C fishing spots, which is currently handled by the federal department.

“Initially, the request was put forth by the Sabah government, but the council (MKMA63) approved the request and it is 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, was aimed at restoring Sabah and Sarawak’s status as equal partners in the federation of Malaysia was tabled in Parliament.

However, it did not get through bloc voting, which saw 138 MPs supporting the amendment while 59 others abstained. Nobody rejected the bill.

Such a Bill would require more than two-thirds of the 222 MPs to give their backing.

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