MA63-linked Constitutional amendments tabled for first reading

KUALA LUMPUR: The Bill to amend the Federal Constitution to be in line with the provisions of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) has been tabled for first reading in Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 3), said Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

The de facto law minister said it was a historical moment that the Bill was heard for first reading in Parliament and it would not have been possible without Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob's support.

"After several attempts and many years of hard work, this is, indeed, a watershed moment in the history of the Federation of Malaysia. More so, for the people of Sabah and Sarawak," said Wan Junaidi in a statement on Wednesday (Nov 3).

Wan Junaidi also thanked Cabinet members over their unwavering support to the proposed amendments to the Constitution.

"As a Sarawak-born Federal Minister, this is important for me. This Bill carries the hopes and aspirations of the people of Sabah and Sarawak

"And because of that, I do not want to delay it anymore," said Wan Junaidi, adding that he would soon propose to the Dewan Rakyat to schedule the second reading in the current session.

Wan Junaidi also said all necessary groundwork for the proposed amendments has been completed and this includes engagement sessions with both government backbenchers and opposition MPs, as well as the chief ministers of Sabah and Sarawak.

Wan Junaidi explained that the Bill was supposed to be tabled for first reading on Oct 26, but it was delayed because the Cabinet wanted to be briefed by the Attorney General on the amendments.

"The Cabinet later unanimously endorsed the proposed amendments," he said.

Meanwhile, Wan Junaidi said among the proposed amendments was to Article 1(2) of the Constitution, which is to restore the Article to its original arrangement as it appeared in the 1963 Constitution.

In the proposed amendments, States of the Federation will be defined as the States of Malaya (namely states in Peninsular Malaysia) and the Borneo states (namely Sabah and Sarawak.

Wan Junaidi was also proposing for the amendment of Article 160 (2) to include "Malaysia Day" as Sept 16, 1963, which was the date of the formation of Malaysia and the mark of the end of the Queen of England’s sovereignty over Sarawak and Sabah or North Borneo as it was then called, as well as the end of the British rule over the two territories.

Currently, there was no mention of Malaysia Day or Hari Malaysia in the Constitution, he said.

Another change would be the amendment to Article 160(2) on the interpretation of the word "the Federation".

"Restoring Article 1(2) to its original arrangement is not enough and must be complemented with the amendment of Article 160(2) in order to give the due recognition to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 in the Constitution.

Other amendments proposed by Wan Junaidi included the amendment to the definition of "natives" of Sarawak under Article 161A of the Constitution.

More importantly, he said, the amendments of Article 161A were aimed to confer the status of a native to the offspring of a native married to a non-native in Sarawak.

"With this amendment, the power to decide which races in Sarawak shall be recognised as indigenous to the state will be determined by the state through state laws," he added.

The ongoing Parliament meeting that began on Oct 25, will sit for 32 days until Dec 16.

The first attempt in 2019 to amend the Constitution to be in line with the provisions of MA63 failed to get two-thirds majority support in Parliament during the former Pakatan Harapan administration.

Pakatan only managed to secure 138 votes with 59 MPs abstaining, including Gabungan Parti Sarawak's 18 MPs.

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