Sarawak and Sabah’s status are equivalent to any of the 11 states and federal territories in Peninsular Malaysia as the evolution of the Federation started in 1948, constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari said.
He said the Federated Malay states, the non-Federated Malay states and the Straits Settlements came together to form the Federation of Malaya.
He said Article 8 of the Federal Constitution stated that all “person” were equal before the law and entitled to equal protection.
“To me, the word ‘person’ must also include to mean the states in the Malaysian Federation,” he told FMT.
The former law professor said this in response to Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem, who is determined to regain “an equal partner” status for Sarawak as was the case when Malaysia was founded in 1963.
Adenan said an amendment to the Constitution in 1976 had turned Sarawak and Sabah into merely one of the states in the country.
He said his government intended to reverse the change, even if it meant an amendment to the Federal Constitution to restore Article 1 to its original form.
Adenan contended that the 1976 amendment was null and void because it breached the Malaysia Agreement, the Inter-Governmental Committee Report, the Cobbold Commission Report, and other related recommendations.
Article 1 of the Constitution originally stated that the states of Malaysia comprised: all the states of the Federation of Malaya; the state of Sarawak; the state of Sabah; and the state of Singapore. Singapore left the Federation in 1965.
The 1976 amendment resulted in Sarawak and Sabah being named together with the 11 states and federal territory in the peninsula, instead of being named separately.
Adenan said past Sarawak leaders made a mistake in not opposing the 1976 amendment.
Aziz agreed with Adenan on this point, adding that Sarawak had missed the boat as a constitutional challenge should have been filed when the 1976 amendment was proposed.
“Sarawak and Sabah put together do not have the two-thirds majority to change the Constitution in Parliament now. They have to get support from others to get recognition that they are on equal footing with Malaya (the peninsula),” he said.
However, Aziz said both Sabah and Sarawak were given additional rights and privileges compared with the states in the peninsula, as per the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
He said Johor was also asserting the Bangsa Johor concept as it, too, was once a sovereign state that joined the Federation of Malaya.
Aziz said instead of asking for “equal status”, it was imperative for Sarawak and Sabah to stop Putrajaya looking at them as “fixed deposit states” to perpetuate the political power of leaders in Putrajaya.