A human rights advocate in Borneo has suggested that constitutional experts in the country participate in a forum to discuss the status of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia.
Daniel John Jambun made this call after expressing surprise that a constitutional expert stated the obvious on Article 1 in the Federal Constitution (FC) instead of offering novel insights on law.
“Everyone knows how Article 1 has read since 1976,” said Jambun in a telephone interview. “The issue, as raised by Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem, was to restore Article 1 to its pre-1976 status.”
Jambun, who heads the UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim), said that he has also been left wondering why Aziz Bari thinks that getting a two-thirds majority in Parliament to amend Article 1 would be difficult.
“If MPs want to deny Sabah and Sarawak their rights, the Federal Court can sit on the matter,” he said. “The Federal Court should also visit the definition of Federation in Article 160.”
The human rights advocate elsewhere begs to differ with the constitutional lawyer implying the 1976 amendment could only have been challenged then.
“There’s no time limit when it’s a continuing breach,” he said. “Besides, the Malaysian Parliament cannot violate the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).”
Jambun, in disagreeing with Aziz, suggested he get together with other constitutional experts on the status of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia. “It’s in their professional interest as well to explore this issue.”
“Bopim can work on bringing together sponsors for a public forum on the issue,” he assured. “We can invite some international experts like Andrew Harding and Anthony Lester, among others.”
Offhand, he can recall several local constitutional experts, namely Shad Faruqi, Tommy Thomas, Azmi Sharom and Gurdial Singh.
“There might be others out there Aziz can invite,” said Jambun.
Briefly, he said, the 1976 amendment is inherently null and void as if there had been no amendment. “The original Article 1 still stands as the amendment violates MA63.”
The sovereignty of Parliament, he stressed, was confined to its five year term. “No Parliament can be bound by a previous Parliament or bind a future Parliament.”
MA63 is an international agreement and treaty signed by five governments – the UK, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya – and lodged with the United Nations Secretary-General, reminded the Bopim chief. “It’s virtually a trust deed and above the Malaysian Parliament.”
Under the Malaysian system, he pointed out, the Federal Constitution is supreme, not Parliament. “The Federal Constitution cannot be seen as going against itself.”
MA63 is a constitutional document and should be read together with the other constitutional documents on Malaysia and the Federal Constitution , said Jambun. “The Federal Constitution cannot be read in isolation. That’s what Aziz did on Article 1 post-1976.”