It was an interesting read, the letter by a Sarawak MP who had voted to amend the Federal Constitution in 1976 to demote Sarawak’s status from a “region” to a “state”.
It gave an insight into the thinking of Sarawak MPs on why they voted in the way they did.
In the letter to a news portal, former Saratok MP Datuk Seri Edmund Langgu, however, remained unapologetic over he and his colleagues’ action amidst widespread anger and claims among Sarawakians today that their action then was akin to making Sarawak subservient to Malaya.
The loss of Sarawak’s status is a hot issue and the ruling state Barisan Nasional government, which won a near landslide victory in the May state election on the back of promise to regain Sarawak’s rightful position in the federation, is working to reverse the damage.
Langgu claimed the vote “was a collective decision” and the support for the amendment “was a better option to move forward at that time as far as our nation building process was concerned”.
He went on to explain “the political and social context” during which the amendment was made – the 1969 ethnic riots in Kuala Lumpur, the formulation of the Rukunegara, the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1971 and the formation of the Barisan Nasional in 1973.
While Langgu stated that all these were introduced to the country with the aim of strengthening the spirit of Malaysia, “by creating a sense of belonging of Malaysians”, I fail to see the link in wanting to have all those and the need to strip Sarawak of its status.
All I can think of is Langgu and all the Sarawak MPs did so for personal political reasons.
What was also interesting in that letter was there was no mention if the MPs were aware that the Malaysia Agreement is an international treaty and could only be amended by all signatories to the treaty.
In this case, it could only be amended if the government of the United Kingdom, Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo or Sabah today, and Singapore all agreed to it.
Parliament could not amend the Agreement.
When Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said the amendment was unconstitutional at a recent seminar entitled “A Journey To Merdeka: Sarawak in Malaysia”, this was what he meant.
Parliament has no legal right to amend an international treaty.
One question I think most laymen would be asking is since the amendment was unconstitutional, shouldn’t the constitution be automatically reverted to that before September 16, 1963?
The Constitution then stated under Clause 2 (2) that the states of the federation shall be –
(a) the states of Malaya namely Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu
(b) the Borneo states, namely, Sabah and Sarawak and
(c) the state of Singapore
After the amendment on August 27, 1976, Clause 1 (1) read that the Federation shall be known, in Malay and English, by the name Malaysia; the states of the Federation shall be Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu.
Nonetheless, next month the Sarawak government will table a motion to reclaim its lost rights and to call on Putrajaya to amend the Federal Constitution by reverting it to what it was before September 16, 1963 when its legislative assembly convenes.
Adenan said the motion would specifically focus on the need for the federal government to observe Sarawak rights as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), the Inter-Government Committee Report (IGC) 1963 and the Cobbold Commission Report 1962.
Like the motion to request the Federal government for an increase in the oil royalty from 5% to 20% that was tabled two years ago, this motion to restore Sarawak’s status as equal partners in the federation will similarly get unanimous support from lawmakers.
Putrajaya needs to look back at the spirit in which Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore agreed to the formation of Malaysia and uphold it.
It’s also best to be reminded of the warning of the Chairman of the Cobbold Commission, Lord Cobbold when he said: “If any idea was to take root that Malaysia would involve a takeover of the Borneo Territories by the Federation of Malaya and the submersion of the individualities of North Borneo and Sarawak, Malaysia would not, in my judgment, be generally acceptable or successful.”
But will Putrajaya listen?
Source : Laja Lang@The Heat Malaysia Online