Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has agreed to Sarawak’s request to amend the federal constitution to better define the position of Sarawak and Sabah in the federation of Malaysia, said Abang Johari Openg.
The Sarawak chief minister said the amendment to Article 160 was a must if the “state-federal relationship is to be realigned properly”.
“The federal government has agreed to have a re-look on this and amend this provision,” he told reporters after attending Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak campus’ 20th anniversary in Kuching today.
He was also clarifying what he said in Lubok Antu yesterday and erroneously reported by the national news agency, Bernama.
The agency reported him as stating that “the Sarawak government will make a decision soon on the state’s relations with the Perikatan Nasional-led federal government”.
“I was talking about the Malaysiama63 Agreement and the prime minister (agreeing) to look at the federal constitution.
“I said after this another decision has to be made between the state and federal governments as far as MA63 is concerned.
“What I read this morning sounded rather political,” he added.
At the heart of Sarawak’s ire – that started in 2019 with the then Pakatan Harapan government over the proposal to amend Article 1(2) of the constitution “to restore” the status of the two Borneo states to the original content of Malaysia Agreement signed in 1963 – is Sarawak disputing the interpretation of the term “federation”.
In Article 160, the “federation” means “the federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957”.
Abang Johari said it should be amended to read: “the federation means the federation established under the Federation of Malaysia Agreement, 1963”.
“It should not be the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957. It does not make sense when the agreement is based on the (Federation of Malaya agreement) 1957.”
Abang Johari said the amendment was crucial as it has legal implications.
He said if there was any dispute and brought to the court, the judge will definitely interpret Malaysia as based on the federation of Malaya agreement that has no references to Sarawak or Sabah.
State Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Abdul Karim Hamzah added the state “has been very firm on this (amendment)”.
He reiterated Sarawak had demanded to have Article 160 amended in the consultations prior to the PH government tabling the constitutional amendment in April 2019.
The PH government refused, and this led to Gabungan Parti Sarawak MPs abstaining from supporting the amendment en bloc.
The amendment failed as it did not get the mandatory two-thirds support of the 222 MPs.
Of the 197 MPs present, 138 voted in support of the amendment – 10 shy of the required two-thirds support. – TMI