Abdul Aziz Isa
TO restore the rightful status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners to the States of Malaya in the Federation of Malaysia, at least 148 votes in the Dewan Rakyat and 47 votes in the Dewan Negara are required.
Given the current political scenario in our country, achieving this is nearly impossible, unless all sides of the political spectrum agree to such an amendment.
However, the question is why do we need to restore the rightful status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners to the States of Malaya in the Federation of Malaysia?
Has the status of Sabah and Sarawak been unequal to the State of Malaya in the Federation of Malaysia?
If we are equal, then why do we need to amend the Federal Constitution and what was our original status in the Federation of Malaysia?.
To answer this, we need to look back at what happened at 3:40 pm on July 12, 1976.
The then Prime Minister Datuk Hussein Onn stood up to disarm parliamentarians by characterising the first reading of the amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution as merely ‘rearranging the names of the Federation’ (menyusun semula nama-nama negeri yang di dalam Persekutuan).
However, at that particular of time, the bill was not only to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution but also other extensive amendment packages such as Article 3(3), 5(4) & (30), 12(2), 24(2), 25(1)(a) & (2), 32(2), 33(1), 34(2) & (6), 42(10), 48(1), 54(1) & (2), 65(2), 106(2), 111(2), PART XI, Eight Schedule, Ninth Schedule etc.
No other country in this world had made such extensive amendment packages at one time.
After Hussein finished his first reading, Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Kota Melaka) stood up to give his lengthy debate as to why the opposition particularly DAP opposed the amendment bill.
He concluded that the bill constitute serious erosions of fundamental liberties of Malaysians and negates the Rule of Law by providing unjustifiable retrospective legislation.
The following day on July 13, 1976, the bill went for the second reading.
At 3:45 pm, Datuk Patinggi Abdul Rahman Haji Ya’kub (the then Chief Minister and MP for Payang) stood up to support the amendment bill tabled by the Prime Minister.
However, in his speech, he didn’t elaborate much on the purpose of the amendment for Article 1(2) but in Para. 4, Para. 8, and Para. 9, he referred Sarawak as ‘Negeri’ even before the amendment bill was passed.
At 5:15pm, Datuk Stephen Yong Kuet Tze (MP for Padawan) stood up to support the amendment bill but did not touch on the purpose of the amendment for Article 1(2).
At 6:12pm, Latip Bris (MP for Mukah) stood up to support amendment bill without prejudice and throughout his speech, he only referred to Sarawak as ‘Negeri’.
At 6:46pm, once again the Prime Minister stood up to do his winding-up speech for the second reading.
When the bill went through the third and final reading, it was supported by 130 MPs and opposed by 4 MPs.
Surprisingly, not known to history, those MPs who opposed the third and final reading of the bill was Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Kota Melaka), Dr Tan Chee Koon (Pekemas-Batu), Farn Seong Than (DAP-Sungai Besi) and Lee Lam Thye (DAP-Bukit Bintang).
What transpired in the Parliament Hansard dated July 13th, 1976 shows that, despite knowing the fact that the constitutional amendment of Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution will downgrade the status of Sabah and Sarawak as merely 12th and 13th states within the Federation of Malaysia, MPs from Sabah and Sarawak were the ones who supported the amendment.
It has been proven from the very beginning that DAP is the only political party (then and now) consistently defending the rights of Sabah and Sarawak.
Bornean MPs the true saviours?
Back then, Dewan Rakyat had 154 MPs with 24 MPs from Sarawak and 16 MPs from Sabah.
To amend the Federal Constitution at that time, it required 104 votes in the Dewan Rakyat. In other words, to defeat the constitutional amendment bill, it would take only 52 votes or 12 more on top of all Borneo parliamentarians.
In theory, the constitutional amendment bill could have been defeated if and only all 40 MPs from Borneo joined the remaining four MPs from the opposition bench (DAP and Pekemas) as well as another eight MPs from Peninsular Malaysia to oppose the bill.
But in reality, truth hurts, it was our local MPs from Sabah and Sarawak who joined the rest of the MPs from Peninsular Malaysia to support the constitutional amendment bill which eventually downgraded the status of Sabah and Sarawak as merely the 12th and 13th states within the Federation of Malaysia.
Those MPs from Sarawak who supported the constitutional amendment bill were Patrick anak Uren (Bau-Lundu), Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui (Bandar Kuching), Dr Sulaiman Haji Daud (Santubong), Datuk Amar Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud (Samarahan), Datuk Stephen Yong Kuet Tze (Padawan), Richard Damping anak Laki (Serian), Haji Hadadak bin Haji D. Pasauk (Simunjan), Edwin anak Tangkun (Batang Lupar), Jonathan Narwin anak Jinggong (Lubok Antu), Liben anak Kato (Betong), Edmund Langau anak Saga (Saratok), Chieng Tiong Kai (Sarikei), Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Rahman bin Ya’kub (Payang), Wee Heo Soon (Bandar Sibu), Jawan anak Empaling (Rajang), Latip bin Haji Dris (Mukah), Thomas Salang Siden (Julau), Penghulu Abit anak Angkin (Kapit), Sibat anak Tagong (Ulu Rejang), Yang Siew Siang (Miri-Subis), Luhat Wan (Baram) and Racha Umong (Limbang-Lawas). While the remaining two MPs, Leo Moggie anak Irok (Kanowit) and Ting Ling Kiew (Bintulu), were absent.
We have seen many times how Barisan Nasional (BN) Sarawak and their successors Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) are continuously spreading their propaganda saying that “DAP is a Malayan party”, “DAP cannot protect the rights of Sarawakians”, “Only a local party can protect Sarawak” etc. However, one thing is for sure, BN/GPS can’t undo history.
They might be able to spread their propaganda to the public by distorting historical facts but will never dare to show to the public what has been transpired in Parliament Hansards.
History has proven itself that it was the local political parties who eroded Sarawak’s rights and it was the so-called “Malayan party” like DAP who defended the rightful status of Sarawak.
The local political parties are hopeless now as they were hopeless then to defend Sarawak’s rights.
Abdul Aziz Isa is a special assistant to Sarawak DAP chief, Chong Chieng Jen, the DAP Batu Kitang chairman and Dapsy Stampin Chief