KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 – Opposition lawmakers from Sabah and Sarawak are ready to support any bid by the Pakatan Harapan government to give equal status to their states, as per the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
The chief whip for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Fadillah Yusof, said his fellow MPs from Sarawak, as well as those from the new Gabungan Bersatu Sabah (GBS) would give more than a comfortable majority to change the constitution, The Malaysian Insight reported.
He dismissed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s claim that PH does not have the two-thirds needed to make fulfil the promise for equal status for Sabah and Sarawak with the peninsula.
On Sunday, the prime minister said the new government will seek to revert the status of Sabah and Sarawak to that of equal partners with the peninsula as per MA63.
However, the promise made at the Malaysia Day celebrations at Padang Merdeka in Kota Kinabalu was quickly countered by Mahathir himself just 24 hours later with the excuse that PH needs a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat to achieve it.
The prime minister said that it would take time for PH to make the amendments as they were still working on the numbers to achieve a two-thirds majority.
GPS support for PH on amendments secured
Fadillah, who was works minister under the previous Barisan Nasional government, said Mahathir and his PH government can count on the support of the 19 Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) lawmakers to amend provisions in the constitution, such as the controversial 1976 amendment to Article 1(2).
Article 1 (2) was amended to downgrade the status of Sarawak and Sabah from being territories or regions within Malaysia to mere states of equal status as those in Malaya.
Restoration of the status is one of the key demands of Sabah and Sarawak in their push for full compliance of the MA63 by Putrajaya.
In its general election manifesto, PH had promised greater autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak.
Paramount interest to Sabah, Sarawak
Fadillah said it was not fair of Dr Mahathir to assume that the opposition, especially in Sarawak, would not support him on matters of paramount interest to the state.
He told TMI that with GPS’ 19 lawmakers and the 10 from Sabah’s GBS to add to PH’s 125, Dr Mahathir would have a total of 154 votes – out of a total of 222 – to push through any amendment.
“The 154 votes surpass the required two-thirds of 148,” he said.
Fadillah then challenged the PH government to show its sincerity on wanting to restore all the terms eroded and violated in the agreement.
No need to change constitution for MA63
Meanwhile, a Sarawak cabinet member claimed there was no need for any constitutional changes to put the terms of MA63 back into effect.
According to Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, it is possible for Putrajaya to return the rights to Sabah and Sarawak without having to go through Parliament.
A lawyer by training, the state assistant minister of law and state-federal relations said the necessary actions could be done based on the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report 1962 findings.
“The IGC Report is very clear. It has to be read with the federal constitution,” she said.
“That cannot be simply be ignored, the terms and conditions… it can be done without going through parliamentary amendment. They can, if they want to,” she was quoted as saying by Sarawak-based newspapers.