Don’t take Sabah, Sarawak for a ride again

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT | Why is the proposed MA63 amendment bill, to be tabled for second reading in Parliament on Tuesday, crucial? Because it affects the spirit and sanctity of our nationhood and the future of all Malaysians, from the Malay peninsula to the Borneo territories. And also because I don’t think we can expect another such amendment, possibly for decades to come.

Hence, the proposed amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution must have no room for error and should be rock-solid, with the full consensus of all parties and stakeholders and to the total satisfaction of all.

Anything less will not do.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the case. This is why Sabah and Sarawak MPs from the opposition were up in arms against the Pakatan Harapan bill when it was tabled for first reading on April 4.

The Third amendment (2019) (proposed) read: The States of the Federation shall be – (a) Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu; and (b) Sabah and Sarawak.

I may not be an MP but I am a certainly not a fool to vote blindly for a two-line amendment and told to accept that as the original spirit of the formation of Malaysia.

By merely taking out “Malaya” and “Borneo”, the proponents of the bill expect me to support it, saying that the term “State” could be interpreted as a territory or a region and denoted as an equal partner to Malaya. I cannot buy that.

Surely, Harapan, you can do better than that! A two-line amendment bill! My mother’s grocery bill from the Apek Cina shop in Kuching 53 years ago was more comprehensive.

As it stands, the constitutional amendment bill was merely suggesting a new clause that specifies all the constituent states of the federation. I agree with the opposition MPs that the bill, in its current form, is meaningless and thus, unacceptable.

I am very disappointed with my friends in Sarawak Harapan for their failure to demand the restoration of Sarawak’s rights in its entirety. They have let Sarawakians down with their servility to their bosses in Putrajaya.

Sadly, their politics today is no different from that practised by BN. Putrajaya’s decision is supreme. All that the “small boys” from Sabah and Sarawak have to do is nod. Like the extras hired on a movie set, they have no lines.

Former Bintulu MP Ting Ling Kiew from the now-defunct Sarawak National Party (SNAP) probably described that “little boy with no say” from Sarawak best.

Ting, who was the Bintulu MP in 1976 when the amendment demoting Sarawak to just one of the 13 states was passed, told a press conference in Kuching last week that “I deliberately absent myself from Parliament to avoid voting for the amendment”.

“If I did not vote for it, I would be sacked. The SNAP president then, Dunstan Endawie, advised me to go to Singapore to play mahjong”, he related the day he played truant to avoid voting against his conscience.

Sarawak Harapan lawmakers can argue all they want today in support of the bill. Just don’t call a press conference 40 years later, like Ting did, to admit that you were just small boys in 2019 and had to toe the line of your party bosses.

De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong, who tabled the bill, is a Sabahan and one I would also not hesitate to describe as another great disappointment.

Sabahans would have expected one of their own in a position of authority to go all out to fight for their interests at this crucial time but that was not to be.

Perhaps Liew’s numerous political setbacks and his lucky comeback via Parti Warisan have taught him a lesson – to be obedient to the boss at all times. This was a man who could not even manage his own party and was removed as LDP president from within. Partyless, he sought refuge in Warisan just before GE14 and eventually found himself comfortably entrenched in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Isn’t it sad for Sabahans and Sarawakians to learn that it is really some of their own who choose to let them down by working in cahoots with their bosses in Putrajaya, whom they know fully well would never ever let the Borneo territories have equal say as equal partners?

Our own people must share the blame for taking Sabah and Sarawak for a ride again. This is something which opponents of the bill must prevent from happening at this crucial hour.

What is also depressing but worth a good chuckle is that a young Sarawak Harapan legislator has the cheek to tell Sarawakians to back the proposed amendment first, and then negotiate with leverage “once we are back on equal status”.

I think the six-year-olds in kindergarten will want the candy first before promising the teacher that they will not be naughty and behave for the rest of the day.

Now, what do I want most of all in this proposed MA63 bill? As this is probably the final amendment to MA63 I will witness in my lifetime, I would go all the way.

In my message on social media groups, I have stated that “the “Right to Secession” clause has to be included. Otherwise, any amendment, to me, is meaningless. We are tied to Malaya and we can’t get out if we want to. The general feeling among Sarawakians is that we prefer to go our own way. This fact must be recognised”.

We must learn from history. Kuala Lumpur sacked Singapore in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew broke down but should have asked who gave Tunku Abdul Rahman and Kuala Lumpur the right to fire Singapore. Was there a stipulation in MA63 which gave Malaya the alienable right to kick out Singapore? Did Sabah and Sarawak agree with Malaya on that course of action? Were we not all equal partners then?

Today, we are being told again that we are returning to the days when we were equal partners.

Sorry, I am no longer a believer and I’m sure many fellow Sarawakians share similar sentiment.

Just don’t take Sabah, Sarawak for a ride again. We were fooled once. It will not happen twice.

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FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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