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Restore Sabah, Sarawak as equal partners

  • Lawmakers on both sides of the divide must lay down their differences and work together towards restoring the deserved status of Sabah and Sarawak.

Sin Chew Daily

The Pakatan Harapan government tabled a bill to amend the federal constitution in a bid to restore the equal partnership of Sabah and Sarawak in the federation.

However, the constitutional amendment bill was vetoed in the Dewan Rakyat, having failed to secure the support of two thirds of lawmakers.

In the vote, 138 MPs voted in favor of the amendment bill while 59 abstained.

The support of at least 148 MPs is necessary for the bill to be passed.

PH does not have a two-thirds majority advantage in the Dewan Rakyat, and as such the support of opposition lawmakers is required so that a constitutional amendment bill can be passed.

Since the amendment is about restoring the equal partnership of Sabah and Sarawak, PH has intended to get the support of GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak), but the outcome shows that the East Malaysian opposition alliance is still unwilling to support a federal government initiative.

This also shows that East Malaysian lawmakers are still voting on partisan lines instead of putting behind their differences and voting for the overall interest of East Malaysians.

There were signs that the amendment could be vetoed even before the vote.

Several days ago, when the bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat, opposition reps staged a walkout in protest during the first reading, while East Malaysian reps were also against the proposed bill, citing that the amendment to the federal constitution did not change the fact that Sabah and Sarawak would remain as states and not equal partners.

Even though prime minister Tun Mahathir later made some changes to the bill and proposed to add in the term “Borneo state”, this still failed to secure the support of opposition reps.

PH had pledged in the election manifesto to restore the equal partnership of Sabah and Sarawak, and tabling the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 was one step to fulfill this pledge.

It was generally believed that East Malaysian MPs would support the bill given the fact they aspire to have Sabah and Sarawak restored as equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia.

And since both sides cherish the same goal, they should have worked hand in hand to see to the eventual adoption of the amendment bill.

There are indeed cognitive differences between both sides on this issue. The PH government is of the opinion that it has displayed a kind gesture and sincerity and made the right move towards restoring the equal partnership of Sabah and Sarawak, political parties on both sides of the divide must have more in-depth discussions and interactions in order to realize the common goal instead of playing with the words and not offering more constructive suggestions.

The rejection of the amendment bill is not the end of everything. The government is expected to move on towards this goal.

As minister in the prime minister's department in charge of law Liew Vui Keong has said, the PH government will not give up and will come up with more substantial proposals in a bid to restore the equal partnership of Sabah and Sarawak, so that East Malaysian MPs could feel the sincerity of the government.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides of the divide must lay down their differences and work together towards restoring the deserved status of Sabah and Sarawak.

 

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