Press Statement By Abdul Aziz:
As part of the Commonwealth nation, Malaysia practices parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy which is based on the Westminster model. As such, our Parliament is divided into two chambers (bicameral) namely House of Representative (Dewan Rakyat) and Senate (Dewan Negara). In Dewan Rakyat, we have 222 Members of Parliament (MPs) which is elected every five years through electoral process. On the other hand, Dewan Negara consists of 70 Senators of whom 26 elected by the state legislative assemblies (Dewan Undangan Negeri) subjected to Article 45(a) of the Federal Constitution in accordance with Seventh Schedule while the other 44 shall be appointed by the King (Yang di-Pertuan Agong) as stipulated Article 45(aa) & (b) of the Federal Constitution.
For a bill to become an Act of Parliament, it must receive a simple majority in both Dewan Rakyat (112 votes) and Dewan Negara (36 votes). Once the Bill is passed by both Houses, it must then be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for his assent under Article 66(3) of the Federal Constitution. This is the basic process to pass a Bill to become an Act of Parliament.
However, this is not the case for amending the Federal Constitution. To amend the Federal Constitution, a bill must receive two-thirds majority in both Dewan Rakyat (148 votes) and Dewan Negara (47 votes) as stipulated in Article 159(3) of the Federal Constitution. Once a bill receives two-thirds majority in both Houses and assented by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, then the constitutional amendment will be valid. Again, this is the basic process to amend the
Now, when we talk about restoration of rightful status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners to the States of Malaya in the Federation of Malaysia, does the process requires a simple majority or two-thirds majority as abovementioned? The answer will be two-thirds majority as it involves a constitutional amendment. Therefore, to restore the rightful status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners to the States of Malaya in the Federation of Malaysia, it requires at least 148 votes in Dewan Rakyat and 47 votes in Dewan Negara. It may sound easy but in reality, given the fact of the current political scenario in our country, it’s nearly impossible. But not necessary to say that it’s totally impossible if all sides of the political spectrum agree to such amendment.
Here comes the biggest question. 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? If we aren’t equal, then, what was our original status in the Federation of Malaysia? What happened in 1976 which caused all of this snafu? When did this happen? How did it happen? Who made it happen?
Constitutional Amendment 1976
To answer this question, we need to look back at what happened 3:40 pm on July 12th, 1976. The then Prime Minister Datuk Hussein bin Onn stood up to disarm the 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 (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 erosion 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 Haji Abdul Rahman bin 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 5:15 pm, Datuk Stephen Yong Kuet Tze (MP for Padawan) stood up to support the amendment bill but none in his speech touches on the purpose of the amendment for Article 1(2). At 6:12 pm, Latip bin Haji Bris (MP for Mukah) stood up to support amendment bill without prejudice and throughout his speech, he only refers Sarawak as ‘Negeri’. At 6:46 pm, 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 9 MPs.
Surprisingly, not known to the 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 They (DAP-Bukit Bintang).
What transpired in the Parliament Hansard dated on 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 one 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 saviour?
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 requires 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 if all 40 MPs from Borneo joined with the remaining 4 MPs from the opposition bench (DAP and Pekemas) as well as another 8 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 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 can’t protect the rights of Sarawakians”, “Only the 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 the historical facts but will never dare to show to the public what has been transpired in the Parliament Hansards.
History has proven itself that it was the local political parties who eroded the Sarawak 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 it was hopeless then to defend Sarawak’s rights.
Abdul Aziz Isa
Special Assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen
DAP Batu Kitang Chairman
DAPSY Stampin Chief