Sarawak Constitution Amended, Non-Sarawakian may now be Elected as Sarawak ADUN

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Press Statement By Chong Chieng Jen:

Today we see history in the making in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (Sarawak DUN) where the Government withdrew the first version of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and tabled the second version of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

For a complete narration of what transpired in Sarawak DUN over these few days, I will reproduce the 2 versions of the Amendment Bill.

The First Amendment Bill is as follows:

Version 1

In this version, the definition of “resident in the State” is defined in accordance with the definition of “citizen belonging to the State of Sarawak” as defined in Section 71 of the Immigration Act 1959/63.

The relevant part of Section 71 of the Immigration Act provides as follows:

“ 71. (1) For purposes of section 66 a citizen shall be treated as belonging to an East Malaysian State if—

  • (a) he is or has within the preceding two years been a permanent resident in the East Malaysian State; or
  • (b) he became a citizen in any of the following ways, that is to say—
  • (i) by operation of law on Malaysia Day in respect of his being a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies ordinarily resident in the State;
  • (ii) by operation of law on or after Malaysia Day in respect of his birth in Malaysia and of one of his parents being at the time of the birth a permanent resident in the East Malaysian State; or
  • (iii) by registration in respect of his being on Malaysia Day ordinarily resident in the East Malaysian State.

(2) Subject to subsection
(3) a person shall not be treated for purposes of this section—

  • (a) as becoming a permanent resident in an East Malaysian State after not being one, until he has in a period not exceeding five years been resident in the State for periods amounting to three years; or
  • (b) as being a permanent resident in an East Malaysian State at any time when under federal law he requires permission to reside there and has not got permission to do so granted without limit of time.”

The objectionable point of the first version of the amendment bill is that it allows a West Malaysian or Sabahan who is also a permanent resident of Sarawak to be elected as a member of Sarawak DUN which is the last bastion of the rights and privileges of Sarawak and Sarawakians.

If the first version of the Amendment Bill were allowed to pass, then West Malaysian or Sabahan, if he is or has within the preceding two years been a permanent resident of Sarawak, shall be entitled to be elected as a Member of Sarawak DUN. To us DAP, this amounts to opening up Sarawak DUN to West Malaysian or Sabahan.

Sarawak DUN is the highest legislative body of the State where the State laws and policies are formulated. The State cabinet ministers are also selected and appointed from the members of Sarawak DUN.

Therefore, its membership must be kept exclusively for Sarawakians only. Non-Sarawakians should not be allowed to be elected as a member of Sarawak DUN even if he is a permanent residence of the State.

On this ground, we DAP and also PSB objected strongly to the Bill.

On 10-11-2020, after our strong objection, the Speaker “deferred” the first version of the Amendment Bill. In my 15 years in Sarawak DUN, this has never happened, a Government Bill is deferred in the midst of debate.

The fact that the Government deferred the first version of the Amendment Bill gave credence to our strong objection and verify the strength and correctness of our objection.

Second Version of Amendment Bill

On 12-11-2020, the Government decided to withdraw the first version of the Amendment Bill and thereafter tabled the second version of the Amendment Bill.

The second version of the Amendment Bill is as follows:

Version 2

The second version of the Amendment Bill may seem an improved version to the first version, but in effect, it may not be so. Under the second version of the Amendment Bill, there are a lot of loopholes to allow non-Sarawakians to be elected as a member of Sarawak DUN.

In essence, the second version provides that if either or both of a person’s parent is born in Sarawak and he is normally resident in the State, he shall be eligible to be elected to be a member of Sarawak DUN.

Take for example, over the past 57 years, there are hundreds of thousands of West Malaysian government servants (police, army, teachers, doctor, nurses, etc) being transferred and served in Sarawak for a certain period of time during their service, and thereafter, they returned to West Malaysia.

Many of them may have given birth to children while they were in Sarawak. Therefore, their children will satisfy the criteria of “born in Sarawak”. Over 57 years, there must be tens of thousands of such “Sarawak-born” children who are now living all over the country and they are not Sarawakians.

Following the second version of the Amendment Bill, all the children of these Sarawak-born children will satisfy the “Sarawak” connection and if they are normally resident in the State, they will be eligible to be elected as members of Sarawak DUN.

Therefore, the second version of the Amendment Bill, in this manner, is effectively also opening up the membership of Sarawak DUN to non-Sarawakians.

As such, we, DAP and PSB, as responsible Opposition, propose to amend the second version of the Amendment Bill by substituting the words “whose parents or either of them was born in the State” with “whose parents or either of them is a Sarawakian”.

Effectively, this motion to amend the second version of the Amendment Bill will close all doors to non-Sarawakians to be elected to Sarawak DUN.

Chong Chieng Jen’s Motion

The motion to amend the second version of the Amendment Bill was tabled by me in Sarawak DUN today (12-11-2020). The Speaker rejected my motion on the most absurd of reasons, ie. failure to give 10-day notice.

How can 10-day notice be given when we only received a copy of the second version of the Amendment Bill on the evening of 11-11-2020 and the matter was to be debated and put to vote the next day on 12-11-2020?

Unprecedented Voice-Voting for Amendment of the Constitution

When the debate on the second version of the Amendment Bill ended, the Speaker, instead of having a division to count the vote, resorted to voice voting to get the bill passed.

This is unprecedented and unconstitutional.

For an amendment to the Constitution, there must be at least 2/3 rd of the members supporting such Bill and every vote must be counted and recorded. By doing so, everyone who voted will be recorded in the Hansard their votes and it will go down the history how they voted.

Voice-voting will not record the number of “yes” vote or “No” vote and will also not record the individual vote of the members.

By resorting to voice voting, there is no way that the Speaker and the House can be certain that the Bill got the 2/3 rd majority votes that it requires for it to be passed.

Why is the Speaker so reluctant to have the division voting and have the individual ADUNs’ names recorded as supporting this Amendment Bill? Does the GPS ADUNs not want their names recorded in the Hansard for supporting the Amendment Bill?

With the passing of the second version of the Amendment Bill by Sarawak DUN today, any Malaysian, so long as one of his parent or both was born in Sarawak, regardless whether he is a Sarawakian, if he normally resides in Sarawak, he is eligible to be elected as a member of Sarawak DUN.

This is the latest incident of the erosion of Sarawakians’ rights and the culprit is none other than the GPS government.

12-11-2020
Chong Chieng Jen
DAP Sarawak Chairman