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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Mere words from PM mean nothing, say Sarawak lawyers


Muhyiddin Yassin (right) with Sarawak chief minister Abang Johari Openg (left) at the Shared Prosperity Vision town hall session in Kuching on April 1. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: Lawyers have dismissed Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent assertion of Sarawak’s right to territorial status as inconsequential to the Borneo states’ desire for the restoration of their rights.

Mere words would not change a thing, said Lim Heng Choo and Simon Siah, both of whom are based in Sarawak.

Speaking to FMT, they noted that Sabah and Sarawak were still listed in the Federal Constitution as two of the 13 Malaysian states.

In order to recognise Sarawak as one of three Malaysian territories, Lim said, the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 (MA63) must be incorporated into Article 160 (2) of the constitution.

“Once the amendment is made, it also means that the annual national budget needs to be distributed equally to three regions, which are Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.

Currently, Article 160 (2) refers to the federation established under the 1957 Federation of Malaya Agreement instead of MA63.

During his visit to Kuching last week, the prime minister said he recognised Sabah and Sarawak as territories instead of states.

However, Muhyiddin also said his government might not be able to fulfil a demand from Sarawak chief minister Abang Johari Openg to amend Article 106 (2) because it lacked a two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

Siah said it would take a lot of constitutional amendments to legally recognise Sarawak as a Malaysian region.

Noting that Sarawak and Sabah occupied only about a quarter of Dewan Rakyat seats, he said amending the constitution would require support from MPs representing constituencies in the peninsula.

Abdul Karim Hamzah, Sarawak’s minister of tourism, arts and culture, also recently spoke of the need to amend the constitution, but he said he appreciated Muhyiddin’s statement.

Karim is also a lawyer. - FMT

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