The Prime Minister, when tabling the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 for second reading in the Dewan Rakyat, said the move would restore the status of the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak as the equal partners of Peninsular Malaysia as stated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“The amendment to Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution is the ideal point and time for the Pakatan Harapan government to take the first step in realising the wishes of the people of Sabah and Sarawak in line with MA63.
“The new Malaysia and the Pakatan Harapan government are aware of this and will restore the status of equal partners to Sabah and Sarawak. This is part of the process that will be implemented after the MA63 review is completed. This is the first step in the implementation of this matter,” said Dr Mahathir.
He said the amendment would not change the functions of the federal government and the governments of Sabah and Sarawak in the concept of the federal government.
On April 4, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong tabled the Bill for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat.
During the 14th General Election last year, one of the main promises in Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto was the restoration of the status of Sabah and Sarawak.
When Malaysia was formed through the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution was amended with the inclusion of the definition of states of the federation comprising Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as well as Singapore (then).
However, the amendment to the Constitution in 1976 listed Sabah and Sarawak as being the states of the federation, along with the states in Peninsular Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir drew attention to the fact that this time the amendment does not in any way alter the functions of the federal government and state governments under the concept of federalism as enshrined in the Constitution.
On proposals from Sabah and Sarawak that the federal government amends the interpretation of the phrase “The Federation” under Clause 2 Article 160 of the Federal Constitution, Dr Mahathir said: “The government does not plan to amend the interpretation because such interpretation is intended for use in some other provisions of the Federal Constitution which are still in force.”
However, he said, Sabah and Sarawak would continue to enjoy existing special privileges guaranteed under the Federal Constitution as may be required for implementation under MA63.
Dr Mahathir stressed that the amendment tabled today was not done in haste to meet the needs of any party, but to pave the way for the reform of the law to achieve the wishes of all its people.
“The amendment must be seen as one entity without separating East Malaysia and West Malaysia,” he said, adding that the country’s unity should be the main agenda of all parties which formed Malaysia to ensure that the nation continues to develop and stands on par with the world’s major powers.
Dr Mahathir also said that the amendment was a reasonable decision in realising the demands of Sabah and Sarawak as tabled and discussed in the Special Cabinet Committee to review the implementation of MA63.
“The committee, comprising representatives from the federal government as well as from Sabah and Sarawak, including the Chief Ministers, had decided to agree to amend the Federal Constitution to allocate again the same provisions as in 1963 with the necessary modifications,” he said.
As the committee is still discussing the implementation of MA63, the amendments to other matters would be made later, he said.
Touching on the rights of the people of other states following the amendment to the Constitution, the Prime Minister gave the assurance that their rights were guaranteed under the Constitution.
Dr Mahathir also said that the country’s wealth would be divided among all the states according to needs.