The historic restoration of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in the Malaysian Federation

Press conference statement by Liew Chin Tong, DAP National Political Education Director in Miri on 15.12.2021

In 1976, the Malaysian Parliament voted to downgrade Sarawak and Sabah to one of the thirteen “states” in the federation rather than the “regions/wilayah” status, which was the case when Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya (as well as Singapore) jointly formed Malaysia in 1963.

When the 1976 Constitutional Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament, even with only nine Members of Parliament, DAP voted against it. Then and now, DAP respects the status of “region” for Sarawak and Sabah. Yet, in 1976, Sarawak BN that has now reincarnated as GPS, had voted to downgrade the status of Sarawak. Thanks to Sarawak BN, Sarawak (and Sabah) had become merely a “state”.

Decades later, it was Pakatan Harapan government’s de facto law minister, the late Datuk Liew Vui Keong who presented a constitutional amendment bill in April 2019 to reverse the 1976 amendment and reinstate the equal status of Sarawak dan Sabah.

Despite Pakatan Harapan’s good intention, the bill failed to be approved because the then opposition which included GPS chose to abstain from voting. Pakatan Harapan fell short of 10 votes from obtaining two-thirds support in the Dewan Rakyat. I wonder if this is a sabotage by GPS against Sarawakians and Sabahans.

After forming the federal government with Bersatu, PAS, UMNO and PKR defectors through the Sheraton coup in February 2020, GPS still did not insist on any constitutional amendment to restore the status of Sarawak and Sabah as two of the three regions of Malaysia.

After the collapse of the Muhyiddin Yassin government in August 2021, new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob agreed to Pakatan Harapan’s demand and signed a six-point MoU the following month, as an attempt to fend off the constant threat from Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to destabilise his government.

One of the key issues stressed by Pakatan Harapan in the landmark MoU is to resolve the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Due to Pakatan Harapan’s insistence to include this issue as a priority in the MoU, the nation finally sees the rightful restoration of Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners following the unanimous passing of the much-awaited constitutional amendment bill in Dewan Rakyat on 14 December 2021.

The blunder of 1976, also involving Sarawak BN, has now been corrected after 45 years.

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