By Justin Wong, State Assemblyman for Sri Tanjong
KOTA KINABALU: The people of Malaysia have made history yesterday, as we have witnessed the amendment of Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to reinstate back the status of Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners in line with Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
This is surely a momentous day to us all as fellow Malaysians, as it marks the beginning of a more united nation, bringing Malaysia together, uniting people from the West and the East, and more importantly restoring the hopes and aspirations we once had when we formed Malaysia.
With the passing of this amendment, many begin to wonder what is next for Malaysia. In particular, the context of Sarawak and Sabah being restored as a territory instead of merely just one of 13 states.
Whilst we are still in celebratory mood to toast for this victory that we achieved through change of government legitimately and literally in year 2018, we must constantly be reminded of what rights are we going to pursue in the wake of this amendment.
Our Members of Parliament are still debating on what are the autonomous powers are to be returned to Sarawak and Sabah, that include but not limited to, education and health.
I concur that these affairs should be returned to both territories and the Special Council on MA63 must include them when drafting out the framework.
Simultaneously, more allocations should be disbursed to Sarawak and Sabah in accordance with MA63 to ensure there is sustainable development of a transitioning autonomous power to both territories respectively.
On a side note, there must be disruption on the national political composition following the restoration of equal status of three territories to give a true reflection of just and equitable partnership in line with the spirit of MA63.
Previously, there were calls to increase the number of parliamentary seats in East Malaysia to reach a total of 83 seats to make up one third of the 222 parliamentary seats.
While I am supportive of such call, I opined that there should be a new mechanism as to who will be responsible to carry out redelineation exercise for creation of new constituencies.
I must put a disclaimer hereunto that I am in no way suggesting for separation from Malaysia.
However, I think electoral arrangements and reviews of constituencies should be in tandem with the implementation of the MA63 as there are different geographical considerations to be looked into.It is best to let respective territory to do the consultancy work.
We have seen many parliamentary constituencies especially in Sabah whereby the area of the constituency is highly disproportionate to other constituencies, raising questions about gerrymandering and malapportionment that would end up benefiting one party.
Secondly, local government affair has always been under the purview of the territory.
Hence, there is no problem with boundary determination as district councils are in full knowledge of the area.