KUALA LUMPUR: After 58 years of Malaysia’s formation, finally, the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) has become part of the Federal Constitution.
Describing the constitutional amendment relating to MA63 by the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday as “historic and path-breaking for Sabah and Sarawak, and the nation as a whole”, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said it was also a victory for everyone.
“With the amendment of Article 1(2) and Article 160(2) of the MA63, it will become entrenched in the Federal Constitution and becomes the basic reference of the rights of the Borneo States of Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian Federation.
“Prior to this, rights and privileges of both States could only be referred to as pre-constitutional documents, not as constitutional rights.
“With the treasured amendments, all pre-constitutional documents such as the Malaysia Agreement, Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report, Cobbold Commission, and even the 20 Points and 18 Points can now be directly cited as legal and constitutional because these were all appendices of the Malaysia Act and the Malaysia Agreement. This is indeed a massive historical legal breakthrough,” he said, today.
Ongkili noted that he was aware there were many knockers and political opponents who argued wrongly and that there was nothing much in store in the Amendments of the two Articles.
“They got stuck with the simple desire of gaining so-called equal status for Sabah and Sarawak.
“Of course, this is important. But they forgot the key goal of first ensuring that the Malaysia Agreement becomes part of the Federal Constitution. Only with that achievement that the key historical documents of the 20 Points, Cobbold Commission, and the IGC will get their real value as the legal basis to fight for the rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians, including demanding for equal status if this assurance is in the MA63, IGC or Cobbold documents,” Ongkili, who is also the Parti Bersatu Sabah President, explained.
Rights and assurances such as oil and gas, economic progress especially in the fields of infrastructure, education, health, religion, culture and native rights, security, digital technology, and others will now carry legal weightage and cannot be ignored by the Federal Government because we will have the legal documents to back us up in our demands.
“This is what PBS has been preaching and explaining to young people and Sabahans in the last 36 years since its formation,” Ongkili said.
The Kota Marudu Member of Parliament also disclosed that many Sabah parties also fought on the same platform; just that not many parties saw the real need to ensure the people’s rights are protected under the Constitution rather than purely as lists of historical rights and political demands, which indeed many of our forefathers did their best to have them recorded and documented but they did not have any Constitutional weightage.
“As head of the Sabah and Sarawak Affairs portfolio in the Cabinet, my team in the Prime Minister’s Department express our gratitude for the leadership, political space, and intellectual inputs given by the former Prime Minister Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin, and the current premier leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob who continued to provide the leadership and space to ensure that our desire and ambition of ensuring the MA63 becomes part of the Federal Constitution because once that is done, nobody can take away the MA63 from the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
“I still remember in March last year, when I was offered the job by Mahiaddin to head the Sabah and Sarawak Affairs portfolio, he said: “Max, PH (Pakatan Harapan) tried to amend Article 1(2) but failed. You should try to table it again, but this time, talk to Sarawak to make sure that the Malaysia Agreement gets into the Federal Constitution through an amendment to Article 160(2). If you think you can get the numbers and the votes, the Cabinet will back you all the way.”
He further added that when Ismail Sabri assumed the premiership on Aug 21, 2021, during his first Cabinet meeting, he announced that all existing efforts on MA63, that pertains to the rights of Sabah and Sarawak, will continue to be pursued under his leadership.
“It is because of these two leaders that we achieved yesterday’s constitutional amendment.
“We would also like to acknowledge the role and contribution of Sabah and Sarawak Chief Ministers, Datu Seri Hajiji Noor and Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg, respectively, who were so committed to ensuring that the members of parliament from both states would support the amendment fully,” said Ongkili.
He disclosed that numerous engagements were organised by both BHESS and BHEUU with Sabah and Sarawak MPs and state assemblymen, and they were extremely supportive and even promised to bring the explanation to their respective constituencies.
“We are also thankful to all leaders of political parties in Parliament – the Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional, and PH, as well as independent MPs who voted. The response speaks for itself. The numbers were beyond the required 2/3 majority. There were no opposing votes; just 20 MPs who were not present,” Ongkili said.