In 51 years, there has been much changes compared to the State of the Nation back in 1963. No doubt some quarters would harp that it is not as far or fast as they hoped it to be. But these are changes none the less. In that time, Sarawak grew with her partners, Malaya and Sabah. Albeit growth was more focused on West Malaysia, or Malaya. Now many Sarawakians and Sabahans are demanding more changes.
Many politicians have been speaking on the topics. Be they from the Barisan Nasional or the Pakatan Rakyat or others. What we need to consider is will these words carry weight?
As far as the legal structure is concerned, a policy is inadequate. Speeches are nothing more than rhetoric. Never mind the remarks and statements to the press.
How can what these men and women’s words have bearing in our society? What must be done?
First, in my view, the Federal Constitution must be amended in the spirit of the Malaysian Agreement 1963. What were the 20/18 Points Agenda? How far along the agenda have we complied with?
One of the salient point of the Malaysia Agreement is the need for a review each decade. Is the Federal Government legally required to hold such review with the Governments of Sarawak and Sabah? The answer is: no. Why? Yes, an agreement was made. Yet can you find such provision in the Federal Constitution?
As the basic law of the land, the Federal Constitution prescribes what the institutions of governments can and cannot do, and how to go about it. Over the years the Executive branch successfully eroded the authority of the Legislative and Judicial branches. Look into the various amendments to the Federal Constitution. Functionally, the Executive rides on the back of the Legislature. Even the composition of the legislature, specifically the Senate, was dramatically revamped. Instead of being the platform for the States, the states collectively has 26 members against the Federal Government’s 44 appointed members.
Amendments affecting the authority and the jurisdictions of the Governments of Sarawak and Sabah, both directly and indirectly, should be approved also by the Dewan Undangan Negeri or through a referendum by the electorate at the next election following its passage in the Houses of Parliament.
Secondly, the administrative structure and fiscal structure of the federation needs to be revamped. Commerce, taxation, duties and excises need to be balanced between the State and the Federal Government. When power and money are concentrated into the hands of one party, the chances of tyranny and unfair distribution happens. As the maxim goes: justice should not only be done, but also seen to be done.
Third, the judicial authority – especially at the Federal Court and Court of Appeals – should include the number of judges necessary for a quorum originating and of Sarawak and Sabah. That means at least 5 members of the Federal Court comes from the two states. At the same time in the Court of Appeals, at least 3 judges hail from the two states. Why? Because these men and women of the Bench has to deliberate taking into account the actual practices and environment of the people in the two States. They must not and cannot rely on their understanding as Malayans. As it is, East and West approach things differently.
Next, the practice of the Houses of Parliament also needs to be examined. Having a Select/Standing Committee for Sarawak Affairs and Standing Committee for Sabah Affairs in each houses of Parliament. Members of the committees must come from the respective states. In the case of the Senate, it would only be a Committee of Two. Members appointed by the authority of the Yang DiPertuan Agong cannot be members of the Senates’s committee. One alternative is to raise the number of Senators elected by the two DUNs. This, too, reflects in the position of the Sarawak and Sabah.
The function of this Committee is to screen through all bills being presented before the respective houses. It would serve as a secondary or final committee to endorse in the committee stage. Failure to attain either an absolute majority or 2/3 support depends on the nature of the Bill. Yes, it creates redundancy. But it also increases the visibility of the two nations of the federation. In the event of anomaly and investigation, the Committee shall have the authority to perform inquiries just as the Public Accounts Committee and other committees.
These are a few of the functional changes I can think of to be incorporated into the current legal and political system. Anything other than these, beginning from the Federal Constitution, are mere words. Words that can be changed, altered or withdrawn on a later date.
Selamat Hari Malaysia. It’s been 51 years since the current three nations: Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak, came together to form Malaysia.