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Bill to make Sabah, Sarawak equal partners rejected in Malaysia parliament

Bill to make Sabah, Sarawak equal partners rejected in Malaysia parliament

A statue of Malaysia's first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman is pictured in front of the parliament building in Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Constitutional Amendment Bill to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with the Federation of Malaya, as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963, failed to get the required two-thirds majority support in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Apr 9). 

The bill was debated by 46 MPs for seven hours.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad tabled it for second reading and also clarified that the bill did not need to be referred to the Conference of Rulers as it did not directly touch on the privileges, position, honour or prestige of the rulers.

Dr Mahathir said it was the Pakatan Harapan government’s first step towards realising the wishes of the people of Sabah and Sarawak for the two states to be on equal footing with Peninsular Malaysia.

But it was shy of 10 votes to meet the threshold of 148 votes in the 222-seat parliament.

The Dewan Rakyat will sit again on Wednesday.


Liew Vui Keong, MP for Sandakan, Sabah, said he would not give up, and would continue to fight for the people, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak.

He said the action of a small group of parliamentarians not voting for the amendment was unreasonable and detrimental to the people.

“I will not give up, the people’s struggles will continue until the end. I hope the people can see what the opposition has done today.

“This will be set in history and our generation can see that they have rejected the motion. I am extremely sad because this was a golden opportunity to restore this status,” he told reporters.

Sabah chief minister Mohd Shafie Apdal expressed his disappointment on the failure to amend the constitution.

“You can imagine, in particular, fundamental things that we cannot agree on and vote for it, what more other things that we can realise. It’s already 55 years, we have waited for such a long time ... we are not saying that we should be in a hurry but, for God’s sake, this is 55 years, this is a fundamental thing,” he said.


UMNO and Barisan Nasional MPs were the cause for the bill failing to get two-thirds majority support, said Pakatan Harapan (PH) de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

“UMNO and BN (MPs) did not reject, but did not vote, they just abstained with their own excuses, it’s all right, but we can all see the bill was very clear, that’s all,” he said at a PH rally in conjunction with the Rantau state by-election here tonight.

Anwar, who is also PKR president and the MP for Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, explained that the amendment to the Federal Constitution was among the promises made in PH’s manifesto for the 14th General Election last year.

“I am satisfied, I stood up to support Tun Dr Mahathir’s motion for PH because we fulfilled our promise, and that promise is in line with the Federation of Malaysia Agreement 1963,” he said.


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