MP SPEAKS | There has been an excessive focus on form rather than substance in the recent amendments to the Constitution of Sarawak adopting the word “Prime Minister” to replace “Chief Minister” under Section 6(3) of the Sarawak Constitution, as such a change of mandate without changes to the Federal Constitution and any tangible delegation of powers to Sarawak under Schedule 9, is merely cosmetic in nature.
While I fully support the recognition of the special position that Sabah and Sarawak occupy within the Federation of Malaya, such amendments must first and foremost show a tangible contrast in terms of powers and authority to d other states and constitutionally recognized by federal law. Constitution.
Therefore, while Sarawak Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah argued that the amendment is consistent with the amendment to the Federal Constitution put into effect last week, I believe that this change in “title” was an afterthought or even an oversight by the de facto Minister of Justice. at the federal level.
Otherwise, amendments to Article 160 of the Federal Constitution that refer to the “Chief Minister” or Chief Executive of a State would also have been tabled in Parliament during the Constitutional Amendments to Article 1, Paragraph 2, and Article 160 in November 2021. .
For the title of “Prime Minister” to be effectively more powerful vis-à-vis the other states of Malaysia, an amendment to the Federal Constitution must follow. He cannot simply be known as a “prime minister” in Sarawak, but constitutionally outside Sarawak he is still of the same protocol rank of status as all other chief ministers or menteri besar.
Therefore I urge the de facto Federal Minister for Law who is also a Member of Parliament in the GPS Government of Sarawak to correct this and give more weight to this amendment by tabling another Amendment Bill Constitutional Parliament to recognize this title under Section 160 of the Federal Constitution, and more importantly, table an amendment to Schedule 9 to first delegate or decentralize concentrated powers to the Federal Government, including certain powers policy-making and fiscal powers, so that Sabah and Sarawak achieve more tangible results self-reliance.
In addition to this, I reiterate my call on the Federal Ministers and Heads of State of the GPS to commit themselves and formulate a decentralization of power plan for Sarawak to pave the way for us to achieve greater decentralization of powers and autonomy.
This plan should outline key milestones over the next five to ten years as well as a periodic review of progress to prepare us to take on the responsibility. It should also outline the strategies Sarawak will employ to develop human capital within the state to meet the unique challenges of today and tomorrow. Plans on how we build the capacity of Sarawakians and retain talent in the state so that we can develop them together should be covered thoroughly.
To this end, we can start by delegating the powers of two important sectors, namely health and education in Sarawak. Necessary steps should be taken to include education and health care in the concurrent list of schedule 9 as a responsibility to be shared between the federal and state governments of Sarawak and Sabah.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the importance of an equal federal-state partnership, particularly in health, to effectively manage outbreaks and protect the lives of Sarawakians. In addition to this, it is important to address the years of neglect of our health system, especially in rural areas.
In terms of education, it is the most powerful vector of social ascent. In addition to educational infrastructure, it is essential to develop sufficient teaching staff. The program taught in schools and institutes of higher education must integrate the contributions of local actors to produce versatile talents oriented towards the jobs we want to create. These dynamic investments will have a positive impact on the employability of young people as well as individuals, especially women, who aim to re-enter the labor market.
This is why the Decentralization of Power Plan for Sarawak is so important as it will lay out the steps needed to ensure that the Federal and Sarawak governments would commit to the proper implementation of decentralization of power. It is only with these tangible steps that a title change alone will not be merely cosmetic, but will be constitutional and, more importantly, will have tangible benefits for all Sarawakians on the ground.
KELVIN YII is MP for Bandar Kuching.
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