KUCHING (Sept 10): A new special committee on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) has been set up by the federal cabinet last night, Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar revealed today.
He said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will officially announce the new committee, its composition and the time frame it had been given to achieve its task.
Wan Junaidi said it would be looking at the Cobbold Commission’s finding on the formation of Malaysia and the Inter-governmental Committee reports as well as the Malaysia Act more systematically and holistically.
“Due to changes in the federal government, the committee to review the MA63 has changed several times but the new committee set up by the federal cabinet last night is aimed at facilitating the way forward,” he said, revealing that the Federal ministry in-charge of Sarawak and Sabah Affairs had tabled a Cabinet paper on the new committee.
He added that Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had held various discussions related to MA63 with Muhyddin together with other government representatives after Perikatan Nasional formed the government.
Wan Junaidi said the current committee had made great achievements especially with Petroliam Nasional Berhad’s (Petronas) decision to withdraw its legal challenge against the Sarawak government over the State Sales Tax on petroleum products.
“The new committee will look more into state rights rather than amending or paragraphing the Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.
“Amending the article is just symbolic which does not bring in dollars and sen, but restoring state rights will,” he told reporters after an event here.
“It will be more meaningful to focus on state rights over oil and gas, natural resources boundary and territorial waters.”
Wan Junaidi added that the argument that amending the Article 1(2) would make Sarawak an equal partner to Malaya and Sabah was not accurate and also would not bring in benefits, unlike the restoration of the various state rights.
MA63 and Sarawak’s rights as an equal partner in Malaysia are hot button issues in the state and the Sarawak government has been pursuing the matter at the Federal level for several years.
On another matter, Wan Junaidi said he agreed with Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu vice president Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah’s suggestion that the state polls and general election be held at the same time.
“It is good because it will contribute to less politicking among people after any general election,” he said.
Abdul Karim had suggested yesterday that the general election be held simultaneously with the state polls if it is held soon as he expected it to be called by the end of the year.
He said the difference in seats in the Dewan Rakyat between the government and the opposition was so slim that if a parliamentarian passed away or defects, there could be a hung parliament.
There has been speculation that Muhyiddin could call a snap election, especially after he told Perikatan Nasional parties on Tuesday to “work extremely hard as if the election is going to be held tomorrow.”
The current term of the Sarawak legislative assembly expires mid next year, while the next general election is due in about three years.