MA63: Sarawak govt has stated four non-negotiable demands to Putrajaya in negotiations to safeguard state’s rights, says assistant minister

(Borneo Post) – The Sarawak government has stated four non-negotiable demands to the federal government in its negotiations to safeguard the state’s rights as enshrined in Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), said Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali.

The Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring) stressed these four non-negotiable matters were on top of the other 13 demands made to the federal government to honour the state’s interest in the MA63.

“The first non-negotiable matter is the state’s immigration autonomy. The second is the enforcement of the state laws in accordance to the Federal Constitution, such as the Oil Mining Ordinance, State Sales Tax and State Land Code,” said Sharifah in a response to a question from Datuk Dr Juanda Jaya (GPS-Jemoreng) during the third day of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting today.

Sharifah Hasidah said the third non-negotiable matter was the protection of the state’s boundaries all the way to its continental shelf as defined in the Land Code and the fourth was related to the sovereignty over all the natural resources, including those below lands and within the state boundaries.

“These four matters are extremely important and it cannot be open for negotiations, not now, not before and hopefully, not in the future,” she added.

Moreover, Sharifah said the proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution in regards to MA63 had been presented to the MA63 special cabinet committee and the federal Attorney General’s Chambers for further actions.

A motion proposing a comprehensive amendment to the Federal Constitution upon the conclusion of the MA63 negotiations between the federal and state governments was unanimously passed in DUN last year.

“We hope the proposed comprehensive amendment that was unanimously passed in this DUN sitting last year can be debated and approved in the Dewan Rakyat in the future. This is not going to be easy but we remain hopeful,” said Sharifah Hasidah.

Providing an update on the negotiation status on MA63 with the federal government, Sharifah said the state government had already achieved an agreement on five out of the 13 demands made.

“Four of the demands are still in the negotiation stage and another four are being discussed under the committees established for the specific purpose.”

The five demands that had been agreed included the revision of the special grants to the state as enshrined under Article 112 of the Federation Constitution, the surrendering of power to the state to regulate gas distribution in accordance to Distribution of Gas Ordinance 2016 and the surrendering of power to the state in legislating subsidiary laws under state Labour Ordinance to take into account the peculiar condition of the labour force in the state.

“The state government will continue discussions on the formula and procedure to review the special grant for the best interest of the state in claiming for an amount that is more in line with the development in the state.”

For the gas distribution, Sharifah Hasidah said the state had managed to obtain exemption for licensed parties under the Gas Distribution Ordinance 2016 from the requirement of obtaining the necessary license from the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to distribute gas in the state.

She said the federal government had also agreed on the demand for the delegation of power under the Environmental Quality Act 1974 by the federal government to the state in order to deal with matters related to the environment, such as scheduled waste.

The last demand agreed involved the handing over of land owned by the federal government in the state, which will be carried out based on the state Land Code and federal constitution, she added.

“Nonetheless, at the federal level, a special cabinet council has been set up to monitor the implementation of the agreements achieved in relation to the state’s rights in the previous committees.”

Sharifah Hasidah remarked the Sabah and Sarawak Affairs division under the Prime Minister Department had also been appointed as secretariat to monitor the implementation of policies agreed by the MA63 special cabinet committee.