S’wak DUN passes Bill to rename Chief Minister’s post as ‘Premier’
Tarikh : 15 Feb 2022  Sumber Berita: Borneo Post Online

Sarawak Legislative Assembly members raising their hands to vote on the constitutional amendment. – Screengrab UKAS livestream

KUCHING (Feb 15): The Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2022 which seeks to, amongst others, change the designation of ‘Chief Minister’ to ‘Premier’ has been passed at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting today.

The Bill, which was tabled and moved by Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, was passed after receiving support from 67 members of the August House after a second round of voting by show of hands.

The Bill had faced a hiccup when some elected representatives were not present when the sitting resumed at 2.45pm and the constitutional amendment, which required a two-thirds majority to be passed, was put to a vote.

In the first round, DUN Speaker Datuk Amar Mohammad Asfia Awang Nassar had announced 54 members of the House had voted in favour of it, six had opposed, and that ten members were not present at the House.

This led Chong Chieng Jen (DAP-Padungan) to interject and point out that 54 votes out of the total 82 members of the legislature was not equivalent to a two-thirds majority and as such the motion cannot be carried forward.

“A simple calculation of this shows that this is not a two-third majority unless there is another re-vote,” he said.

This led to Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh (PSB-Bawang Assan) rising to point out that if the members of the august House were asked to cast their vote again, it would set a very bad precedent.

“The votes have been taken and the process is through. I think if you (Asfia) were to ring the bell for votes to be taken again, it is not proper,” he said.

Asfia, however, decided to give another five minutes for members who have yet to return to the assembly’s Chamber to do so after which he called for the second round of voting which resulted in 67 who supported the Bill while six had opposed.

The objection by the six opposition members was mainly over the change of the term ‘Chief Minister’ to ‘Premier’ be removed with Chong describing the change of designation as ‘redundant’, while Baru Bian (PSB-Ba Kelalan) expressed concern that the amendment could be unconstitutional.

Prior to the passing of the Bill, Abdul Karim said the constitutional amendment was to emphasise and cement the different status enjoyed by Sarawak as compared to other states in the Federation of Malaya that formed Malaysia.

“Since the formation of Malaysia, there is no clear distinction made between Sarawak and other states to reflect this special status of Sarawak.

“Sarawak has been given the same treatment of other states leading to the erosion of its rights which Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) is trying to recover,” he said.

He said by restyling the ‘Chief Minister’ post as ‘Premier’, the country will be reminded of the different treatment Sarawak could be given as one of the three regions that formed Malaysia.

“This will be a strong reminder not only to the present generation of Sarawakians but to Malaysians at large,” he added.

With the passing of the constitutional amendment, the term ‘Assistant Minister’ will also be renamed to ‘Deputy Minister’ to better reflect their functions and responsibilities.

Abdul Karim when tabling the Bill this morning said this was in view that Article 7A of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak currently provides the designation of ‘Assistant Ministers’ to assist the Chief Minister and Ministers to discharge their duties and functions.

In addition, the definition of ‘the Federation’ in the State Constitution will be amended following that the same definition under the Federal Constitution was amended recently.

The new interpretation of ‘the Federation’ will be read as “the Federation means the Federation that was first established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957 and further pursuant to an Agreement concluded on the ninth day of July, nineteen hundred and sixty-three between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore, the Federation is called Malaysia with the Colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak and the State of Singapore federated with the existing States of the Federation of Malaya as the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore in accordance with the constitutional instruments annexed thereto but under and by virtue of the Agreement relating to the separation of Singapore from Malaysia as an independent and sovereign State dated seventh day of August, nineteen hundred and sixty-five, Singapore has ceased to be a state of Malaysia.