Bill Deferred and “amendments to Resident of the State” in Sarawak DUN Sitting.

The Bill on the amendment on Section 71 of the Immigration 1959/63 Act, which seeks to amend Article 16 (2) of the Sarawak Constitution was debated at Length and Views were heard from both sides of the house.

The DUN debate was telecast live and many opinions were formed and a Sarawakian Voter said,”it is only appropriate that this Bill not taken lightly and the ambiguity should be erased. Only then both sides of the house would not hesitate to pass it safeguarding Sarawakians Interests “

The Speaker in his wise judgement at this particular time said the Bill is deferred for now but not withdrawn.

{Extracted below from an online portal the news report}

KUCHING, Nov 10 ― A Bill to define who is a “resident” in Sarawak has been deferred indefinitely following an “anomaly” in its draft, state legislative assembly Speaker Datuk Asfia Awang Nassar announced today.

He suspended debate on Section 71 of the Immigration 1959/63 Act, which seeks to amend Article 16 (2) of the Sarawak Constitution that had been tabled by tabled by state Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“In view of this anomaly, and clarifications and definitions to be made, I hereby defer this Bill. This Bill stands deferred to a date to be fixed,” Asfia said, stressing that the proposal for the amendment is not withdrawn.

The Bill as tabled by Karim Rahman Hamzah proposed to amend  Article 16 (2) to define a “resident in the State” to mean a citizen belonging to the State of Sarawak in accordance with Section 71 of the Immigration Act 1959/63

The Bill also sought to lower the age criterion on those seeking to run for office in Sarawak from 21 to 18.

Section 71(1)(a) of the Immigration Act that states for the purpose of Section 66, a citizen shall be treated as belonging to an East Malaysian state if he is or has within the preceding two years been a permanent resident in the East Malaysian state.

The Bill was strongly objected to by the Opposition.

During the debate, Chong Chieng Jen (DAP-Kota Sentosa) said to allow the amendment to be passed by the state assembly would mean to allow any Peninsular Malaysian or Sabahans to be eligible to be elected into the state assembly after residing in Sarawak after two years.

“Are they to be allowed to sit in the state assembly and decide the policies and laws of Sarawak?” he asked.

“My answer is clearly ‘No’. We should not allow this to happen. This amounts to a sell-out of the state’s rights and privileges of Sarawakians,” he said.

Chong, however, said he has no objection to amending Article 16 of the State Constitution that seeks to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 years.

He said the lowering of age is in line with the amendment to the Federal Constitution tabled by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government.

Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh (PSB-Bawang Assan) said the term “resident in the State” is not defined in the Sarawak Constitution but it can be taken to mean someone who is always a resident here, not just for two years which is a negligible period.

“That is to say, the current Constitution does not specify a period of residency in order to qualify for election to the state assembly,” he said.

He said for the purpose of section 71 of the Immigration Act 1959/63, as long as the person has been a permanent resident of Sarawak for just two years, he falls within the requirement of section 66 of the Immigration Act.

“Section 71 was enacted for the purposes of section 66,” Wong, who is Parti Sarawak Bersatu president, said.

“A perusal of this Section 66 of the Immigration Act reveals that it is only for “restriction on citizen’s right of entry into an East Malaysian State”, adding that it only has to do with entry into Sarawak and has absolutely nothing to do with the right to be elected as a member of the state assembly.

“It is totally improper to equate the “right of entry into Sarawak” with the “right of election into the state assembly,” he added.

“It is impossible to imagine that the right to be an elected member of this August House is reduced to the equivalent of the right of entry into Sarawak,” he said.

He said if the GPS government really care for Sarawak rights, they would not reduce the rights for election to the state assembly to that of the right of entry into  Sarawak.

“If they really wish to amend to protect Sarawak rights, they should amend the Sarawak Constitution to restrict the right of election to the state assembly only to those Malaysian citizens who are “born in Sarawak”.

“That is to say, make it impossible for a non-Sarawakian to be elected to the state assembly instead of making it easier for them,” he said.

He urged all honorable members in this August house to totally reject the amendment to the State Constitution.

GPS’ Muara Tuang State Assemblyman Datuk Idris Buang called for a redefinition of the term “resident in the state”.

He said he supports the Bill, but at the same time, amendments should be made to the Bill.

He said he has a long time ago called for the definition of the word “resident” in the State Constitution.

He said he is concerned with the ambiguity of the word “resident”.

He said he believes that there are anomalies in the Bill and much has to be done to really define the word.

“In the light of the ambiguity and anomaly in how it was drafted, I suggested that the word “resident” be properly redefined,”  he said, adding that it should stand alone, without referring to any other Act.

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