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Why must Sabah follow Sarawak to change “Chief Minister” to “Premier”?

16 February 2022

By Wartawan Nabalu News

KOTA KINABALU: Sarawak's State Legislative Assembly has passed a bill to amend Sarawak's constitution to change the name of the position of “Chief Minister of Sarawak” to “Premier of Sarawak”.

DAP's Kota Kinabalu MP, Chan Foong Hin said at the end of the day, it is there to denote and identify the position held by a member of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly who commands the confidence of the majority in the said legislative assembly.

He said Abdul Karim had justified the amendment by the reason that Premier is “higher” than Chief Minister as Sarawak different from Penang and Malacca.

“Whilst I agree with the argument that we (Sabah and Sarawak) are different, nevertheless, in order to make the "Premier" be effectively more powerful vis-a-vis other states in Malaya, a Federal Constitution amendment should follow suit.

“The term "Premier" does not jive with our Malaysian Federal Constitution. Article 160 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution do not define "Premier" as head of the executive in a state. Article 160 only define "Chief Minister" and "Menteri Besar" as head of the executive in a state.

“Wan Junaidi from Sarawak is the de facto Federal Law Minister. Has he overlooked the issue? He could have included the word "Premier" in the previous bill to amend the Malaysian Federal Constitution,” he said in a statement today.

Chan explained that when Singapore was still part of the Malaysian Federation, the head of the executive in the state of Singapore is named "Prime Minister".

“So don’t be surprised when you are told that there are in fact two "Prime Minister"s after 1963, one referring to "Prime Minister" of the whole Federation, and the other one referring to "Prime Minister" of Singapore.

“Nevertheless when you look at the Federation of Malaysia Bill annexed to the MA63 which was later on inserted with the definition in Article 160, ‘Prime Minister’ in Singapore is still a kind of "Chief Minister" under the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

“I can't help but wonder as to the effectiveness of the said amendment to the Sarawak Constitution by itself without an amendment to the Malaysian Federal Constitution,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, Chan said the amendment to the Sarawak constitution does not make any changes in duties nor powers of the said position, and neither does it make the federal government devolve any more power back to the state.

“I am of the view it is more important to push for more decentralisation of powers concentrated at the federal government, including certain policy-making powers and fiscal powers, in order to achieve true autonomy as envisioned by the people of Sabah and Sarawak.

“There have been proposals that Sabah follows suit in the name change. Should Sabah follow or not, right now I think it’s a premature issue. As I mentioned before, there has to be an amendment of the Federal Constitution first.

“There are so many different names in the world but all referring to the head of executive council for a state/territory within a federation. In Australia, "Premier" is the executive head for "state", and "Chief Minister" is the executive head for “territory". In the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the head of the executive in Scotland & Northern Ireland is called "First Minister".

“Instead of "Premier", Sabah can find our own "glamour" by claiming another fresh name. Why we must follow Sarawak and use "Premier"?


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