Home / English News / Planned Constitutional amendment will give Sarawak power to decide on definition of ‘native’, says Wan Junaidi

Planned Constitutional amendment will give Sarawak power to decide on definition of ‘native’, says Wan Junaidi

KUCHING: Sarawak will have the power to decide the definition of “native” or indigenous people through state laws if a proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution is approved.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the amendment would seek to remove the definition of ethnic groups deemed native to Sarawak in Article 161A.

Clause 7 of the Article lists 28 ethnic groups as indigenous to Sarawak for the purpose of the definition of “native”.

“But there are more ethnic groups in the state. For example, the Selakau are not listed in the Federal Constitution.

“We will amend it so that the power is given to the state to define who is a Sarawak native,” he told a media gathering here on Friday (Oct 15).

Wan Junaidi said the amendment would also pave the way for children of mixed marriages to be defined as native as long as one of the parents is a Sarawak native.

Article 161A at present defines a Sarawak native as a citizen belonging to one of the ethnic groups specified in Clause 7 or of mixed ethnicity deriving exclusively from those groups.

Wan Junaidi, whose wife is Chinese, said his children were not considered native based on this definition, unless a request for native status is made to the Native Court.

“There are thousands of requests now pending a decision. We want to do away with that, so we will give the power to the state to decide,” he said.

On the proposed amendments to restore Sarawak and Sabah’s status as equal partners and recognise the Malaysia Agreement 1963 in the Constitution, Wan Junaidi said he had received indications of support from across the political spectrum in his meetings with various parties, including Barisan Nasional, Perikatan Nasional, Parti Warisan Sabah, Pakatan Harapan and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

“I cannot predict what will happen in Parliament later but from the engagements, obviously there seems to be support.

“So I’m positive about getting a two-thirds majority for the amendments to be passed,” he said.

He added that the Bill to amend the Constitution was scheduled for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on Oct 25 and second reading for debate on Oct 28.

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