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Unconstitutional Takeover of Sarawak Rights, Item 5(a), “other Services of a Local Character” by the Federal Government

I am an independent researcher on Declassified Documents and Constitutional Rights of the Borneo States of Sabah and Sarawak

Unconstitutional takeover of Sarawak Rights, Item 5(a), “Other services of a local character” by the Federal Government

Annex A of IGC Report, Item 5(a) of State List, under “Other services of a local character, that is to say - Fire brigades, etc.” was one of Sarawak legislative rights.

Annex A of IGC Report, Item 5(a) of State List, under “Other services of a local character, that is to say - Fire brigades, etc.” was one of Sarawak legislative rights.

Annex A of the Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee, 1962 (IGC Report) expressed that Item 5(a) of State List, under “Other services of a local character, that is to say - Fire brigades, etc.” was one of Sarawak legislative rights. The condition for Item 5(a) to be put into State List was also mentioned which has been expressed that “Consideration should be given to the need to include other services of a local character”.

Meaning, the rights to legislate any matter related to fire brigades, etc. was agreed to be legislated by the Sarawak Government instead of Federal Government due to the local need as Sarawak has different needs and requirement compare to the federation as a whole.

The difference is very contrast as Sarawak comprise of many different communities which have different culture, lifestyle and living infrastructures such as longhouses and riverine houses to name the few. Besides, many communities are scattered across Sarawak where special needs are required to address the distance of the communities from the nearest fire station and services. This gives rise to the need to regulate and legislate all things related to fires based on the local needs and basis.

The people that know best our own backyard, are none other than our own people, not the people who live far across the South China Sea. The main policy of the formation of Malaysia is Borneonisation where local people should fill the civil services, and in this case, the Fire and Services Department. This is why any services of local character should be inserted into State List, not Federal List in the Federal Constitution. We should even have our own fire brigades and fire department in Sarawak because it is under State List as outlined in the IGC.

Unfortunately, our rights to legislate “fire brigades, etc.” has been amended and repealed in the Federal Constitution which was unconstitutional because it contravenes the Federal Constitution itself.

Does our ADUNs and MPs, particularly the Federal Minister of Housing and Local Government, Zuraida Kamaruddin understand any of these constitutional rights on Item 5(a), Fire brigades, etc. which have been amended and repealed in the past by the Federal Government, which ultimately has crippled the Sarawak State Government to address this matter?

Recently during her first visit to Sarawak, Federal Minister Zuraida mulls over having a new category (Category E for longhouses) for the Fire and Services Department to better serve longhouses in Sarawak and to train community firemen and volunteers to address the issue of longhouses that caught fires especially during the dry season, which has been prevalence in the past.

Although her suggestion is good, does she know any other requirement of many other communities living in Sarawak such as the people that live as riverine communities, living along the long stretches of many rivers, hilly people in the interior, and many other requirements due to the terrain, geographically and climatically different situation in Sarawak?

This is how everything goes wrong with the Federal Constitution which the Federal Government has amended and repealed in the past, to serve their own hunger for centralized power and the funds that come with it.

In the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, Sarawak State legislative rights on Item 5(a) “(a) Fire brigades, except in the federal capital;” has been deleted by Act A354, paragraph 48(1)(b), in force from 01-01-1976. In its place, our legislative rights on Item 5(a) has been taken over by the Federal Government by unconstitutionally inserting Item 26 into the Federal List by Act A354, paragraph 48(1)(a), in force from 01-01-1976, read as “Subject to item 9A of the Concurrent List, prevention and extinguishment of fire, including fire services and fire brigades.”

Here, a new Item 9A in the Concurrent List was also unconstitutionally inserted by Act A354, section 48, in force from 27-08-1976 which read as “Except with respect to Sabah and Sarawak, fire safety measures and fire precautions in the construction and maintenance of buildings.” In addition, a new Item 19 of List IIA (Supplement to State List for the States of Sabah and Sarawak) was unconstitutionally inserted by Act A354, paragraph 48(1)(c), in force from 01-01-1976 which read as “Prevention and extinguishment of fire, including fire services and fire brigades.”

If we look in details here, the Federal Government in the early stage of the takeover of Sarawak rights upon State List Item 5(a) in 1976, was trying to appease the State Government of Sarawak by inserting a new Item 9A of the Concurrent List and a new Item 19 in List IIA at the same time when they change the rights into Federal List, Item 26. This is no more than to dupe the Sarawak Government into accepting the changes of such item from State List into Federal List at the later stage.

The full takeover process was done in 1981 when Item 19 in List IIA was deleted by Act A514, paragraph 17(b), in force from 15-05-1981. Meanwhile, the word “Fire” in Item 9A substituted for “Except with respect to Sabah and Sarawak, fire” by Act A514, section 17, in force from 15-05-1981. This has changed the State's rights upon the original “fire brigades, etc.” into a complete takeover by the Federal Government!

Here, we did not just lose our constitutional rights, but also our funds that come with it, and our borneonisation rights were being completely incapacitated because we now have no rights to established our own fire department in our own State. Only Federal Government can establish the fire department in Sarawak, which they can fancily do or not.

This is one of many other examples of how the Federal Government gradually takeover Sarawak rights in the Federal Constitution.

If Minister Zuraida is serious about discharging her duties as Minister of Housing and Local Government, she needs to first right everything that is wrong with the Federal Constitution. Otherwise, what PM Mahathir is saying on abiding by the “rule of laws” is no more than hot air. No substance.


Unconstitutional Takeover of Sarawak Legislative Rights on Item 5(a) over the Years

27 Feb 1963 - Annex A of the IGC Report expressed that Item 5(a) of State List, under “Other services of a local character, that is to say - Fire brigades, etc." Condition for Item 5(a), “Consideration should be given to the need to include other services of a local character”.

01 Jan 1976 - State List, Item 5(a) “(a) Fire brigades, except in the federal capital;” has been deleted by Act A354, paragraph 48(1)(b)

01 Jan 1976 - Item 26 unconstitutionally inserted into the Federal List by Act A354, paragraph 48(1)(a), read as follows, “Subject to item 9A of the Concurrent List, prevention and extinguishment of fire, including fire services and fire brigades.”

01 Jan 1976 - New Item 19 of List IIA (Supplement to State List for States of Sabah and Sarawak) was inserted by Act A354, paragraph 48(1)(c), which read as follow, “Prevention and extinguishment of fire, including fire services and fire brigades.”

27 Aug 1976 - New Item 9A in the Concurrent List was inserted by Act A354, section 48, which read as follows, “Except with respect to Sabah and Sarawak, fire safety measures and fire precautions in the construction and maintenance of buildings.”

15 May 1981 - Item 19 in List IIA was deleted by Act A514, paragraph 17(b)

15 May 1981 - The word “Fire” in Item 9A substituted for “Except with respect to Sabah and Sarawak, fire” by Act A514, section 17.

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