KUCHING: The head of Sarawak’s government will now be called “Premier” instead of “Chief Minister” after a constitutional amendment was approved by the state assembly.

Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the amendment to change Chief Minister to Premier would correctly reflect Sarawak’s status, which is different from other states in Malaysia.

He said this would give full effect to the recent amendments to the Federal Constitution that restored Sarawak’s rights and status as one of three regions that formed the Federation of Malaysia under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“The bigger picture behind this amendment is to emphasise the difference in status enjoyed by Sarawak.

“By restyling Chief Minister as Premier, the country will be reminded of the different treatment that Sarawak needs to be given as one of the three regions that formed Malaysia,” he said when tabling the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill yesterday.

The Bill proposed amending Article 6(3) of the state constitution by substituting the words “Chief Minister” with “Premier” and Article 44 to include the interpretation of Premier as the Chief Minister appointed under Article 6(3).

It also sought to amend Article 7A to rename assistant ministers as deputy ministers.

On concerns raised by Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian that the renaming was unconstitutional, Karim said there was no conflict between state and federal law with regard to the matter.

He said this was because the amendment had provided that any reference to the Chief Minister in any written law shall refer to the Premier.

Baru had said that the word “Premier” was not used anywhere in the Federal Constitution or pre-Malaysia historical documents in relation to the Chief Minister of Sarawak.

He noted that Article 160(2) of the Federal Constitution referred to the head of the executive of Sarawak as Chief Minister.

“By amending the term Chief Minister to Premier without a concurrent amendment in the Federal Constitution, it could be said that the amendment would destroy the basic structure of the Federal Constitution as it would render certain provisions meaningless and create confusion,” said Baru when debating the Bill.