Source: The Star Graphics
Pursue Decentralization Not Over-representation
The news that Sarawak’s GPS government’s claim for one-third Parliament seats in Dewan Rakyat is still at the discussion stage and that it would take 2-3 years for a resolution, comes as no surprise to ROSE. After all the composition of the Dewan Rakyat in the Federal Legislature would mean a constitutional amendment to Article 46 of the Federal Constitution and other states would certainly want to have a say on the number of Members of Parliament as well.
YB Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof is of the view that, “one-third parliamentary seat allocation for Sabah and Sarawak was important as it would not allow the peninsula to amend the Constitution that may eliminate the rights of the two states as enshrined in MA63.”
We therefore surmise that for YB Fadillah and GPS, the end-game of increasing Sabah and Sarawak’s parliamentary seat allocations is for constitutional safeguards for both states.
Some uncomfortable assumptions underpin this demand, namely:
- that the more MPs Sarawak has in Parliament, the better our interests will be protected,
- that all Sabah/Sarawak MPs (in government and in opposition) will vote the same way on ALL parliamentary bills,
- that all MPs from ALL Malayan states will vote the same way when it comes to making amendments in the Constitution affecting Sabah/Sarawak rights.
These assumptions somehow have not been addressed by GPS in their demands for more seats. They fail to inform that constitutional safeguards were built into the founding documents of Malaysia starting from the IGC Report, Malaysia Agreement 1963 and later in Part XIIA and in particular Article 161E which contain the provisions of ‘Safeguards for constitutional position of states of Sabah and Sarawak’.
In other words, does more MPs mean better policies made and basic needs met for the people of Sabah/Sarawak?
What would make Sarawakian voices or interests heard and addressed would be MPs who truly play their role as law-makers whether they are in the front-bench (Ministers in the Unity Government) or as members of the opposition. We hope to see policies that are effective and also sensitive to the needs of all who reside in Sarawak..
We are of the view that this demand for one-third seats has no historical or legal basis or support. There is nothing in the MA63 that guarantees Borneo States one-third representation. The 1962 IGC Report that led to the MA63 did guarantee 25 percent seats for Sarawak and Sabah in relation to total seats in DR but only for 7 years after the formation of Malaysia. And that period expired in 1970! There were no further provisions for the subsequent years and we will have to fall back to general provisions based on population of electorates.
Furthermore, in terms of representation in Parliament, Sabah and Sarawak with 25 percent seats are currently over-represented as our total electorate is only one-sixth (16-17 percent) of the total Malaysian electorate. This means that we are already not following the principle of one person, one vote, one value. As an example, the biggest Parliament seat, Bangi has 300k voters, the smallest seat Igan in Sarawak has 28k voters. Each are represented by ONE member of Parliament. If Sabah/Sarawak seats are increased to 35% the over-representation would become greater. It would not augur well for the upholding of the democratic principle of equality.
For the above reasons, we support the recommendation for the Senate or Upper House of Parliament to be reformed to include elected members so that they will have real veto powers. That way Sabah and Sarawak rights and interests can be protected by these senators when there is a need to exercise veto powers.
Sarawak state is due for a constituency boundary delineation exercise under the requirements of the constitution since the last one was carried out eight years ago in 2015. Groups of voters of any affected constituencies are empowered under the 13th Schedule to make objections to the recommendations proposed by the Election Commission on the boundaries of their constituency. Delineation of boundaries was preceded by an increase in the number of state assemblypersons in the state legislature in the last exercise.
Needless to say it is therefore more worrying that Datuk Seri YB Fadillah Yusof also revealed the request by Sarawak for administrative autonomy over health and education is also at discussion stage. However he did not elaborate further on the reasons why. Many local Sarawakian leaders and politicians had been calling for such health and education autonomy prior to the state elections.
Dated 3rd Feb 2023