Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Restore Sabah Sarawak Constitutional Safeguards in Redelineation

KOTA KINABALU - "Whatever the formula or basis of the new redelineation exercise, Sabah and Sarawak must be given 35% of the parliamentary seats to restore their constitutional safeguards. Malaya should not be given more than 65% of the seats as agreed upon at the outset of the formation of Malaysia," said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief, commenting on the proposed redelineation being undertaken by the Election Commission (EC).

In the formation of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak were provided constitutional safeguards in 1963 to safeguard the special position of the Borneo States which was the basis they agreed to form Malaysia. These safeguards were put to ensure that the special rights of Sabah and Sarawak would not be diluted or removed over time by the federal lawmakers from Malaya.

In paragraphs 190(g), 165 and 236(a)(i) of the Cobbold Commission Report, it was recommended by the representatives of the Malayan government in Commission and concurred by their British counterparts that “representation of the Borneo territories in the Federal Government shall take account not only of their populations but also of their size and potentialities”.

The ratio of parliamentary seats for Malaya has been deviously manipulated through the years from 65% in 1963 (with 104 out of 159 seats) to the current 75% (with 166 out of 222 seats) which renders constitutional safeguards meaningless for Sabah and Sarawak.

This veto power of the Borneo States was unlawfully removed through the dilution of the 35% MPs without the concurrence of the Sabah government in breach of the recommendation of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) and agreed upon by the founding fathers of Malaysia. Paragraph 30(1) of the IGC Report states that:-

Constitutional Safeguards

30. (1) It is mentioned in other parts of this Report that the Federal Constitution should provide that certain provisions relating to the Borneo States should not be amended or repealed without the concurrence of the Government of the State concerned.  These provisions relate to immigration, citizenship, representation in the Federal Parliament and the High Court of the Borneo States. …………

So far all focus on the redelineation is upon the number of voters in a given constituency as though Sabah and Sarawak are not important in the exercise. Without Sabah and Sarawak, there would have been no Malaysia and all it exists would be the Federation of Malaya.

“The number of voters in Malayan constituencies is not the sole criteria, so what are the MPs from Malaya talking about?” queried Dr. Jeffrey.

In Malaya, the parliamentary seat of Putrajaya with an area of about 49 sq. km. (19 sq. miles) had only 15,791 registered voters in the last elections and the MP is now a Minister.

In comparison, the Keningau parliamentary constituency which comprises my Bingkor State constituency and two others has 43,691 voters over an area of 3,533 sq. km.   Keningau is larger than the combined area of Penang, Malacca and Perlis (3,505 sq.km.) which has a combined 26 MPs.  Imagine the disparity in allocations for the MPs and development funds where Keningau with 1 MP will get pittance compared to the 26 MPs?  

The disparity is even greater for the Parliamentary constituency of Kinabatangan, an area of 16,658 sq. km., and represented by a single MP. Its size is larger than the combined area of Kelantan (14,882 sq.km.) and Malacca (1,650 sq. km.).

“Therefore, the proposed redelineation exercise to be announced by the EC at the end of this year should rectify the past mistake and restore the special position of Sabah and Sarawak in the Federation” added Jeffrey.

If the Prime Minister and his BN government want Sabah and Sarawak to remain as equal partners in the Federation of Malaysia, the time has come for them to insist to the EC that 35% of the MP seats should go to Sabah and Sarawak in the redelineation exercise.    

I believe that the opposition PR will have no objections restoring the autonomy of Sabah and Sarawak as it is in their plan for the Borneo States. 

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