Malaysia: Sarawak, Sabah demand more seats under equal status

  • The proposed amendment to Article 1(2) of the federal constitution to restore Sarawak and Sabah’s status as equal partners in the federation of Malaysia must include according the two states one-third of seats (74 seats) in Parliament, Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing said.
  • He was referring to the arrangement when Malaysia was formed in 1963, when Malaya held two-thirds of parliamentary seats, while Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore held the other one-third as a constitutional safeguard.
  • With Singapore’s departure from the federation, the one-third of seats should be redistributed and shared between Sabah and Sarawak to maintain the constitutional safeguard, Masing said.
  • But this has not been done and currently, Sabah and Sarawak hold just under 25% of parliamentary seats (56 seats).
  • The parliamentary seat allocation is contained in the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report at the founding of Malaysia to ensure that the constitution would not be freely amended by Malaya representatives alone.
  • Giving the two Bornean states a third of total parliamentary seats would provide them “veto power” if they voted as a block in the event of unfavourable constitutional amendments that required a two-thirds majority, Masing added.
  • The Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president said in Sarawak’s case, its parliamentary seats should be increased from the present 31 to at least 38. The remainder of the 74 seats could go to Sabah.
  • Masing also said that increasing seats for Sarawak and Sabah is important given the current trend among Malay-Muslim parties to use race and religion to win back support from peninsular Malays.
  • He, however, said the two states did not want to derail the proposed amendment to restore their equal status and assured that his party’s MPs would support it, with a caveat.
  • Masing’s views are shared by Piasau assemblyman Sebastian Ting who said without one-third of parliamentary seats given to Sabah and Sarawak “our rights in the federal constitution would always be at risk as the peninsula can easily remove them at will”.
  • Meanwhile, Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) activist Zainnal Ajamain said there are other provisions that needed to be amended.
  • These include Article 160 (2) to redefine the meaning of “The Federation”, which presently refers to the one established in 1957 under the Federation of Malaya Agreement, and not the Federation of Malaysia.
  • Zainnal also said amendments were needed to other clauses under Article 1 on the Names, States and Territories of the Federation to reflect Sabah and Sarawak’s equal status.

External Link: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/139773

External Link: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/139465

12-Mar-2019


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