Electoral reform: Sabah, Sarawak must have over one-third parliamentary representation

Abang Johari (seated third left) and leaders of other GPS coalition members giving their thumbs-up in a show of strength and unity.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Feb 6: The Sarawak government insists that Sabah and Sarawak lawmakers must make up over one-third representation in Parliament, as part of the country’s electoral reform exercise.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the two-thirds majority should not be confined to one area, but consist of the three regions of Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia which formed the Malaysian federation.


“It must be more than one-third, Sabah and Sarawak combined. At the moment, the peninsula MPs have enough numbers to amend the (Federal) Constitution and this is not right.

“If they want to amend the Constitution, they must also get support from Sabah and Sarawak. We want to be part and parcel of the reform,” he told a press conference after chairing the state ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) supreme council meeting here today.

Currently, Sabah, with 25 MPs (Members of Parliament) and Sarawak, with 31, make up just 25 per cent of the 222-member Parliament. However, 75 out of 222 would constitute 34 per cent, which is one-third of the membership.

Abang Johari said this in light of the the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) submitting its interim report to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Jan 13.

Its chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the full report would be submitted by August 2020.

Sarawak’s proposal that the number of parliamentary representation in both Bornean states be increased to make up one-third of the 222 parliamentary seats is in line with Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.

Before Singapore left Malaysia, the number of MPs for Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah was 55 from 159 seats, which was equivalent to 34.6 per cent.

The chief minister noted that there are certain provisions within the Sarawak Constitution, as those under the Federal Constitution. Any proposal by the state government must be passed in the State Legislative Assembly to get approval.

“They have set up their own committee led by Tan Sri Rashid Abdul Rahman. They have their own proposal and we also have our own proposal but one, of which is very important to us is the one-third (representation).

“Previously, with Singapore, we are more than one-third (representation). Sabah and Sarawak must have members of more than one-third,” he continued.

When asked if he has spoken with his Sabah counterpart, Abang Johari said Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal has shared the same thought on the matter.

The ERC, set up in Aug 2018, has carried out mandated research on electoral systems and laws, including making comparisons with developed countries.

The committee has organised 21 stakeholders’ engagement sessions, gathering feedback from the civil societies, and public and political parties. Among the matters discussed was forming an Electoral Boundary Committee for redelineation exercises.

Abdul Rashid proposed that the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system be retained for state seats, while parliamentary seats be decided by the party-list proportional representation system to ensure fairness. — DayakDaily