NGO: Give S’wak, Sabah veto power in Senate, not over-representation in Parliament

Rise of Social Efforts (Rose) logo.

KUCHING, Feb 3: It would be better to pursue reform of the Senate or Upper House of Parliament to give Sarawak and Sabah real veto powers to protect their rights and interests instead of one-third parliamentary seat allocation, which would cause greater over-representation in Parliament that does not augur well for the upholding of the democratic principle of equality.

This is the views of Rise of Social Efforts (Rose) in responding to Deputy Prime Minister Dato Sri Fadillah Yusof’s recent remarks that it would take two to three years to come up with a resolution for returning the one-third seat composition in the Parliament for Sarawak and Sabah.

Its president Ann Teo pointed out that the demand for one-third of seats for Sarawak and Sabah has no historical or legal basis or support, for there is nothing in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) that guarantees the Borneo States one-third representation.


“The 1962 IGC (Inter-Governmental Committee) Report that led to the MA63 did guarantee 25 per cent seats for Sarawak and Sabah about total seats in DR (Dewan Rakyat) but only for seven 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 the population of electorates.

“Furthermore, in terms of representation in Parliament, Sabah and Sarawak, with 25 per cent seats are currently over-represented as our total electorate is only one-sixth (16-17 per cent) of the total Malaysian electorate. This means that we are already not following the principle of one person, one vote, one value,” she said in a statement today.

As an example, Teo referred to Bangi, which is the biggest Parliament seat with 300,000 voters and the smallest seat Igan in Sarawak, which has 28,000 voters, with each constituency represented by one member of Parliament (MP).

“If Sabah/Sarawak seats are increased to 35 per cent, 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’s rights and interests can be protected by these senators when there is a need to exercise veto powers,” she reasoned.

Teo also mentioned that Sarawak 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 (EC) 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,” she added.

While she noted that Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s (GPS) demand for increased representation in Parliament was to prevent Peninsula Malaysia from amending the Constitution that may eliminate the rights of Sarawak and Sabah as enshrined in MA63, Teo questioned if more MPs mean better policies made and basic needs met for people of the Borneo States.

“They fail to inform that constitutional safeguards were built into the founding documents of Malaysia starting from the IGC Report, MA63, 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’,” she pointed out.

Teo stressed that what would make Sarawakian voices or interests heard and addressed would be MPs who truly play their role as lawmakers, whether they are on 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,” she said. — DayakDaily