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Parliamentary Seats are Constitutional Safeguards for Sabah Sarawak – Dr. Jeffrey

Kota Kinabalu:    “Allocation of parliamentary seats for Sabah and Sarawak should not be based solely on population and as though Sabah and Sarawak are equal in status to the States in the Peninsula” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief, commenting on the view that extra seats will not help Sabah and Sarawak or that Sabah and Sarawak are not entitled to extra seats in the new re-delineation exercise due to its lower population.
The number of parliamentary seats is a constitutional safeguard agreed at the formation of Malaysia to safeguard the position and interests of Sabah and Sarawak.   Without this safeguard, Sabah and Sarawak would probably not have joined the federation as it would mean that it would be swallowed up by and be at the mercy of Malaya.

As provided in the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report, in 1963 Malaya was only allocated 104 seats representing 65% of the parliamentary seats with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore getting 35%.  This was a constitutional safeguard for the Borneo States to ensure that the Federal Constitution would not be freely amended by Malaya representatives alone.

It was also recommended in paragraphs 165 and 190(g) of the Cobbold Commission Report that “representation of the Borneo territories shall take into account not only of their populations but also of their size and potentialities.”

When Singapore departed in 1965, their allocation should have been shared between Sabah and Sarawak.    It was not and was overlooked.  In hindsight, it could have been a deliberate manipulation by the federal Malayan leaders.  

As a result, the Federal Constitution was amended on 27 August 1976 down-grading Sabah and Sarawak to be the 12th and 13th States, equal to the likes of Perlis (which is 90 times smaller than Sabah which in area is equal to 9 states in Peninsula) and Sarawak being almost equal in size to all the 11 Peninsular States.

To Sabah and Sarawak, the parliamentary seats are seen not from population but from its size and potentialities, their entitlement of 35% to deny Malaya a 2/3 majority in Parliament and as a constitutional safeguard to protect their interests from being over-run by Malaya.

As a result, in the forthcoming re-delineation exercise, Sabah and Sarawak should be entitled to 35% of the enlarged Parliament.   At the Senate level, Sabah and Sarawak should have at least 1/3 of the Senators.

To some, it may be seen as a step to keep the Barisan Nasional in power.   It is not so whatever the detractors may say.   To the PR supporters, the solution is a simple one.   PR should work with parties in Sabah and Sarawak particularly opposition parties to win in Sabah and Sarawak who can then in turn support PR to form the federal government.

Currently, non-Umno BN components control 8 MPs in Sabah and and 25 MPs in Sarawak.   Together with the 89 it currently holds, PR would have 122 seats, more than the 112 needed to form the federal government.   PR is not working hard enough to achieve this and thinks that it can win control of Putrajaya on their own without support from Sabah and Sarawak parties.  

It is a narrow and myopic view because as long as it is part of the federal government, it remains the same for parties from Sabah and Sarawak.   For instance, the 25 MPs from Sarawak BN can form the federal government with PR and they would still be controlling the Sarawak government as well as be part of the federal government.   If such is the case, the Sabah BN even Sabah Umno MPs will be joining them in the federal government.   Together with the 22 MPs from Sabah, PR will have 136 seats, a very comfortable majority.   It will not be surprising that it will turn into a 2/3 majority with 12 Umno MPs from Malaya jumping over.

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