By Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau
KOTA KINABALU: WISDOM Foundation calls on the Federal Government to act on reforming the Malaysian Parliament by considering Sabah’s perspective based on the spirit of the formation of Malaysia as it was established in the 1963 Malaysian Agreement (MA63).
Sarawak is the state with the biggest land area in Malaysia at 124,450 km², followed by Sabah at 73,631 km².
In essence, Sabah and Sarawak is mainland Malaysia, accounting for 60% of the total land mass.
In addition, Sabah and Sarawak are very rich in natural resources and yet, the people, especially Sabahans, are the poorest in the country.
Despite the fact that we will be celebrating the 58th Malaysia Day this coming 16th September 2021, Sabah remains to be the state with the highest incidence of absolute poverty at 25.3%, almost double the percentage of the state of Sarawak which is 12.9% in 2020 according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM).
This clearly indicates that there is a crucial need for a greater voices and votes of elected representatives and Senators from Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian Parliament.
In 1963, the Dewan Rakyat consisted a total of 159 seats when Malaysia was formed: 104 seats for Malaya, 16 seats for Sabah, 24 seats for Sarawak, and 15 seats for Singapore.
Based on these arrangements, only 34% of parliamentary seats represented constituents from outside of Malaya and when Singapore separated from Malaysia, this percentage dropped to 25%.
Today, the Dewan Rakyat consists of 222 seats: 166 seats for Peninsular Malaysia, 25 seats for Sabah, and 31 seats for Sarawak.
Unfortunately, the percentage of parliamentary seats which are not from Peninsular Malaysia has maintained at only 25% in which Sabah accounts for only 11% while Sarawak stands at 14%.
Parliament requires many reforms in order to regain its glory as an independent legislative branch nevertheless, the Federal Government must act on this imbalance in the allocation of seats among the states of Malaysia.
Sabah and Sarawak are supposed to be equal partners with Malaya, unfortunately, right from the very beginning, the total number of seats has always been unequal with Malaya having 2/3 of the total allocation.
Therefore, in order to regain our equal partner status, what is doable is to increase the number of Sabahans and Sarawakians in the Senate from the present 9 to 24 members which means we need to appoint 15 additional Senators from Sabah and Sarawak.
WISDOM Foundation strongly urge the Federal Government to undertake Parliamentary reform to ensure that Parliament will have effective contribution to nation building.