Treat restoration of 35 pct seats in Parliament for Borneo states as top priority, urgency, urges Sabah GRS leader

 
KOTA KINABALU: A youth leader in the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition wants the proposed restoration of 35 per cent East Malaysia’s parliamentary seats from the overall number to be treated as top priority as it concerns the national interest.

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Sabah Bersatu Armada Vice Chief Rafie Robert said that while it is up to the Election Commission to decide, the matter is of great importance as it is another restoration in accordance with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“We must push this and make it happen for the interest of Sabahans and Sarawakians. The original spirit of the federation must be respected,” he said.

During the formation of Malaysia in 1963, Sabah had 16 seats while Sarawak (24) and Singapore had 24 and 15 seats respectively from the overall 159 parliamentary seats, while Malaya held the remaining 65 per cent or 104 seats.

The combined number of seats from Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore had been 35 per cent or one-third in Parliament. But after Singapore was expelled in 1965, its parliamentary seats were all allocated to Malaya.

Rafie said the proposed restoration of the 35 per cent will allow a balance in the distribution of power between the three regions that make up the federation namely Peninsular Malaysia and the two Borneo states.

He also said that it will empower the Borneo states to protect their interest in the federation.

“We’ve been fighting for our rights for so long. But we need the numbers to have bigger muscles,” he said.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili recently disclosed that the restoration of 35 per cent East Malaysia’s parliamentary seats from the overall number was among key issues discussed at the 5th Special Council on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MKMA63) meeting.

But he said more engagements were required pertaining to the issue, especially among serving Borneo legislators and legal practitioners,

Lawmakers from Sabah and Sarawak have long demanded for a review on the number of parliamentary seats for both states.

The minister argued that the seats belonging to Singapore should be given to Sabah and Sarawak, to meet the 35 per cent representation.

“This is a bold statement from Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili and all of us in the GRS state government congratulate him for that. This is our way forward if we truly respect the original spirit of the federation,” said Rafie.

Based on the current calculation, of the 222 parliamentary seats, 166 or 75 per cent are in the Peninsula Malaysia while the remaining 25 per cent or 56 seats are for the Borneo states, with Sarawak (31) and Sabah (25).

Rafie also said he agreed with Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg who asserted that his insistence for his state and Sabah to receive a third of the country’s parliamentary seats was to safeguard their interests against any irrational leaders in the federal government.

He said while the current federal government is rational, there is no telling if there are leaders at the federal level having the same kind of spirit in the near future.

He feared that they could dissolve Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA6) by amending the Federal Constitution at will with the support of over two-thirds Members of Parliament.

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