KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has resorted to breaking a parliamentary embargo on the 2017 proposal for new voting boundaries in Sabah, in a desperate move just a day before it is expected to be tabled for debate and voting in the Dewan Rakyat.
Bersih 2.0 said the 2017 Sabah delineation review report was tabled on July 8, but said its contents were kept away from the public due to the embargo until July 17 (tomorrow).
“Bersih 2.0 expresses deep disappointment that its call on July 9 for the embargo to be lifted was ignored and that the public is kept in the dark on this important decision as no media could report on the report,” the watchdog’s steering committee said in a statement today.
“Bersih 2.0 believes that the public must be informed of the report’s content before parliamentarians vote on it, and has no choice but to violate the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 to reveal the full content of the report,” it added.
It offered to pay the maximum RM1,000 fine to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s office for breaching the embargo.
Bersih 2.0 released the report online and also shared a link where the scanned copy of the report can be downloaded.
The electoral watchdog noted that it had previously already warned that the two-year-old proposal regarding Sabah’s electoral boundaries is “malicious, flawed and obsolete”, highlighting that the 2017 report would only worsen the problem of unequal representation of voters in different constituencies within the state.
It highlighted the problems in the 2017 report, illustrated by examples such as where Sabah’s largest parliamentary constituency of Sepanggar at 55,294 voters would have 2.22 times as many voters as Sabah’s smallest federal constituency of Beluran at 24,916 voters.
It also noted that the proposal would see the largest state constituency in Sabah of Sri Tanjong at 25,104 voters having 4.58 times as many voters as the smallest state constituency there of Banggi at just 5,485 voters.
“The excessive malapportionment of constituencies will be worsened with the lowering of voting age to 18 and automatic voter registration, with the likelihood that 300,000-400,000 new voters added to Sabah’s existing electorate of 1,117,337 by GE15, disproportionally in urban area,” the group said.
Bersih 2.0 said the problem should be solved by having the federal government cancel the planned debate and voting on the 2017 report tomorrow.
Stressing that a new redelineation exercise is needed for Sabah and many other states within Malaysia instead of having the 2017 proposal for Sabah adopted or sticking to the last redrawing during the previous administration, Bersih 2.0 said this fresh redrawing of voting boundaries should start after Malaysia implements a lower voting age and automatic voter registration.
Bersih 2.0 also called on the Sabah state government to promise to change its state constitution to increase its seats after the number of voters have increased.
If the federal government does not cancel the planned debate and voting on the 2017 proposal, all MPs especially the 26 MPs from Sabah and Labuan should vote against or at least abstain from voting on the proposal, Bersih 2.0 said.
Bersih 2.0 also called on Malaysians to email their respective MPs to urge them to vote against the 2017 proposal or abstain from voting on it.