Shafie: Sabah ready to work with Sarawak so one-third of Parliament seats come from East Malaysia

Sabah is prepared to cooperate with Sarawak to push for the number of Dewan Rakyat seats in both states to be increased. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Sabah is prepared to cooperate with Sarawak to push for the number of Dewan Rakyat seats in both states to be increased. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — Sabah is prepared to cooperate with Sarawak to push for the number of Dewan Rakyat seats in both states to be increased to restore their original position as having one third of federal seats as well as to ensure adequate representation of voters.

According to local daily The Star, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal agreed with Sarawak’s assertion that both Sabah and Sarawak should hold one-third of the seats in Parliament.

Malaysia was initially formed in 1963 with Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, with Peninsular Malaysia reportedly having one-third of the Parliament seats, Sabah 16, Sarawak 24 and Singapore 15.

But when Singapore no longer became part of Malaysia, Singapore’s seats were not distributed to Sabah and Sarawak.

“Fifteen Parliament seats of Singapore were moved to Peninsular Malaysia with Sabah and Sarawak not getting an increase in their representation following Singapore’s exit, “ Shafie was quoted saying by The Star.

Shafie was also reported citing other factors such as the consideration of population and size of constituencies in considering the increase of seats in Sabah, pointing out that Sabah’s Kinabatangan parliamentary seat is almost the size of the entire Pahang state which has 14 parliamentary seats, while Sabah’s Silam seat is similar in size to Perlis which has three parliamentary seats.

“There is definitely a need for more Parliament seats in Sabah and Sarawak. We are ready to work with Sarawak on this matter,” he said.

Over the past few days, Sarawak leaders including Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Tun Openg have said the state will pursue having one-third of Malaysia’s Parliament seats allocated to Sabah and Sarawak, as the power distribution would otherwise lean heavily in favour of Peninsular Malaysia.

On July 17, The Borneo Post reported Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing highlighting that Peninsular Malaysia did not have a two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat before Singapore ceased being part of Malaysia in 1965, noting that it meant that MPs in Peninsular Malaysia could not amend the Federal Constitution without backing from MPs in Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.

Noting the reallocation of Singapore’s 15 seats solely to Peninsular Malaysia and MPs from Peninsular Malaysia having two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat, Masing noted that Parliament could pass laws detrimental to the interest of Sabah and Sarawak.

“We must fight for this position to safeguard our rights. Sabah must join us in this pursuance. They must stop riding on our coat tails,” he was quoted saying when backing the call for Sabah and Sarawak to have one-third representation in the Dewan Rakyat.

The Dewan Rakyat currently has 222 seats which means one-third of the seats there would come up to 74 seats. Sabah at 25 seats and Sarawak at 31 seats collectively come up to 56 seats now.

Sabah and Sarawak activists and leaders have in the past argued that Malaysia should recognise and restore the status of both states as equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia in the formation of Malaysia.

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