SRI AMAN, September 10 — Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg today 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.
“Today we have a rational federal government, but we don’t know tomorrow if there are leaders at the federal level having the same kind of spirit.
“They can dissolve Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA6) if they amend the Federal Constitution at will with the support of over two-thirds Members of Parliament,” he told reporters after launching the Tidal Bore Festival here.
“Because of that we must protect the spirit of MA63 so that it will not adversely affect both parties,” he said.
The premier was asked to comment on the decision of the Special Council of the MA63 meeting chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob three days ago.
Among the issues endorsed was the proposal to Sabah and Sarawak’s federal seats to 35 per cent of Parliament.
Abang Johari and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Hajiji Noor were among those present at the meeting.
The premier said he wanted Malaysia to be strong and united, which was why he insisted that the combined parliamentary seats of the two Borneo states must be 35 per cent or one-third.
He said that during the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the combined number of seats from Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore had been 35 per cent or one-third in Parliament.
After Singapore was expelled in 1965, however, its parliamentary seats were all allocated to Peninsular Malaysia.
“If we want to respect the original spirit of the federation, then the ratio of seats between the peninsula and Sarawak and Sabah must be that two-thirds representing Peninsular Malaysia and one-third, Sarawak and Sabah.
“That is why we take figure 35 per cent. This will allow a balance in the distribution of power between Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak and Sabah, especially when we want to protect MA63.
“This is because the Federal Constitution can be amended when there is a support of two-thirds of the total number of members of parliament,” he said.
He added there are people who said the increase in the number of seats ought to be based on one man one without taking other factors into consideration.
“But for us, it must be based on Westminster’s principle where the delineating of electoral boundaries is based on the population and size of landmass.
“If it is to be based solely on population, then the kampung people will not have representatives because of the low population in the rural areas compared to the urban centres,” he said.
“Where these seats will be, it is up to the Election Commission (EC) to decide,” said.
He said any increase in the number of seats should follow the same proportion that the two Borneo states have at present, adding that Sarawak now has 31 while Sabah, 25, parliamentary seats.
“But we leave it to the EC to decide. It is their job, not ours,” he said, adding:” Our work is only to ask that the spirit of MA63 is maintained.”
He said there is no need to rush into delineating the electoral boundaries so to increase the number of seats in Sarawak and Sabah to 35 per cent.
He thanked Ismail Sabri for listening to the views of Sarawak and Sabah on the increase in percentage of parliamentary seats.