KOTA KINABALU: A “shelved” Bill to increase Sabah’s state assembly seats from 60 to 73 is expected to be tabled in Parliament this month.
Sources told The Star that the proposal for the 13 new seats, which was controversially “put on hold” by the previous Barisan Nasional government, had been given the green light for tabling in Parliament.
“It could be expected to be tabled next week during the current Parliament meeting,” a source said.
It is understood that the move comes after the state government under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal requested Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to table the Bill.
In August 2016, the Sabah legislative assembly passed an amendment to the state Constitution to allow for the 13 new seats to be created.
This was gazetted after the Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negri gave his consent by the end of that year.
The Election Commission (EC) submitted the proposal for the creation of the seats in 2017 to then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for tabling in Parliament.
But this never materialised, triggering a controversy and legal action ahead of the general election.
(Initially, the Sabah Barisan government led by then chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman had pushed for the new seats but apparently later asked the federal government to put it on hold following the possibility that its rival Parti Warisan Sabah, led by Shafie, had more to gain if the new seats were created.)
It is understood that the EC under new chairman Azhar Azizan Harun had resubmitted the proposal to Dr Mahathir late last year as it should have been tabled within two years of Sabah’s gazetting the amendment.
The source said that the Bill needed a simple majority in Parliament and if it is passed, the EC could begin the process of creating the 13 new seats.
De facto Law Minister Datuk V.K. Liew declined to comment when asked about the possibility of the Bill being tabled this Parliament meeting.
On April 23 last year, the High Court dismissed a bid by former chief minister Yong Teck Lee and six others for a court order to compel the Prime Minister to table the EC’s report for the 13 new Sabah seats in Parliament.
The court held that the issue was academic as Parliament had been dissolved on April 7, paving the way for the May 9 general election.
However, the judge agreed with their contention that the Prime Minister had no discretion in not tabling the EC report as it was mandatory to do so under the Constitution.