PETALING JAYA: The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) has called on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to drop the 2017 delimitation proposal for Sabah, which it said would be a disadvantage to Sabahans, especially the youth.
The proposal, tabled in Parliament on Monday (July 8) and slated for debate on July 17, was described as "malicious, flawed and obsolete" by Bersih 2.0, saying that the exercise would be another episode of Sabah's pain caused by the Federal Government's "bad and wrong decisions".
"Bersih 2.0 reminds the Prime Minister that the Government's bold moves to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 and allow automatic registration will expand the electorate by eight million, adding to the current 14.9 million.
"As the expansion of the electorate will exacerbate malapportionment, all states with severe malapportionment of federal and state constituencies should have another round of delimitation after both the lowered voting age and automatic registration are fully implemented," said the Bersih 2.0 steering committee in a statement on Tuesday (July 9).
Implementing the 2017 delimitation proposal for Sabah would waste the Election Commission (EC) resources and furthermore, it was based on electoral rolls dated May 13, 2016, then with a total of only 995,729 voters, said Bersih 2.0.
"If the obsolete 2017 proposal is put in place and kept effective until 2025, the lowering of the voting age will become a farce when excited new voters in urban areas find out their ballot is worth less than 1/5 or 1/6 of rural voters.
"The government and the Youth and Sports Ministry will bear the brunt of the youth's anger, who would feel cheated," it added.
The old proposal by the EC also embodied severe malapportionment, said Bersih 2.0, illustrating that Sabah's largest state constituency, N69 Sri Tanjung, would have 25,104 voters, or 4.5 times the number of voters in the state's smallest constituency, N01 Banggi, with only 5,485 voters.
"Altogether, the seven largest state constituencies would have more than twice as many voters as the eight smallest state constituencies," it said.
The disparity amongst parliamentary constituencies would also be severe, with the semi urban P171 Sepanggar (55,294), the rural P188 Lahad Datu (52,343) and the semi-rural P169 Kota Belud (51,767) having more than twice the electorate as the rural P183 Beluran (24,916).
"The previous EC's deliberate plan to malapportion parliamentary and state constituencies in Sabah was meant to not only distort Sabah electorate's choice, but also to maliciously sow division and discontent between regions and communities in the State, to facilitate the "divide and rule" scheme by power outside Sabah," it said.
Bersih 2.0 also called upon Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal to promise another constitutional amendment to add seats in the state legislature after the voting age has been lowered to 18 and automatic voter registration implemented.
"This would trigger another round of delimitation to be done properly and with integrity by the new EC under the reformist leadership of Azhar Azizan Harun," it said.
Bersih 2.0 also urged Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof to lift the embargo of the final version of the EC's Sabah delimitation proposal, saying that concealing the plan from public knowledge before the Parliament debate had no place in any democracy.
It added that if the proposal was not withdrawn, all MPs who believed in democracy should vote against it, especially the 25 MPs from Sabah.