KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s unique constitutional provision to appoint six non-elected representatives to sit in the state assembly can be used to boost women representation in the government.
In making the call, Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo) said the state government should convert the currently nominated seats into “Top-Up Women-Only Additional Seats”.
“If 18 or fewer state assemblywomen are elected in the next state election for the 73 state seats, then all six nominated seats must be filled by women pre-nominated by various parties, ” Sawo said in a statement.
The group said it was unacceptable that only seven of the 73 elected representatives – or 9.6% – were women in the present state assembly, which is a far cry from a minimum target of 30%.
Sawo urged Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor to take a bold step towards using women’s only additional seats in the state legislature as part of efforts to meet the 30% target.
“If 22 women are elected then we would have achieved 30% women representation in the Sabah assembly and if it is lower, then there is a need for a top-up using the nominated seats, ” Sawo said, adding that even it did not achieve the 30% target, it would at least close the gap.
The Sawo statement said there was no lack of female talents in politics but “what we are really short of is retiring male incumbents who cannot be removed by party leadership even if they have lost their vigour and relevance”.
Top-up seats for women is nothing new in Malaysia.
Under PAS, Terengganu changed its state constitution in 2003 to allow for appointing of up to four women or non-Muslim nominated representatives if no women or non-Muslims were elected.
“Sabah must do better than Terengganu, ” Sawo said, adding that it hoped the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah government under Hajiji would use Article 14(1)(c) of the state constitution to provide women representation for the nominated seats.