Return of seats will give Sabah, Sarawak a bigger voice

KUCHING: The restoration of 35% of parliamentary seats to Sarawak and Sabah will give both states a bigger voice in forming federal laws, say Sarawak leaders.

Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) secretary-general Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi said this was a significant move to maintain checks and balances in Parliament, particularly with regard to constitutional amendments affecting both states, which require a two-thirds majority to be passed.

“It’s important because if there is any attempt to amend the Constitution, especially those which affect Sarawak and Sabah, then Peninsular Malaysia (lawmakers) cannot do it on their own.

“At the moment, because Sarawak and Sabah do not command more than one-third (of seats), anything that requires more than two-thirds (majority to be passed) can be done singly by the peninsula,” he said yesterday.

Nanta said this was not about competing with Peninsular Malaysia but maintaining the concept of checks and balances in Parliament.

He said it was also about restoring the ratio of parliamentary seats for Sarawak and Sabah to the original position when Malaysia was formed in 1963.

“To hear that this has been endorsed is welcome news,” he added.

Yesterday Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob gave his commitment to the issues raised by Sarawak and Sabah in a meeting of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 Special Council which he chaired on Thursday, including the total number of representatives from both states in Parliament.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, who attended the meeting, was reported saying on Thursday that it endorsed the move of restoring 35% of parliamentary seats to Sabah and Sarawak.

This would give both states 78 out of the total 222 seats.

Chief political secretary to Sarawak Premier Fazzrudin Abdul Rahman said the move was important for power sharing between the regional partners of the Malaysian Federation.

He said Peninsular Malaysia currently controlled more than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, or 166 out of 222.

“It is our view that this must change to respect the voice and views of Sarawak and Sabah and avoid laws that are detrimental to the Borneo states from being passed.

“The Federal Constitution must represent the interests of all parties in the federation,” Fazzrudin said.

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