By : MICHAEL KAUNG
KOTA KINABALU: With its support base on rocky ground, Sabah Barisan Nasional coalition member Upko is hoping the creation of new state and parliamentary constituencies will boost the fortunes of the party.
For this it is relying on resurrecting the Malaysia Agreement, a 50-year-old accord that has seldom been paid heed to since Sabah joined Sarawak, Singapore and the Malayan Federation in forming Malaysian on Sept 16, 1963.
The party which suffered major shocks in last month’s 13th General Election wants additional parliamentary and state seats to be created under the re-delineation exercise, by the Election Commission (EC), expected by the end of the year.
“As we are celebrating the golden jubilee of the formation of Malaysia this year, we are hoping to see a fairer re-delineation exercise which adheres to the spirit of Malaysian Agreement and as stated in the Cobbold Commission, giving the Borneo states no less than 34% of the total parliamentary seats as in the first election in 1967,” said its chief, Ewon Benedick.
Benedick said the autonomy of the Borneo states was an important issue brought up in the just concluded 13th general election (GE13) and that it could be a reason for the swing of votes in several seats in Sabah.
“More and more Sabahans are concerned with their constitutional rights being eroded in the present situation,” said Benedick, who is the new federal Science, Technology and Innovation Minister in a statement.
Under the present boundaries, the peninsula is allocated 165 seats as opposed to 56 for the Borneo states and one to Labuan for a total of 222 seats in Parliament.
According to Benedick, the Cobbold Commission Report, which was the basis for the Malaysia Agreement, clearly stated that “the representation of the Borneo territories in the Federal Parliament should take into account not only their populations but also their size and potentialities”.
In the GE13, Sabah and Sarawak with a geographical size of 198,081 sq km or 60% of the total land mass of 329,081 sq km of the nation together made up 15% or 2,065,786 of the total 13,268,007 voters in Malaysia. The peninsula is 131,598 sq km in size.
“We are also strongly pushing for a fairer distribution of state seats which reflect the true racial composition in Sabah as we have seen the systematic reduction of the non-Muslim native and Chinese dominated seats since the 1993 re-delineation exercise.
“We (Komulakan Upko) suggested at least six additional parliamentary seats and 12 additional state seats to be created under the new re-delineation exercise,” he said.
‘A test for Pakatan’
The proposed parliamentary seats are: Bengkoka, Sorob, Tamparuli, Inanam, Bukit Padang and Tambunan and the state seats are Sikuati, Kanibongan, Langkon, Wariu, Marabahai, Menggatal, Lokawi, Biau, Sunsuron, Apin-Apin, Telupid and Bukit Garam.
Benedick was responding to a statement by the deputy chairman of the EC, Wan Ahmad Wan Omar on Monday that a re-delineation exercise would be done at the end of the year.
The way Upko sees it the new seats would help the BN government to strengthen its efforts to develop and transform the areas with more funds and administrative focus being given directly to the areas concern.
Benedick acknowledged that people may be distrustful of his call since the state and federal government had done badly in the just concluded elections and see it as a way to boost their flagging fortunes by any means.
“While some people are skeptical … this is also a test for the Pakatan Rakyat law\makers to prove their sincerity if they really mean their manifesto of respecting and giving more autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak.
“They have nine lawmakers from the states and they need the commitment of just one (opposition) lawmaker from peninsula” to give a two-third vote of approval for the new election boundaries.
“I suppose certain segment of the rakyat voted for the Pakatan Rakyat candidates because they wanted to give them a chance to prove what they have been hearing since four years ago especially on the issue of autonomy.
“If they cannot vote a motion in favour of the interest of the two states, then what is it?” he asked.
Benedick pointed out that Pakatan’s call for a one vote one value was detrimental to Sabah.
“As I see now, their (Pakatan) peninsula counterparts are propagating the one-vote-one-value which will further erode the interest of the two states if implemented,” he said adding that the movement will put forward its suggestion to the party to be submitted to the EC.
Benedick also supported the move by Najib to control the functions of the EC through a by-partisan parliament select committee.
“Enough has been said about the EC, but putting them under a parliament select committee will see the impartiality of the commission is no longer questioned and that the confidence of the people towards them can be strengthened,” said the federal minister.