Difficult to get a third seats in Parliament

Prof Dr Johan Saravanamuttu

KUCHING: Prof Dr Johan Saravanamuttu is of the view that despite Sabah and Sarawak’s autonomy as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963, it would be difficult to push for either state to be allocated a third of the seats in Parliament.

Nevertheless, the Adjunct Senior Fellow at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, believed it would be a good model to start with Sabah and Sarawak being considered in this regard as regions separate from Malaya and taking into account population proportionality.

“Malaya will be one region and voters will vote according to the proportionality of its states, and Sabah and Sarawak as one region and according to their proportionality,” he said.

He said this in line with Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) chairman Thomas Fann’s similar suggestion with regard to the proposed Proportional Representation (PR) system that Malaya should be one mega constituency, with Sabah and Sarawak as special separate districts.

He emphasised that such matters needed to be subjected to further debate and discussion.

“We should allow for a maximum airing of these issues to come up with the fairest distribution of seats that all parties can agree to.

“And of course, we must take into account MA63, but to immediately request a third of the seats — unfortunately, I do not think it will pass,” said Johan, who is also Professor Emeritus of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

He said this in response to a question after he presented his talk entitled ‘Power Sharing in a Divided Nation: Reflections on Electoral Reform’ held via Zoom on Saturday (Aug 28), part of a series of lectures organised by The Sarawak Initiatives (TSI).

In response to another question on his views on whether Sarawak should be allocated more parliamentary seats not due to its population but due to the state’s contribution to the country’s revenue, he pointed out if one were to go into such argument, other states would also have similar arguments on their contributions to the country as well.

“So, I think the electoral system must be separate from these other issues,” he emphasised.

“I think it is very important for Sarawak, particularly with its oil resources, to make the argument not through electoral reform but through other means to say that Sarawak deserves much more allocation of resources, allocation of capital, allocation of expenditure,” he said.

Johan also questioned why states which are producing such revenues, especially from oil and gas, are receiving such a pittance.

“I don’t think you can settle these kinds of problems through electoral reform; it is through other means or other reforms which we need for Malaysia to achieve a fairer system,” he said.