KUCHING: Sarawak and Sabah’s claim for a larger representation in the federal Parliament, increasing the current 25 percent East Malaysia ratio of seats was merited in the Inter-Governmental Committee Report (IGC) 1962.
Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg in dismissing an analyst’s view that the East Malaysian ratio of commanding a quarter of the seats has expired seven years after Malaysia’s formation said this was stated clearly in the report.
“No, (it hasn’t expired). Because the IGC is there. It (stated) very clearly. It is not in terms of number, but it is stated explicitly.
“This is the assurance which is the parliamentary representation, education and language and others.
“I know, I read the article,” he told reporters in a press conference after officiating at the opening ceremony of the Investsmart @ Sarawak 2022 organised by Securities Commission of Malaysia (SC) here today.
He was asked to comment on a commentary by Wong Chin Huat, who is also a political scientist, dated July 20, 2020 who deliberated at length on Sarawak and Sabah’s claim for one-third of the parliamentary seats.
On the recent endorsement of the Special Council on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MKMA63) to restore 35 percent parliamentary seats for East Malaysia, Abang Johari said the state has agreed in principle that the Borneo States must get 35 percent parliamentary representation.
“This is part of the matters stated in the IGC after Singapore exited Malaysia,” he said.
“And this is to correct the imbalance because the Constitution cannot be amended with a two-third majority.
“If we are not in the two-third majority, they will change anything, if they wanted. So, we just want the protection,’ he said.
He stressed that under the IGC, it says that the rights and interest of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore must be protected.
“This one is what we called assurance in the IGC,” he pointed out.
When asked what would Sarawak do if the matter is stuck in the federal cabinet, Abang Johari said, “I don’t know if it is stuck or not. How do we know?”
In the commentary by Wong, he said he cannot find anything in the MA63 that supports the claim that after Singapore left Malaysia in 1965, Sarawak and Sabah should inherit Singapore’s 15 seats to retain the veto bloc against Malaya’s dominance.
“Going beyond MA63, I, however, do find a promise concerning parliamentary seats in the 1962 IGC report.
“Consisting of representatives from Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (later renamed Sabah) and Sarawak governments, IGC made many recommendations that were adopted by MA63,” he said.
He then referred to Paragraph 19(2) which reads “Article 46(1) should be amended to increase the numbers of the House of Representatives from one hundred and four to one hundred and fifty-nine (including the fifteen proposed for Singapore). Of the additional members, sixteen should be elected in North Borneo and twenty-four in Sarawak. The proportion that the number of seats allocated respectively to Sarawak and to North Borneo bears to the total number of seats in the House should not be reduced (except by reason of the granting of seats to any other new State) during a period of seven years after Malaysia Day without the concurrence of the Government of the State concerned, and thereafter (except as aforesaid) shall be subject to Article 159(3) of the existing Federal Constitution (which requires bills making amendments to the Constitution to be supported in each House of Parliament by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of that House).”
“Two facts are crystal clear: first, Singapore was never lumped together with Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak in seat allocation, hence the proportion guaranteed was only “North Borneo’s 16” + “Sarawak’s 24” divided by “Malaysia’s 159”, ie, 40/159 or 25.16 percent; second, this 25.16 percent proportion was protected for only seven years after Malaysia Day.
“Hence, the quarter proportion had expired after Sept 16, 1970, and its continued adherence for most of the time after 1970 was driven by political goodwill, not by legal obligation,” said Wong.