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‘Bigger than peninsula’ but Sarawak under-represented

 | September 20, 2011

Thirty-one parliamentary seats is simply not enough for sprawling Sarawak.

KUCHING: The opposition in Sarawak has backed a Barisan Nasional MP’s call for more seats in rural Sarawak, saying that the state is “clearly under-represented”.

PKR said there is an urgent need to review the number of parliamentary and state seats given to Sarawak.

Currently Sarawak, which is almost the same size as the whole of Peninsular Malaysia, has only 31 parliamentary and 71 state seats.

In comparison, the whole of the Peninsula has 166 parliamentary seats.

Sabah has 25 parliamentary seats.

Said Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian: “Sarawak is clearly under-represented, especially the rural areas.

“This is one of the breaches of the 18 points that are enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement.

“The agreement guarantees Sarawak rights in the federation of Malaysia.

“It is time the government reviewed the number of parliamentary and state seats given to Sarawak.”
Bian was commenting on remarks by Baram MP Jacob Dungau Sagan, who is also Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister.

Too few reps for Baram

On Sunday, Sagan said that it was not fair to Baram voters that they are served by only MPs and two state assemblymen.

Baram is said to be almost as big as the state of Pahang in the peninsula. Pahang has 14 parliamentary and 42 state seats.

But the Baram constituency is made up of of only two state constituencies, which are Telang Usan and Marudi.

Sagan said it would be ideal if the Baram constituency is split into two parliamentary sectors with at least two more state seats in addition to the existing ones.

Welcoming Sagan’s suggestion, Bian said: “The rural people are clearly under-represented, especially the Orang Ulu community which is represented by only three state assemblymen from Ba’Kelalan, Telang Usan and Belaga.

“The community should have at least five state seats.”

“It is time the authorities reviewed and increased the seats given to the community.”

Opposition support for BN call

Bian is the state assemblyman for Ba’Kelalan, the smallest constituency in Sarawak. Ba’Kelalan has 6,958 voters comprising mainly the Orang Ulu communities.

Another Orang Ulu leader, Dennis Ngau, also echoed Sagan’s views.

Ngau, who is the BN assemblyman for Telang Usan, believed that Baram needed more elected representatives.

“More seats would mean more grants for rural development projects.

“Currently, I serve 151 villages and longhouses. They are mostly scattered all over my constituency and far from each other.

“Ideally, we should have one more parliamentary and one more state constituencies,” Ngau said.

The Orang Ulu natives comprising the Kayans, Kenyahs, Penans, Kelabits and other ethnic groups have always been served by three state elected representatives.

The seats have never been increased since independence 48 years ago, while the seats for the Chinese increase from 12 to 13, Ibans from 18 to 19 and Malay/Melanau from 18 to 27.

The Bidayuh community has six seats and the Bisaya community has one.

The Election Commission (EC) carries out a delineation of electoral boundaries every 10 years.

Hard to convince EC

But Sagan said it would take some convincing to get the EC to delineate new constituencies for Baram given its low population.

“With the number we are having now, it would be hard for us to convince the EC to create an additional seat in Baram in its next boundary alignment exercise.

“The only way to convince the EC to give Baram more seats is to increase voter registrations in a specific area to at least 6,000.

“(And) it can only be done in the next delineation exercise in two or three years’ time, ” he said.

Sagan is eyeing the 10,000-strong Penan community, the majority of whom are not registered as voters.

But this has its own set of problems.

According to Sagan, the majority of the Penans are stateless and have no documentation.

But efforts are underway to assist them, he said.

Baram currently only has 26,716 registered voters and they are spread thinly across Baram’s scenic landscape of mountains, rivers and stretches of green.


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