Electoral borders: Ridiculous to base representation on geographical size

Jeniri-AmirPETALING JAYA: It is ridiculous to compare an alleged lack of legislative representation for Sabah by referring to geographical size, experts said.

They said what mattered was the size of the population of a place and not its geographical size.

Comparing population size with geographical size would be like comparing apples with oranges, they said, in commenting on a video making its rounds on social media.

The two-minute, 11-second video, was posted on Facebook by a user identifying himself as John Richard Stephens.

It says Sabah has been treated unfairly in the drawing up of electoral borders. One of its highlights is a comparison of the Keningau district (3,533 square kilometres) with the states of Penang (1,039 sq km), Melaka (1,630 sq km) and Perlis (816 sq km).

It points out that Keningau has one parliament and three state seats whereas Penang has 12 and 40, Melaka has six and 28 and Perlis has three and 15 respectively.

“Keningau is only a district but it can fit three states. Just think, if the district of Keningau is Keningau state (instead),” the video states.

Dr Jeniri Amir, an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, commenting on the video, said comparing the number of seats in a certain constituency with that of a state would be like comparing “apples and oranges”.

He said it was “illogical and unfair” to expect more representation for a geographically large but sparsely populated area than a smaller but more populous one.

Jeniri said three state seats were more than enough for Keningau which only had slightly more than 134,000 residents.

He noted that the populations of Penang, Melaka and Perlis were much bigger.

FMT’s checks show 1.65 million stay in Penang, 872,900 in Melaka and 251,000 in Perlis.

Dr Arnold Puyok, another analyst who also teaches at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said taking into account several factors, such as economic potential and population, Sabah’s greatest challenge was that it was sparsely populated.

He said the solution did not lie in creating more legislative seats, but in ensuring that representatives “of quality” got elected to occupy those seats.

“The member of parliament representing a huge area can, among other things, appoint more community development leaders to report to him, or help him deal with development or people-related matters,” he added.