PBS: What’s holding up approval of new state seats for Sabah?

Parti Bersatu Sabah Vice- President, Johnny Mositun (Gambar Bernama)

PAPAR: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) has demanded an explanation for the failure of the Election Commission (EC) to present to Parliament its proposal to increase the number of Sabah state constituencies from 60 to 73.

Speaking to FMT, PBS vice-president Johnny Mositun said the matter was urgent and either the commission itself or the prime minister’s office must explain the apparent reluctance to get parliamentary approval for the proposed re-delineation.

He said it was also incumbent on Chief Minister Shafie Apdal to explain why his government had not pushed for the tabling of the proposal.

The Sabah Constitution was amended in August 2016 to enable the addition of 13 new seats to the state assembly. Mositun noted that this meant the constitution provided for contests in 73 state constituencies when the general election was held last year.

“But because the 13 new constituencies were not included in the Election Commission rolls, only 60 were contested,” he said, adding that the result of the state election might otherwise have been different.

He said it was odd that Azhar Harun, since taking over as EC chairman, had implied improprieties in the re-delineation of electoral boundaries in Peninsular Malaysia but had said nothing about the commission’s “inability or refusal” to list Sabah’s new constituencies in the electoral roll for the 14th general election.

Azhar and Shafie should take up the matter with the prime minister’s office if that was where it was being held up, he added.

“The 13 new state constituencies are our right,” he said. “There were no problems with approving the new constituencies for Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, but strangely there is a deafening silence over Sabah’s new constituencies.”

Last year, the Kota Kinabalu High Court dismissed a suit brought by the Gabungan Sabah coalition to compel then prime minister Najib Razak to table in Parliament the EC’s re-delineation report on Sabah state constituencies.

However, judge Azhahari Kamal Ramli did not dismiss the plaintiffs’ contention that the prime minister had the constitutional duty to table the report at the sitting of Parliament that was then upcoming.

Five months before last May’s general election, Parti Warisan Sabah vice-president Junz Wong warned that the state election could be rendered null and void if Parliament failed to approve the addition of the 13 seats in time.