Tabling of 13 new state seats for Sabah is timely, says Upko

Upko Youth chief Felix Joseph Saang.

KOTA KINABALU: United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) Youth welcomed a report that the bill to create 13 new state seats in Sabah will finally see the light during this Parliament sitting.

Its chief, Felix Joseph Saang, described the move as timely as it would provide more representation for the people of Sabah.

“Upko Youth fully supports it as it is what we have been fighting for all this while,” he said when asked to comment on a news report, which quoted sources, confirming the bill is up for tabling during this sitting.

“Sabah is the second largest state in the country after Sarawak. The present 60 state seats are inadequate to represent the people in Sabah.”

During the party’s triennial general meeting last year, Saang, who is also Beluran Upko chief, had tabled the motion urging the Election Commission (EC) to conduct the state electoral boundary redelineation exercise with the view to increase the number of state seats.

He said apart from giving the people more voice, having more representatives in the state legislative assembly would see a more focused allocation.

“It will be fairer to elected representatives with large constituencies who have to wait for a long time to get development allocations coming their way,” he said.

The motion also called for the government to consider increasing the number of parliamentary seats for Sabah and Sarawak.

He believed that no less than half of the total parliamentary seats should be allocated to the Bornean states.

The motion was passed unanimously by delegates at the meeting.

“With the bill to create the 13 new state seats finally seeing the light at this sitting, I believe it would change the dynamics of Sabah politics,” said Saang.

The Sabah legislative assembly had passed the amendment to Article 14 (2) of the state constitution to increase the state assembly members to 73 from the present 60 on Aug 9, 2016.

In 2017, the EC submitted the proposal for the creation of the new seats to then Prime Minister Najib Razak to be tabled in Parliament in time for the 14th general election.

The proposed new seats were Bengkoka, Mangaris, Pintasan, Pantai Dalit, Darau, Tanjung Dumpil, Dambai, Tulid, Telupid, Sungai Manila, Lamag, Segama and Kukusan.

However, it was never tabled and Sabah went into the election with 60 state seats.

The then state secretary Sukarti Wakiman had said the tabling of the 13 new state seats was because the Sabah government at the time was also looking to increase the number of parliamentary seats for Sabah.

After taking over the helm of the Sabah government, Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, in December last year, had stated that the matter would be resubmitted for the attention of the Election Commission and the prime minister.