Sabah opposition leaders all for increasing state seats to 73 despite Bersih warning

PBS president Maximus Ongkili. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Opposition leaders in Sabah have dismissed election watchdog Bersih 2.0’s call to drop the 2017 delimitation of constituencies for Sabah, saying political parties have long waited for the increase in state seats from 60 to 73.

PBS president Maximus Ongkili said all political parties in the state had called for it to be tabled in Parliament ever since the Sabah state assembly passed it in 2016.

“We don’t see why the proposed delineation is regarded as malicious and flawed.

“The Election Commission’s (EC) submission has gone through the required constitutional and legal processes. Let Parliament have the final say,” said the Kota Marudu MP to FMT.

Bersih 2.0 had yesterday, in a statement, urged Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to drop the 2017 delimitation proposal for Sabah, describing it as “malicious, flawed and obsolete”.

The bill was listed at number five in the Dewan Rakyat Order Paper on Monday. The debate is scheduled for July 17.

De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong had said the government was expected to submit the motion along with the EC report on July 17.

Bersih 2.0’s steering committee had said the proposal was in direct contrast to Pakatan Harapan’s promise to ensure a fair ratio in the delimitation exercise for constituencies.

Bersih 2.0 said if the “obsolete proposal” was not withdrawn, all parliamentarians, especially the 25 MPs from Sabah, should vote against it as the delineation was disadvantageous to Sabahans, especially the youth.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) deputy president Japiril Suhaimin, meanwhile, said his party also supported the tabling of the bill to increase the number of state seats from 60 to 73 next Wednesday.

Japiril, who is SAPP’s EC matters committee chairman, said SAPP had been pursuing this matter since 2017.

“The state assembly had on August 2016 passed an amendment to Article 14(2) of the state constitution to increase the number of assembly members from 60 to 73.

“Later, the EC in 2017 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 (GE14). However, it was not tabled.”

Japiril reminded that prior to GE14, SAPP president Yong Teck Lee and several others had, in April 2018, filed a suit against Najib and the EC to compel the former premier to table EC’s report on the 13 additional state seats “as soon as possible” at the Dewan Rakyat sitting then.

The matter was later dismissed by the High Court.

Bersih 2.0 had alleged that the 2017 delimitation was meant to distort Sabah’s electorate choice and sow division and discontent between regions and communities, facilitating the divide-and-rule scheme by powers outside Sabah.