Better to push for other safeguards, analyst tells Sabah, Sarawak

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat says Putrajaya’s decision to restore the 35% parliamentary quota for Sabah and Sarawak could be another unfulfilled election promise.

PETALING JAYA: A political scientist said it would be better for Sabah and Sarawak to adopt two other safeguards to better protect and advance their regional interests rather than pushing for a quota of 35% of Dewan Rakyat’s seats.

Wong Chin Huat of Sunway University said one protection is the handover of powers in areas such as education, medicine and health, which Singapore enjoys but is denied to the two Bornean countries.

The other was for a fully elected and empowered Dewan Negara with 17 percent representation from each state, giving senators the power to reject bills passed by the Dewan Rakyat.

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“I believe holistic and well-planned decentralization is not only good for Sabah and Sarawak, but also for Malaysia’s territorial integrity and the well-being of the Malay States,” he said in a Facebook post.

Wong was responding to comments from Bersih Chairman Thomas Fann and Sarawak Prime Minister Abang Johari Openg on the matter.

While Fann said the country’s democracy would be weakened by 35% of the Dewan Rakyat seats allotted to the two states, Abang Johari said Sarawak agreed in principle to restoring the quota, although he was in no hurry to do so.

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The decision to restore the quota was made by a Special Council to the Malaysian Agreement of 1963 (MA63).

Wong noted that the current combined share of Sabah and Sarawak parliamentary seats is nearly 25%.

However, he warned that the decision to restore the quota could be a pre-election promise that would likely be forgotten after the election, similar to the promise to return 50% of all Sabah and Sarawak tax revenues made before the 2018 general Choice.

He said that the 25% parliamentary representation for East Malaysia was not based on equal representation but on over-representation.

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The combined population of Sabah and Sarawak was smaller than Singapore’s, but the Bornean states got a total of 40 seats compared to Singapore’s 15, he said.

“However, Sabah and Sarawak didn’t get a better deal than Singapore,” he said, adding that in exchange for under-representation in parliament, Singapore has been given exclusive powers in areas such as education and health.

Sarawak was given none of this, while Sabah was given power over health until the 1970s, he said.

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