Setting The Record Straight On One-Third Representation

OPINION: Number of MP seats according to territories since formation of Malaysia: –

               Malaya    Sabah   Sarawak  S’pore

1963           104 (65%)     16          24         15

1969           104 (72%)      16         24

2008           166 (75%)       25        31

Recently both the Sabah and Sarawak State governments asked for increase of MP seats for both states, asking for one-third of total seats.

Wong Chin Huat who currently leads the clusters on the electoral system and constituency delimitation in the government’s Electoral Reform Committee, wrote in Malaysiakini published July 20, that “politicians from Sabah and Sarawak are pressing for one-third of parliamentary seats, up from a quarter currently”.

He argued that Sabah and Sarawak are asking for “greater over-representation”.

He said he could not find anything in the MA63 that supports this claim (that Sabah and Sarawak retain the veto bloc against Malaya’s dominance).

He quoted the IGC Report under Paragraph 19(2) to support his argument. He interpreted from Malaya’s angle but not from Sabah’s or Sarawak’s aspect.

He said that Sabah and Sarawak from the beginning has 25% of the total MP seats as per the IGC Report.

Chapter 3 of IGC Report, paragraph 19 (2) provides: –

… The proportion that the number of seats allocated respectively to Sarawak and to North Borneo bears to the total number of seats in the House should not be reduced (except by reason of the granting of seats to any new state) during a period of seven years after Malaysia Day without the concurrence of the government of the state concerned, and thereafter (except as aforesaid) shall be subject to Article 159 (3) of the existing Federal Constitution (which requires Bill making amendments to the Constitution to be supported in each House of Parliament by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of that House).

“The proportion that the number of seats allocated to Sarawak and to North Borneo in the House should not be reduced” implies that the proportion of seats allocated to Malaya should not be increased … without the concurrence of the government of Sarawak/Sabah.

But before the mandatory seven years after Malaysia Day, the proportion of Malayan MP seats to the total had already increased from 65% to 72% after Singapore left in 1965 – automatically giving them two-third majority.

The first Malaysia Parliament had 159 MPs – Malaya 104, Sabah 16, Sarawak 24 and Singapore 15; Malaya had 65% – short of two thirds majority so that it could not alone amend the Constitution [Article 159(3)].

Sarawak currently has 80 state and 31 MP seats. Two state seats in one MP constituency could have 40 MP seats.

Sabah has 73 (including 13 just approved in Parliament) state and 25 MP seats. 73 state seats could have 36 MP seats.

Increase of 20 Sabah and Sarawak MP seats making a total of 242:-

166-Malaya  36-Sabah  40-Sarawak

Malaya’s 166 out of 242 is still over two-thirds (68%) when above increase is realised. Sabah and Sarawak still need eight MP seats to deny Malaya a two-third majority.

(To get this needs Sabah and Sarawak to further increase their state seats to allow two state seats in one MP constituency.)

Whatever entitlement of Sabah and Sarawak promised in the formation of Malaysia must include Singapore in the equation.

The 15 MP seats allocated to Singapore was in the equation to prevent Malaya’s unilateral move to amend the Federal Constitution.

Without Singapore in Malaysia does not mean Malaya automatically gets its two-third majority in the Lower House at the expense of Sabah and Sarawak.

The IGC Report did not foresee the departure of Singapore.

Should Wong still maintain that the IGC Report be followed verbatim when Singapore is no longer part of Malaysia, then Malaysia as a Federation should be null and void.

*Dr. Chong Eng Leong    author, activist and go-to expert on matters concerning MA63, illegal immigrants and identification documents