FADILLAH REITERATES SABAH & SARAWAK STILL PURSUING 35 PCT SEATS IN PARLIAMENT - REPORT
KUCHING, SARAWAK (April 19, 2023): Sabah and Sarawak are still pursuing 35 per cent seat representation in Parliament to protect the territories and uphold the spirit of the Federal Constitution, said Deputy Prime Minister Dato Sri Fadillah Yusof.
Fadillah, who is a Petra Jaya MP, told Malaysiakini that the two territories have only had 25 per cent seat representation in Parliament since the formation of Malaysia and this did not change although Singapore left the federation in 1965.
He pointed out that when Malaysia was formed in 1963, it was agreed by the signatories that 35 per cent of the seats would be allocated to Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore to ensure Malaya could not amend the Federal Constitution without the consent of the three other regions.
As such, the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) Implementation Action Council chairman deemed it necessary to increase the number of seats for Sabah and Sarawak in Parliament.
“But right now, if seats in Peninsular Malaysia are more than two-thirds, they can vote and remove all the rights accorded to Sabah and Sarawak. So that’s the spirit (of the Constitution). Rightfully, when we formed (Malaysia), we must have that protection,” Fadillah told Malaysiakini.
The 35 per cent goal was one of the key conclusions of the Special Council on the Malaysia Agreement in September last year chaired by then prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, but only the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition led by now Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim made the goal its pledge for the 2022 election.
The bone of contention has been that Sabah and Sarawak’s combined population is only one-sixth of Malaysia’s total population and therefore the two territories should not be afforded two-thirds control in Parliament.
To this Fadillah pointed out that Sabah and Sarawak are still lagging in many aspects of development compared to the peninsula.
“You have everything in the peninsula. You have highways and bridges. All the facilities are there. Yet, Sabah and Sarawak are left behind when, in fact, economy-wise, we have contributed so much,” he told Malaysiakini.
“You have your (Petronas) Twin Towers. (But Sarawakians) are saying that it should be in Sarawak (because of our petroleum production).
“If you are talking about fairness, it is not about fairness (alone). It is (also) about the spirit behind the formation of Malaysia,” he said.
Fadillah cited how the council managed in January to convince the federal government to increase annual grants for Sabah and Sarawak to RM260 million and RM300 million, respectively, for the next five years.
The annual grants are mandated under Article 112D of the Federal Constitution and are supposed to be reviewed every five years.
For Sabah, the deal replaces an agreement reached last year between the Ismail Sabri administration and the state government – which raised annual special grants to RM125.6 million.
For Sarawak, the special grant was a massive increase from the RM16 million it had received annually without change since 1969.
According to Fadillah, Sarawak considered this an “interim payment” while a new formula is reached between the state government and the federal Finance Ministry.
“My responsibility (as action council head) is to get the Finance Ministry and the state government to sit down and come to an agreement,” said Fadillah adding, the action council’s other priority was to devolve administrative powers on education and public health.
He pointed out that Putrajaya’s centralised planning over the decades had left Sabah and Sarawak behind in terms of resources.
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