LETTER | Malaysia’s bicameral Parliament consists of the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) and the Dewan Negara (Senate).
The former is the Lower House whilst the later is the Upper House of Parliament. The members of the Dewan Rakyat, presently 222 in number, are all elected by the people and represent the respective single-member parliamentary constituencies.
Sabah with 25 members of Parliament and Sarawak with 31, make up just 25 percent of the 222-member Parliament. Figuratively, this is an under-representation as the two states cover a huge area of 198,069 square kilometres compared to Peninsular Malaysia's area of 131,681 square kilometres. However, seventy-five out of 222 would constitute 34 percent, one-third of the membership.
A representation of one more above the one-third number in the House from Sabah and Sarawak would be ideal and just. This would ensure that any new amendment to the constitution which has a great impact on the two states could only be passed with the full support of Sabah and Sarawak representatives. A complete “nay” from Sabah and Sarawak representatives would deny the passing of the amendment or the introduction of a new clause.
That would mean another 19 representatives from East Malaysia would have to be added to the present 56. It is not practical and not possible to add the 19 now. However, it is hoped that the EC could work on giving Sabah and Sarawak an increase to make up a one-third representation of the seats in Parliament in the next demarcation of parliamentary constituency boundaries.
Moving on to the Upper House, the Dewan Negara consists of 70 members. Of these, 26 members are elected by the respective 13 state legislative assemblies (two each) and the other 44 are appointed by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the prime minister.
Four of the appointed members represent the three federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, one each representing the Siamese and the Orang Asli, one representing Hindraf and one representing people with disabilities (PWD), thus leaving the “at-large” representation at 36.
Perhaps it could be food for thought to review the senate representations for the federal territories of Labuan and Putrajaya. These two small territories are already single-member parliamentary constituencies with a small number of population and voters. The appointment of a senator for each of these two constituencies is redundancy.
As Sabah and Sarawak are under-represented in the Dewan Rakyat, it is hoped that the Harapan federal government will make good the imbalance in Parliament by appointing a third of the members of the Senate from Sabah and Sarawak.
One-third of the 70-member Senate would mean 24 members.
Currently, Sabah is having two members elected by the Sabah state assembly, three appointed by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, one from Bersatu, one from DAP and one from Warisan, making a total of five.
Sarawak, on the other hand, has two elected by the Sarawak state assembly, two appointed by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong comprising of one from DAP and one from Progressive Democratic Party (PDP). That gives Sabah and Sarawak a representation of nine out of 70 members, a mere 13 percent representation, 20 percent short of a one-third representation.
Talking about a one-third representation from Sabah and Sarawak in the Senate, the Sabah and Sabah membership should be expanded from the present nine to 24, meaning an additional 15 from Sabah and Sarawak, perhaps to be split with 10 for Sabah and 14 for Sarawak.
It is noted that a big chunk of the quota of senatorships was awarded to Umno during the BN administration. It is hoped that the Pakatan Harapan government, upon expiry of the terms of the Umno senators, would be more considerate by appointing more members from Sabah and Sarawak to fill the vacancies.
Notably in Sarawak, the Penan, Bisaya and Bidayuh communities have not been represented in the Senate since the formation of Malaysia. For Sabah, it is certain that some of the minority natives have not or have never been represented.
The writer is chairperson, Serian DAP, Sarawak.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.