Sunday, September 20

DESAH sees three-way fights for most seats in Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: Democratic Sabah (DESAH) will keep pushing for a one-to-one contest in the coming 13th general election despite discouraging signs in the opposition front.

Chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun said judging from the failed negotiations between the opposition parties, Sabah may not see any straight fight but with at least three candidates running against each other for most of the seats to be contested.

“It is not to say that we have given up hope, but as of now, I don’t think there will be any one-to-one fight in any seat. At best there will be three-cornered fights, with Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) going against each along with the other state-based parties, and not forgetting the independent candidates,” he said in a press conference to announce the political Public Forum to organized by DESAH this Sunday.

“The way I look at it, the fights, including in Sabah, will still be between the two giants namely BN and PR. The smaller ones will split the votes,” he added.

Sipaun, however, did not dismiss the possibility that the seemingly impossible could still happen, as DESAH will continue to rally public support and convince the contesting parties that it is in the best interest of the people to have a clear cut choice between the government and the opposition when casting their votes.

He maintained that DESAH was of a view that this is what the public wanted and the only way to ensure the winning candidates will have the actual majority support in the constituency instead of just a mere higher number of votes compared to the other contestants.

“This will avoid, like in the past, where elected representatives were not necessarily representing the majority. For example, in Inanam and Kota Kinabalu, to name a few, if you totaled up the combined votes for the opposition parties it is more than the government candidate who won the seat.

“So, basically from a democratic point of view, they did not have the mandate of the majority but yet they were the elected representative with the so-called “majority” votes. This is not in line with the democratic practices, as it is the minority’s voice that won against the majority,” he said.

DESAH is a civil society group, which, since its formation almost a year ago, has been very much focused on promoting a more democratic election process by means of one-to-one contest. The group, whose committee members include social, political and environmental activists, also claimed to promote a political culture that is not based on racial or religious backgrounds and endeavor to highlight and correct governance in the State.

“Last time, about five months ago in Sept, the number of seats that overlap was five for parliament and 15 for state, but now from what they (opposition parties) are saying, they are going to contest in even more overlapping seats.

“The parliamentary seat is still five but the state seat is now 25. Every party is free to do what it thinks is best, but we hope it will be the best for the State.

Sipaun called on the voters to utilize their rights to choose their government, either to keep the ruling party or to elect a new one. At the end of the day, he said, it is up to the voters to influence and consequently determine the process as well as the outcome of the elections.

He also reiterated his call to have a suitable anti-hopping laws set in place to create political stability while at the same time give the people the power to choose effectively in the elections. The law, he suggested, should state that an elected representative must vacate his seat in the event he or she resign from his or her party and a re-election should be held. The representative should also be allowed to re-contest the seat as an independent or use the ticket of his or her new party.

“This means, the power to choose which party to represent the people is up to the voters not the elected representatives who may decide to change party after wining the election.

“Frog politics started in Sabah, and they all claimed that it was in the interest of the people but this is just assumption, not necessarily the real representation of the feelings of the people.

“If you are really doing it for your constituents, then you should go back to the them and let them decide if they want to re-elect you,” he quipped.

On the Public Forum, he said, all seven political parties invited have given indication that they will be attending. He said the forum theme “Malaysian Voters, What We Expect From the Incoming Government” would give the public opportunities to raise issues related to politics while at the same time serve as platform for political parties to gauge sentiments of the people on major issues affecting their lives.

“All the parties have been invited. Although not as speakers, they are expected to answer questions from the floor should the questions in regard to their plans on the issues are brought up. If it is me, I think it will be not good for my party to be invited and not to be there. I should be anxious to take the opportunity to answer the questions or misconceptions in regard to my party.

The forum will focus on four issues, namely ‘Youth & Economy’, ‘Orang Asal & Land Issues’ and ‘Environment & Planning’, with four speakers exploring each topic in detail before opening the session to the floor.

The speakers will include Anne Lasimbang from PACOS and Ronnie Klassen, who is Deputy Chairman of DESAH. Sipaun himself will be moderating the sessions.