KOTA KINABALU: A Bill to amend Article 14 Clause (2) of the State Constitution to increase the number of Sabah State Assembly seats from 60 to 73 members was approved yesterday.
The Bill presented by Special Tasks Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang, received objection from three state assembly members, namely Sri Tanjung’s Chan Foong Hing, Dr Roland Chia of Inanam and Moyog’s Terrence Siambun, while Junz Wong of Likas abstained from voting.
Meanwhile, the remaining 55 state assembly members gave their thumbs up to the amendment.
In explaining the Bill, Teo said the last division of seats was made in 2003. He said the next revision of seats was due eight years after the last division and it was long overdue.
“Hence, it is proposed that the number of the state assembly should be increased by 13 new members. With the addition, the number of members will be 73,” he said.
“To allow the change, it is proposed that an amendment should be made to Article 14 clause (2) of the State Constitution by increasing the number of members from 60 to 73,” he said.
He said once the amendment had been made, the Election Commission (EC) would review it under the provision of the Article 113 of the Federal Constitution.
He stressed that the Bill would not incur any additional expenditure from the State Government.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman took Chan to task when the latter kept questioning why the number 13 was being proposed.
“There must be a reason for it,” said the representative.
He also raised his worries that 1,285 voters had been relocated to his constituency from Merotai.
In reply, Musa said that there was nothing to question about and that questions would still arise from the opposition irrespective of what number was being proposed.
“Don’t make unnecessary speculations … Don’t confuse the people by making unnecessary speculations. You are giving a wrong picture,” said Musa.
Kapayan assemblyman Dr Edwin Bosi, on the other hand requested that there should be 14 additional new members and not 13 since he wanted his constituency to be divided into two.
He also urged the state government to look into holders of red identification cards in Sabah and help them to get their blue identification cards.
“Allow them to enjoy being able to vote,” he said.
Api-Api assemblywoman Christina Liew also said that her constituency had 4,000 extra voters and she did not know where they came from.
She also raised her concern on the possibility of Sabahans being retrenched due to the weak oil and gas prices by oil companies such as Shell Malaysia and Petronas.
To this, Musa replied that he had spoken to the leaders of the oil and gas companies to ensure Sabahans would not be retrenched.
Inanam assemblyman Dr Roland Chia asked the house to delay the decision on the amendment of the Bill.
“So that we can get the feedback from the EC first and then after getting the feedback, we will know about the modus operandi,” he said.
Musa replied that there would be a forum later with the EC.
“You can use the forum to raise your concerns and make your proposals,” he said.
He reminded that the matter at hand was under the jurisdiction of the EC and that it was up to it to make a decision.
“The EC is an independent body. I do not want to abuse my power,” Musa replied.
Other members of the state assembly who gave their thumbs up to the Bill were Datuk Rahim Ismail of Pantai Manis, who said that the move was necessary, taking into account Sabah’s hilly and vast terrains.
He added that the move would allow the efficient channelling of assistance to the rural areas of Sabah.
Klias assemblyman cum Sabah Opposition chief, Datuk Lajim Ukin also gave his thumbs up to the amendment, citing that the additional members would allow the people’s representatives to voice the people’s woes and the impact would give more comfort to the people.