Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BARU BIAN: DEBATE ON THE DEWAN UNDANGAN NEGERI (COMPOSITION OF MEMBERSHIP) BILL, 2014.


DEBATE ON THE DEWAN UNDANGAN NEGERI
(COMPOSITION OF MEMBERSHIP) BILL, 2014.


Thank you Mr. Speaker, for giving me the space to comment a little bit on this Bill and my stand on the matter. Honestly, I am in a dilemma to support or not to support this Bill. I hope at the end of my comment one will understand why, and therefore reason the stand I make on this Bill today.

The explanatory to the said Bill states that “It is deemed necessary and appropriate having regard to the increase in the number of electors, the accelerating pace of development of the state since 2005 (when the Dewan’s current membership was fixed) and the overall need to provide effective representation for the people in the Legislature, that the membership of the Dewan be increased to 82”.

That’s all we have for the explanatory notes for this Bill. There is not a clue from the Bill where these new seats would be created or increased by virtue of this Bill.

Through the years many comments and criticisms had been hurled at the Election Commission in their redelineation exercises that many are of the opinion that they are not done in accordance with the fundamental principle of equal-size constituencies. Cautions were made that in any delineation exercise it must not result in the debasement of urban votes to that of the rural votes or an advantage of one race over the other.

In the context of Sarawak, I do recognize and appreciate the vastness of certain constituencies over the others and that there is the greater difficulty of contacting voters in these rural constituencies or in some cases there is a real need to reduce the size of large rural constituencies, which may be necessary to lighten the burden on elected representatives in areas with poor communications and transport facilities thereof. So it was argued that a measure of weightage should be given to rural constituencies to that of the urban constituencies. To this I absolutely agree. But caution must be made that the weightage should not be so skewed that in some places the value of rural vote is more than double or triple the value of an urban vote or that the said exercise should not be carried out to the extent of nullifying the “one man, one vote, one value” principle. Or that it may not be an exercise in gerrymandering of electoral constituencies to ensure victories for certain political parties or political leaders.

Mr. Speaker without identifying the possible constituencies to be affected by this exercise through the passing of this Bill I am afraid we are unable to gauge and judge whether all these legitimate concerns I referred to above would be an issue. Or why would the increment of the seats be 11 and not 7 or 17? Or how many would be rural or urban? The Bill is completely silent!

In conclusion I echo here the words of Mackenzie, a researcher who commented on our Malaysian electoral system calling it a ‘manufacturing’ or ‘making’ elections through ‘electoral management’ as quoted by Lim Hong Hai[1] another writer as a caution and not allegation who said:
“The manufacture of elections is not technically a difficult operation; at practically every point … officials can intervene to bias the system in favour of one set of candidates and against others. Elections made skillfully are made by minor interventions at a large number of points, not by brutal imposition at a few. The officials do not block all opposition by sabotaging the nomination of all candidates; they merely twist matters a little in delineating constituencies, dealing with nominations, giving facilities for the campaign, conducting the poll, enquiring into disputed cases. The sum of these things should be enough to keep the government in power, unless it has involved the nation in disaster, and they do not incur the odium of dictatorship.”[2]
In the circumstances Mr. Speaker I cannot support this Bill in its present form, as it is too vague.
BARU BIAN
ADUN N.70 BA’KELALAN


[1] Electoral Politics in Malaysia: ‘Managing’ Elections in a Plural Society.
[2] Mackenzie, W.J.M. 1958. Free Elections. London: George Allen and Unwin p. 172

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