Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hearing people’s voice

See to table Bill to allow for citizens-initiated referendum
See (right) during the press conference yesterday. He is accompanied by his personal assistant Jeffery Mok.

KUCHING: The coming State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting to be held from May 11 to 22 will see the tabling of a private member’s bill to enact a state law to provide for the holding of citizens-initiated referendum (CIR) in Sarawak.

“The indicative referendum will show the opinion of Sarawakians on specific questions but will not be binding on the government,” said Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who submitted his private member’s bill last week.

See who is state PKR vice chairman stressed that the proposed specific question to be put to voters in the petition for CIR must be within the constitutional and jurisdiction purview of Sarawak.

Besides the specific objective of this enactment, See said the Citizens Initiated Referendum Bill 2017 will fulfil two particular purposes; firstly, the need for a national or state legislation to provide for the holding of referendum and secondly, to dispel the misconception that referendum is a radical or extreme measure to express displeasure or resentment towards the government.

“The CIR which is initiated by the people will empower them to play a constructive role for a more vibrant and transparent democratic system in Sarawak. On the other hand, being an indicative referendum, the result of the referendum is merely indicative of the views held by the people, the government is not bound to legislate or change its policy to conform with the referendum,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

With this proposal, See said the two apprehensions are hence addressed and Sarawakians can all move forward to strengthen democracy in Sarawak, and possibly chart the way for other state assemblies and even the Parliament to enact and pass the same legislature.

“CIR is a form of direct democracy whereby the citizens directly participate in decision making. This is in contrast to indirect or representative democracy in which the citizens vote to elect their representatives to make public policy decisions.”

According to See, in all the countries that make provisions to hold referendums, the practice and significance of representative democracy are not in any way diminished or weakened.


Rather, he said different forms of CIR are added to the existing representative democratic systems to strengthen it.

See said besides all the developed democracies in Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, many Asian countries have also legislated to provide for different forms of referendums or referenda namely; Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, East Timor, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Taiwan.

In Indonesia, he said referendum was made a legitimate political process in 1985 but revoked in 1999.

Compared to the other countries (Switzerland introduced and passed the first direct legislature by the people at the national level in 1874, Australia first introduced theirs in 1891), See said this CIR Bill is long overdue, but Sarawak must take this first important step to better and strengthen the state’s democratic system.

“Switzerland has shown the way. They have a proud record of voting in more than 500 referendums initiated by their citizens. Australians have voted in a few dozen referendums in a short last few decades. Amongst all the nations, the favourite questions concerned healthcare, taxes, welfare, drug policy, public transport, immigration, asylum and education.”

See said the Bill affirms and re-emphasises the fundamental principal of democracy, that it is each citizen’s right and duty to participate in the governance of the nation and that it is each citizen’s right to be heard.

“The process of CIR will ensure that all Sarawakians will have an equal and fair say to any particular question on matters or issues of concern to all Sarawakians and making a persuasive representation for the better governance of Sarawak.”

~ Borneo Post

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