SUPP view on the proposed recommendations for the Federal and State constitutions in the State of Sarawak as reviewed by the Election Commission in 2014

The proposal recommends the increase of the State seats by 11 seats, from 71 to 82. The 11 seats are:

Seats name Voters

N13 Batu Kitang 20,107

N17 Stakan 12,761

N18 Serembu 9,677

N23 Tribuh 13,160

N26 Gedong 6,340

N40 Kabong 9,759

N57 Tellian 9,858

N63 Selirik 10,560

N66 Murum 7,648

N 70 Samalaju 12,927

N78 Long Lama 8,057

The total number of voters in Sarawak is 1,109,134. This gives an average seat with 13,526 voters per seat.

The seat with the least number of voters is N26 Gedong with 6,340 voters; the seat with the most voters is N54 Pelawan with 31,388 voters. This is a ratio of 1 to 5.

There are 34 seats where the number of voters are below 10,000. They are:

1. N01 Opar 9,531

2. N03 Tanjong Datu 9,301

3. N18 Serembu 9,677

4. N24 Sadong Jaya 6,752

5. N.25 Simunjan 7,885

6. N26 Gedong 6,340

7. N27 Sebuyau 8,804

8. N28 Lingga 8,731

9. N29 Beting Maro 9,677

10. N30 Balai Ringin 9,811

11. N31 Bukit Begunan 9,266

12. N34 Batang Ai 9,435

13. N35 Saribas 9,296

14. N36 Layar 8,835

15. N37 Bukit Saban 8,676

16. N38 Kalaka 7,324

17. N40 Kabong 9,759

18. N41 Kuala Rajang 9,286

19. N42 Semop 9,739

20. N43 Daro 8,554

21. N44 Jemoreng 9,528

22. N47 Pakan 9,923

23. N49 Ngemah 8,930

24. N56 Dalat 8,536

25. N57 Tellian 9,858

26. N58 Balingian 8,773

27. N61 Pelagus 8,394

28. N62 Katibas 9,601

29. N64 Balleh 8,771

30. N65 Belaga 7,218

31. N66 Murum 7,648

32. N77 Telang Usan 6,691






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33. N78 Long Lama 8,057

34. N80 Batu Danau 8,661

In addition to the above 34 seats, there are another 18 seats where the number of voters are below the average of 13, 526. This means 52 out of 82 seats have number of voters below the average.

There are 13 seats where the number of voters are more than 20,000. They are:

1. N06 Tupong 20,713

2. N09 Padungan 22,873

3. N10 Pending 30,881

4. N11 Batu Lintang 24,640

5. N12 Kota Sentosa 21,247

6. N13 Batu Kitang 20,107

7. N45 Repok 20,282

8. N51 Bukit Assek 28,908

9. N52 Dudong 28,569

10. N54 Pelawan 31,388

11. N73 Piasau 21,343

12. N74 Pujut 26,532

13. N.75 Senadin 26,257

The proposal does not live up to the cardinal principle of democracy, which is one man one vote. In the original

Constitution of Malaya in 1957 when Malaya just gained independence from Britain, this cardinal principle was adhered to. The constitution then provided for weightage difference of 15% percent. The Malayan Constitution was then amended in 1962 to increase the weightage difference by not more than half, that is the ratio of 1:2, to cater for the urban and rural divide.

Paragraph (c) of section 2 of the Thirteenth Schedule of the then Malaya Constitution reads:

“The number of electors within each constituency ought to be approximately equal throughout the unit of review except that, having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and other disadvantages facing rural constituencies, a measure of weightage for area ought to be given to such constituencies, to the extent that in some cases a rural constituency may contain as little as half of the electors of any urban constituency.”

The Constitutional amendment in 1973 completely did away with the weightage control by deleting the safeguard in the

last sentence underlined above. With it, full freedom for gerrymandering becomes legalized.

(Gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating constituency boundaries to create partisan advantaged constituencies. The resulting constituency is known as a gerrymander.)

As a result, the number of popular votes gained does not reflect the number of seats won.

More seriously, it is denying its citizen his or a fair share in the decision making process.

Effectively, urban voters have been greatly dis-enfranchised, as their votes are equivalent less than 20% of the rural man’s vote.

Such arrangement gives a very heavy weightage to rural voters, which also consist makes up mainly of certain ethnic communities. Rural areas have the lowest number of voters. Consequently, political power in Sarawak rest with the rural seats and these communities.

The original intention for the differential in weightage was spelt out in the 1957 Constitution – having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and other disadvantages facing rural constituencies.

The reason is based on the accessibility and geographical disadvantage of rural constituency. This states why the rural area needs more representatives (hence lower voters).

Simply put, it means the wider and more remote geographical area of the rural communities need more attention and needed more fund for development.

This is true for certain seats like in Ba’Kelalan, Telang Usan and Belaga. This is not the case for coastal area seats. For example, the size of the new seat N24 Gedong (6,340) is about the size of the new seat N13 Batu Kitang (20,107). Yet, the voters of these seats have vastly different rights. A voter of Gedong has one vote but his or her counterpart at Batu Kitang effectively has only 20% of the Gedong’s vote.

This reasoning has its weaknesses. First, funding for the development of the rural area does not necessarily has to go in line with the number of elected representatives. It is a matter of planning and budgeting. In fact many of the so-called rural seats are now well developed and has all the basic utilities and infrastructure. The development of our state has moved on for the last 52 years (which is more than half a century) from 1962 when the constitution was first amended to put heavier weightage on rural seats. This reasoning no longer holds water.

Second, many rural dwellers have moved to urban areas and maintain a nominal address and home at their villages or longhouses. The rural – urban migration is not only very real but is gathering pace. This is putting a big stress on the urban infrastructure such as housing, transport, education and health care. On the contrary, the reverse is true – it is the urban areas that need the most funding to improve and increase the infrastructure to cater for the ever-increasing number of rural-urban migrants. Without a large increase in funding for the urban area, the rural folks are the one who are most disadvantaged, as they can’t rely on pubic facilities (which is starved of public funding) when they are already hard up. Housing and transportation are the most obvious. Rural-urban migrants struggle to find suitable living space and affordable public transport. They are forced to stay in city slum or far away from where they work and school for their children.

Third, all the seats that have high voters are urban based. Urban voters are most educated, trained and exposed. It is a great source of human talents and leaders. By giving urban voters more representatives who will most likely be more educated and trained, will directly benefit the whole state. The quality of elected representatives will definitely improve.

Fourth, there is a perception of discrimination against certain ethnic community in favour of others. The figures show that except for one seat, all the 13 seats with more than 20,000 voters are Chinese majority seats. In fact all the Chinese majority seats have more than the average number of voters. This paints the picture that the system discriminates against this community. This lead to resentment by this community as they see this as unfair.

This perception of unfairness has to be addressed should we all believe that the basic principle of natural justice – to be fair in its principle and transparent in its processes. We have to believe that we are all one community – Sarawakians; not only of any racial or ethnic community. It is only on this principle of fairness that lays the foundation of the whole community that is progressive and moderate. We are fully committed to the politics of reasoning and moderate principle. Otherwise, our proclamation as being a moderate party runs hollow.

We proposed that this in balance be reversed over a period of time, beginning from this proposed amendment. It is proposed that seats that have more than 20,000 voters be re-delineated to provide for new seats or shared with other seats where the number of voters per seat is not more than 20,000. This will still give a ratio of 1 to 4 (N.26 Gedong with the proposed maximum of 20,000 voters for a seat – 6,340:20,000), which is a reduction of 1 to 5 as it currently stands.

Over a period of time this discrepancy is to be further reduced until we achieve the true principle and spirit of democracy, that is – to each man a vote of same value.


Dato’ Sebastian Ting Chiew Yew

Secretary General,

Sarawak United Peoples’ Party.

Date: 15.1.2015

September 2018
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