Bersih urges reform in Sabah govt to end political turmoil

11 Feb 2023 10:20pm
Bersih chairman Thomas Fann - FILE PIX
Bersih chairman Thomas Fann - FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) has urged the Sabah state government to implement an institutional reform immediately to halt the state's political turmoil.

In saying so, Bersih has also proposed a 3-in-1 reform package to reconcile with competing parties in the Sabah state legislative assembly, which are also partners in the federal-level Unity Government.

The first component of the three-part reform plan is the legislation of the Anti-Hopping Law and Fixed-term Legislature Ordinance (FLTO), it said in a statement on Saturday.

Bersih said that the anti-hopping law implemented at the federal level, needs to be passed at the state level, but with a number of tweaks.

"While state assemblymen who switch parties or become independent lose their seats automatically under the law, "It is also suggested that a clause be added to automatically vacate the seat of assemblymen who do not support confidence and supply motions (Budget Bill).

"Besides that, a recall procedure was also proposed to be included in the anti-hopping law to cover issues of dismissal besides a lack of support for confidence and supply motions, coalition hopping, and other reasonable grounds for voters to recall their representatives and trigger a by-election," it said.

It added that the first item of the reform package was a strict definition of a loss of confidence in the state legislative assembly through the FLTO, which will require the state legislative assembly to complete its term unless the government loses confidence or if the application for early dissolution is approved by two-thirds of the state assembly.

The second item is the Equitable Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Ordinance, which gives equitable allocations. "In the Sabah 2023 budget, all government state assemblymen will receive RM3 million a year while the opposition gets nothing.

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"It perceived the practise as undemocratic, and the biggest incentive for party hopping must thus be stopped. "With the Equitable CDF Ordinance, all elected representatives will receive CDF in a transparent and accountable manner without any partisan discrimination," it said.

Bersih said the last point of the 3-in-1 reform package is a state legislature reform to empower state assemblymen.

According to Bersih, people tend to see assemblymen as ATM machines for them to get help simply because opposition state assemblymen and government backbenchers have no impact on shaping the content of bills or government policies.

To change the dynamic, it pointed out that the state legislative assembly needs to establish special select committees, increase the number of state legislative assembly meeting days, and allocate special time for the state assemblymen so that they can act as a check and balance to the government.

Bersih expressed its eagerness for state assemblymen to play their roles in government, emphasising the importance of reform implementation.

"Sabah state assemblymen need to support and push the Sabah government to immediately implement the stated reforms so that its democratic institutions can run more professionally and be people-centric instead of being a stage for power struggles between the government and the opposition," it said.