KUCHING: Two major Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties in Sarawak may be facing off over new constituencies which will be created following the Election Commission’s (EC) highly-anticipated redelineation exercise.
Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) is eyeing at least two of the “three to four additional seats” from the redelineation exercise, while Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) wants more than half of the new seats.
PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Masing said that it is looking at Hulu Rajang as a possible constituency to redelineate, adding that he is pleased the constituency is being considered.
Hulu Rajang, the largest parliamentary constituency in the country in terms of size has only two state seats — Baleh and Belaga — both held by PRS.
Another constituency for which Masing believes a redelineation could take place is the Dayak-majority seat of Sri Aman.
Though the Sri Aman constituency is smaller in size, the number of voters in 2013 was 29,789 and it has three state seats — Balai Ringin, Bukit Begunan and Simanggang.
Hulu Rajang and Sri Aman are two of the six parliamentary constituencies that the BN had allocated to the PRS.
However, in staking his claims, Masing is also facing up to the challenge from state BN chairman Tan Sri Adenan Satem, who believes his PBB “deserves at least half of the new seats”.
Adenan, the Sarawak chief minister, said PBB should get the majority of the new seats.
EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof had late last year announced the EC would carry out a redelineation exercise to split constituencies with large numbers of voters.
He acknowledged the difficulties elected representatives of large, rural constituencies face when trying to service these areas, especially where transport infrastructure is poor or non-existent.
Masing, the state’s Land Development Minister, had long pushed for the EC to redelineate the Hulu Rajang constituency.
In 2013, the constituency, which is 31,817 sq km (almost as big as the state of Pahang), had 21,686 registered voters, with the Dayaks — the Orang Ulu and Ibans — making up 97% of the voters, the Malays and Melanaus 2% and the Chinese 1%.
In December last year, the party held a preliminary discussion with the state EC on such an exercise. Masing then said the sheer size of the constituency had made servicing and administering it “very difficult and challenging”.
“The EC’s emphasis on redelineating more rural seats is correct,” Masing said.
“Large areas need more elected representatives to look after them. Thus, giving more weightage to rural areas is a move in the right direction in terms of giving better service to rural folk.
“After all the BN government is a rural-based government,” he said. — The Malaysian Insider
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 5, 2014.