[ENGLISH VERSION BELOW] The Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (Sawo) menyeru kerajaan negeri Sabah untuk menggantikan kerusi lantikan yang sedia ada kepada “top-up women-only additional seats” (Twoas).
Sekiranya jumlah ahli dewan undangan negeri wanita yang menang pada pilihan raya negeri yang akan datang kurang daripada 18 orang, maka enam ahli dewan lantikan perlu diberikan kepada wanita yang dicalonkan oleh parti yang bertanding.
Keadaan yang sedang berlaku di Sabah yang mana hanya tujuh wanita daripada 73 (9.6%) ahli dewan memegang kerusi di Sabah adalah tidak wajar sama sekali. Penanda aras antarabangsa sejak tahun 1995 sudah menetapkan 30% penyertaan wanita dalam badan perundangan. Kegagalan untuk memenuhi penyertaan minimum ini melemahkan kedudukan negeri Sabah sebagai negeri yang memiliki masyarakat yang terbuka, progresif dan berbilang kaum.
Jika Sabah diumpamakan sebagai sebuah negara, kita akan menduduki tangga ke-168 bagi penglibatan wanita dalam parlimen di dunia. Kedudukan Sabah juga adalah sama dengan Eswatini (sebelumnya Swazilan) di Afrika selatan yang juga hanya mempunyai tujuh orang wanita memenangi kerusi daripadaseluruh 73 kerusi parlimen.
Sawo menyeru Ketua Menteri Sabah Hajiji Noor untuk mengambil langkah yang lebih berani untuk menjadikan Sabah seperti New Zealand yang mempunyai 48.3% ahli parlimen wanita, dan bukannya mengikuti Swaziland.
Selepas pilihan raya negeri Sabah yang lalu, Sawo juga telah menyeru Hajiji untuk melantik enam calon wanita terbaik yang tewas untuk dilantik sebagai ahli dewan lantikan bagi mengatasi masalah ketidakseimbangan gender di Dewan Undangan Negeri Sabah.
Sekiranya Hajiji menerima saranan yang dicadangkan oleh Sawo, kerajaan Sabah akan terdiri daripada 13 ahli dewan wanita daripada seluruh 79 (16.5%) kerusi dewan. Namun begitu, hanya seorang wanita sahaja yang telah dilantik sebagai ahli dewan lantikan yang hanya mampu menaikkan peratus penyertaan wanita kepada 8/79 atau 10.1%.
Turn Sabah’s nominated seats into ‘top-up women-only additional seats’
Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (Sawo) calls upon the Sabah state government to convert Sabah’s current nominated seats into “Top-Up Women-Only Additional Seats” (Twoas).
If 18 or fewer women state assembly members are elected in the next state election, then all six nominated seats must be filled with women pre-nominated by various parties.
It is unacceptable that only seven out of 73 elected assembly members (9.6%) in Sabah are women. The world has set a target of having a minimum 30% of women in legislatures since 1995. This failure reduces Sabah’s regional identity as a diverse, open and progressive society.
If Sabah is a country, then we would rank 168th in the world on women’s parliamentary representation. We would be on par with Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) in southern Africa, which also has just seven women in its 73-member parliament.
Sawo calls upon Chief Minister Hajiji Noor to take a bold step to move Sabah closer to New Zealand (with 48.3% women MPs), instead of emulating Swaziland.
After the last Sabah state election, Sawo had urged Hajiji to appoint the six women best losers as nominated members to remedy the gender imbalance in the Sabah State Legislative Assembly.
If Hajiji had heeded Sawo’s suggestion, we would have 13 women assembly members out of a new total of 79 (16.5%). Disappointingly, only one woman was appointed as a nominated assembly member, raising the women’s percentage marginally to only eight out of 79 or 10.1%.
If 22 women assembly members were elected, then 30% is attained without any top-up. If only 21 are elected, we need to top it up with two women nominated assembly members to reach the goal. In the event of only 20 or 19 women being elected, then three or five top-up seats would need to be filled, respectively.
If 18 women assembly members are elected, then adding six more women will meet the 30% target immediately. If we have fewer than 18 women elected assembly members, topping up with six women would not reach 30% but it can at least close the gap.
Sawo calls upon all parties, MPs and assembly members in Sabah, especially the four women MPs – Noorita Sual (Tenom), Christina Liew (Tawau), Vivian Wong (Sandakan) and Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis – and the six women assembly members – Jannie Lasimbang, Flovia Ng, Julita Mojungki, Norazlinah Arif and Rina Jainal – to support and advocate for the adoption of the Twoas system for Sabah’s six nominated seats.
Women’s underrepresentation is not because we lack women talents, when we have more women than men among graduates. What we lack are retiring male incumbents who cannot be removed by the party leadership even if they have lost their vigour and relevance.
Top-up seats for women are nothing new in Malaysia. Under Pas, Terengganu changed its state constitution in 2003 to allow for the appointments of up to four women or non-Muslim nominated assembly members if no women or non-Muslims were elected.
Sabah must do better than Terengganu, and Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) must do better than Pas. Currently, Article 14(1)(c) of the Sabah’s State Constitution provides no criteria for nominated seats, allowing for abuse.
For example, Jaffary Waliam who was appointed as nominated assembly member in 2018 quit his party PKR in February 2020, shied away from facing the voters’ verdict in September 2020, yet got reappointed as a nominated assembly member in October.
To close the door for abuse, no amendment is needed. The Sabah state assembly just needs to pass an enactment to restrict and detail the appointment of nominated assembly members as a tool to attain 30% women’s representation, making them Twoas.
To further inclusivity and cover for intersectionality, the enactment can further enforce another layer of quota on Twoas – that a certain number of nominated seats must be occupied by women who are also youth, persons with disabilities, members of unrepresented native groups or single mothers.
But even Terengganu’s women and minority top-up seats have a major flaw: the appointees are to be decided exclusively by the state government. Hence, the top-up seats are also the government’s ‘bonus seats’ as in Sabah.
Sawo believes that even top-up women representatives should be chosen by the people and should come from both government and opposition parties. Through Twoas, Penang has found a simple solution, which Sabah can modify and adopt. In the next state election, parties can nominate a list of six Twoas candidates for voters to consider when casting their votes for constituency state assembly members.
If fewer than 22 women are elected, the necessary two to six slots of Twoas would be shared by the parties based on their vote share. If any Twoas representative jumps to another party, the seat would be filled by the next candidate from the same party, hence, [making these seats] immune to party-hopping by the likes of Jaffary Waliam. This would encourage parties to invite credible women leaders to stand as Twoas candidates. Sabahans can also reject parties that put up bad Twoas candidates in their votes for state assembly members.
Twoas is akin to a closed-list proportional representation system, which can effectively transform our broken electoral system plagued by party-hopping and partisan redelineation into a mixed-member majoritarian system, as explained in an article titled “TWOAS: A bold political experiment” (The Sunday Star, 7 February, page 18). Normally, combining the first-past-the-post electoral system and closed-list proportional representation system, the mixed-member majoritarian system is used in nearly 20 countries, including Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. While voters get two ballots in the standard mixed-member majoritarian system, Sabahans will have only one ballot, but it would be counted for the second time if Twoas need to be filled.
If Sabah’s next state election returns the same outcome as the one last September – only six women assembly members elected, and both Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and Warisan-Plus both won 43% of votes, while the remaining votes are fragmented – then six Twoas need to be filled and GRS and Warisan-Plus will get three seats each.
While Penang is the pioneering state for Twoas and expects to pass the state constitutional amendment and enactment by the end of 2021, Sabah can catch up and even become the first state to implement Twoas. This is because Sabah needs no constitutional amendment, just an enactment for Twoas.
We hope Hajiji would make Twoas one of his legacies for Sabah. If he chooses to ignore half of Sabahans, then opposition parties must adopt Twoas in their manifestos and let Sabahans decide whether nominated seats should still be filled up by politicians who dare not to face voters like Jaffary Waliam and Dr Ali Akbar Gulasan of Pas. – Sawo