On Aug 9, the Sabah State Legislative Assembly passed a constitutional amendment bill to increase its size from 60 to 73.
What is the financial cost of such increase? As it stands, every state assemblyperson (ADUN) is paid a salary of RM7,950, and allowances totalling RM3,350 – RM2,000 for visiting their constituencies, RM350 for vehicles, RM500 for telephone (land line), and RM500 for driver’s allowance.
This means – all in, if all are claimed – RM11,300 monthly or RM135,600 yearly per person.
If an assemblyperson serves six years or more, he will be entitled to maximum 50 per cent of his salary or RM3,975 as pension. If he serves less than six years, the amount will be calculated on a pro rata basis.
Are they well paid? If you consider how geographically expansive most Sabah state constituencies are, this amount is really not much. The elected representatives may not have much left after making whatever in-constituency social expenses expected by voters.
But, what how much does 13 more ADUNs cost? It is RM1,762,800 a year and RM8,814,000 for a full five-year term. If all of them retire after serving up to six years, every year a total of RM881,400 will have to be paid as pension.
Is the cost worth the benefit? What can you expect to get with 13 more ADUNs?
Every time, when our parliament or legislatures increase their seats, we are told this is because we have more voters, hence needing more lawmakers.
Wait a minute – do we need more laws for more voters? If we don’t need more laws, why do we need more lawmakers?
Let’s look at what the 60-member Sabah State Legislative Assembly did last year. They met three times – five days in April, two days in July and 4 days in November, a total of 11 days in a year.
In average, the Assembly met for about five hours in a day, so, it’s about 55 hours in the whole year. It means in average, an ADUN had about an hour to speak and be heard in year.
They passed altogether two supply bills (budget and supplementary budget), two amendment bills to its forest law, two bills on animal and animal welfare, and one bill on a state trust fund. In total, seven bills in 2015.
When the next assembly is elected with 13 more members, will it have more bills to pass? Will it have longer debate on policy matters? How many policy matters are there for the state to act on when most of the power rests with the federal government?
With 13 more lawmakers, each lawmaker will likely have less time to speak and be heard, as the length of legislature sittings normally don’t vary over time.
So, why did 55 ADUNs vote for seat increase, with only three members voted against, one abstained and one absent?
It is not at all about better representation.
It is about creating more political jobs, which pays up to RM11,300 per month for salary and allowances, and maximum RM3,975 for pension.
It is also about diluting opposition’s strength. Gerrymandering and malapportionment of constituencies are easier done with increase of constituencies.
In Sarawak’s redelineation last year, an increase of 11 more seats resulted in – in net term – seven more BN strongholds and two more BN marginal constituencies.
While opposition may win a few more seats, their strength will definitely be diluted and they will be more remote from winning election.
So, why do some opposition lawmakers – six out of 11 – join all 49 BN lawmakers to vote for seat increase?
Are they like positive-thinking turkeys overjoyed for being fed with more food as Christmas approaches.
Wong Chin Huat