Referendum should be in Parliament, says Sarawak politician

BY SULOK TAWIE
The Sarawak assembly is not the proper place to enact a referendum legislation, said the president of the State Reform Party (STAR). — Reuters file pic

KUCHING, May 4 — Parliament and not the Sarawak assembly is the proper place to enact a referendum legislation, State Reform Party (STAR) president Lina Soo said today.

She said the referendum legislation would be a federal law and the authority tasked to conduct the electoral processes in Malaysia is the Election Commission which is a federal authority.

“So, why campaign for it at state assembly level and not at Parliament House, which is the correct House?” she asked in response to PKR assemblyman See Chee How’s proposal to table a private member’s Bill for a Citizens Initiated Referendum Ordinance.

See, who is also Sarawak PKR vice-chairman, said yesterday that it was time Sarawak has an ordinance to enable its people to express their views on vital issues through a referendum.

He said it would be an indicative referendum to show the opinions of Sarawakians on specific questions, but would not be binding on the government.

See had also said that the Bill, which he proposed to table in the coming session of the state legislative assembly, would not be about pulling Sarawak out of Malaysia.

Soo said the referendum is a “Yes” or “No” vote on political or constitutional issues of public interest, such as an amendment to the Constitution or to decide to leave or remain in a political union.

She said a referendum is binding upon the government, citing the recent Brexit referendum as an example where Britain decided to leave the European Union by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

“Even with a narrow majority, the result is binding upon the British government to exit EU,” Soo, who is also a civil rights activist, said.

She said it will be pointless, a waste of taxpayers’ money and time-consuming to conduct a referendum if it is not binding upon the government.

She said a referendum can be conducted to hold a vote on any of Sarawak’s rights and powers as stipulated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.