Sarawak rep pushes for law allowing referendums

BY SULOK TAWIE
Batu Lintang state lawmaker See Chee How (right) explains the purposes of the Citizens Initiated Referendum Bill 2017 in Kuching May 3, 2017. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, May 3 — A Sarawak PKR assemblyman said today that he will table a private member’s Bill at the state legislative assembly to enact a state law on referendums.

Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How said the time has come for Sarawak to have an ordinance to enable the citizens to express views on certain issues of vital importance through the holding of referendums.

He, however, stressed that the Citizens Initiated Referendum (CIR) Bill was not about getting the views of Sarawakians on the state pulling out from Malaysia.

“This indicative referendum will show the opinions of Sarawakians on specific questions, but will not be binding on the government,” he told reporters at a press conference.

See, who is also the state PKR vice chairman, said it will be up to the government to initiate legislations or to do the right thing if the majority of the citizens want changes made on certain issues or policies, or if they are against any policy shifts.

“CIR is a form of direct democracy whereby the citizens directly participate in [the] decision-making process,” he said, pointing out that it is in contrast to the indirect or representative democracy, in which the citizens vote to elect their representatives to make public policy decisions.

He added a referendum should be held if there are shifts on policies concerning health care, taxes, welfare, drugs, public transport, immigration and education.

The Batu Lintang state lawmaker said the CIR would empower the people to play a constructive role for a more vibrant and transparent democratic system in Sarawak.

He said in all the countries that make provisions to hold referendums, the practice and the significance of representative democracy are not in any way diminished or weakened, but rather, different forms of CIR are added to the existing representative democratic systems to strengthen it.

See said his private member’s Bill will affirm and re-emphasise the fundamental principle of democracy that each citizen has the right and duty to participate in the governance of the nation, and it is the citizen’s right to be heard.

“The process of CIR will ensure that all the Sarawakians will have equal and fair say on any particular question on matter or issue of concern to them,” he said, adding that he has been thinking of proposing to table a Bill to enact the Referendum Ordinance for quite some time.

“It is nothing to do with the recent public forum on Sarawak’s rights or a signature campaign by Sarawak For Sarawakians (S4S) civil movement which petitioned the state government to enact a Referendum Ordinance two years ago,” he said.

The campaign collected about 270,000 signatures.

The Sarawak state assembly will sit from May 11 to 22.