The United Borneo Front have held well over 400 tea parties all over Sabah and it looks like the people can't get enough. Luke Rintod
There have now been well over 400 Borneo tea parties held across the state. But what actually is going on at the tea parties that they continue to draw people to it?
Last Wednesday, hundreds of adults from Kampung Kapayan Lama near here, turned up at a private house to in the evening to listen to UBF chairman, Jeffrey Kitingan. Even the rain failed to dampen their spirits.
They came to listen to the UBF explanation why Sabah remains poor and how issues should be handled in order for Sabahans to come out stronger.
The crowd in Kapayan, just as in the over 400 previous tea parties in various places, was so spirited that they responded in affirmation to each statement by the speakers.
Shouts of “Ini kali lah!” literally means meaning “This is the time!” in reference to political change filled the air..
Even though there were not enough seating, many stood the whole two hours listening intently without complaining to what UBF leaders were telling them.
The ‘tea party’ has now developed into a certain format. It starts with the audience singing the the national and state anthems, the Negaraku and Sabah Tanah Airku. It is followed by a comprehensive explanation of background of Sabah and the formation of Malaysia in 1963, normally done by either of two of Kitingan’s senior UBF officers, Edward Linggu or Rubin Guribah.
The UBF chairman then takes the floor and delivers a more detailed and analytical version of how Sabah gained independence from the British, the formation of Malaysia and the the state’s political history since then.
He then elaborates on the subsequent hegemony of the federal government starting from Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s era, political manoeuvres during the premierships of Tun Abdul Razak and Hussein Onn and the forceful and at times iron-fisted rule of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Kitingan’s explanation is that Malayan leaders have always bent on subduing Sabah and Sarawak in order to control their rich natural resources especially their oil and gas wealth and now the large tracks of land that are being converted into massive oil palm plantations.
He gives statistical evidence of how taxes and wealth are sucked out of the two states with very little being given back to them and shows comparative data on how Sabah has been shortchanged in almost all aspects including the distribution of parliamentary seats and meagre representation in federal government and agencies.
In the case of Kampung Kapayan Lama last Wednesday, Kitingan, after finishing his hour-long talk, invited a local teacher, Kustin Ladi, who is also a UBF leader to give his views on how the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was continuing to trample on Sabah’s rights and autonomy.
Normally, the talk is followed with a question and answer session and then wrapped up with the UBF adopted song entitled “Ini kali lah” that was composed by local singer Justin Lusah with lyrics by teacher Maklin Masiau, also a UBF member.
Sometimes short video recordings of complaining natives from various places losing their their native customary lands are shown to the audience.
By then the end the crowd is ready for refreshment and in Kapayan Lama, the discussions continued over a few jars of locally-brewed rice wine.