The presence of Sabahans aged 30- and 40-something at Democracy Sabah political debates is an indication of a 'growing interest' in Sabah's politics, says a lecturer.
Some 200 spectators turned up for the Democracy Sabah debate on whether a state or national party is the solution to solving Sabah’s problems. The speakers were PKR’s Pajuddin Nordin and State Reform Party’s (STAR) Edwin Linggu.
But what was interesting to note was the age group of those who came. The majority of them were in their late 30s and early 40s.
The debate was the second organised by Desah which aims to allow voters to see for themselves whom among the aspiring candidates are most suitable to represent the voters in Parliament.
The first debate dubbed the “grand debate” was held in May and pitted STAR Sabah chairman Jeffrey Kitingan against DAP’s Dr Edwin Bosi.
Almost 400 people reportedly turned up to hear both leaders debate on “Which political party is the best alternative for Sabah”. The majority of the crowd was reportedly in “their 30s and 40s”.
Political awareness is fast catching up with Sabah’s young upwardly mobile (yuppies) generation and much of the credit must go to STAR, whose members are primarily under 40 years and who consider themselves as “thinking adults”.
Said STAR Youth chief Hasmin Azroy: “The young people are more aware now [of political developments]. We have been active on the ground and have had over 4,000 BTPs (Borneo Tea parties) all over the state.
“We are explaining the Borneo Agenda and the Malaysia Agreement. They are aware now that it is about their future and their children’s future.
“We’re focused on informing and educating our young people. The politics will come when they have the knowledge,” he said.
Incidentally, half of Sabah’s existing population is under 40 years of age.
The Sabah Monthly Census Bulletin reportedly noted that as of February last year, Sabah had 1.6 million people under 40 years. The bulletin noted that Sabah’s population is 3.214 million.
Of this, about 1.241 million youths are between 20 and 40 years.
UiTM political science lecturer Dr Arnold Puyok, who has been moderating the debates together with Desah chairman and former Suhakan commissioner Simon Sipaun, is of the view that the debates and the public response were an indication of “Sabah politics in the future”.
“Debates are not part of Sabah’s political culture. In fact, no debates have ever been conducted in the modern Sabah political history.
“Politicians go to the pulpit without having their ideas challenged by their opponents or by their voters. And voters end up being represented by leaders who are not only incompetent but are also unable to voice out their constituents’ grievances effectively.
“But there is a growing interest among Sabahans now, especially among the young.
“The presence of young, 30- and 40-somethings, shows that there is growing interest in political activism in this age group. This is really something to note.
“It’s an indication of Sabah’s politics in the future,” he said.