No major cheer for Sabahans under Warisan so far, say analysts

Sabah has banned the export of logs as part of efforts to tackle illegal logging, but analyst Arnold Puyok says the state government must also move ‘from rhetoric to action’ on such decisions.

KOTA KINABALU: Analysts say reforms in Sabah are still slow in coming after a year of rule by the Warisan-led government, noting several unpopular decisions despite some positives since the May 9 general election.

Arnold Puyok, chairman of the Society for the Empowerment and Economic Development of Sabah, said reforms in the state are “painstakingly slow”.

He added that state ministers, like their counterparts at the federal level, are still on a learning curve.

“The Sabah government has yet to reveal its master plan to develop Sabah. No big policy decisions have been made, either,” he said.

However, the senior lecturer in politics and government studies at Unimas praised some of the state government’s achievements which he said were in line with Warisan’s promise to reform Sabah.

These include the passing of a motion in the legislative assembly to pursue the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and the implementation of rights granted to Sabah.

“By far, it is seen as proof of the government’s seriousness in strengthening Sabah’s position and its special rights as provided for in MA63 and the Federal Constitution,” he said.

Puyok also voiced approval for the ban on the export of logs and the review of timber concessionaires as part of efforts to address the problem of timber monopolies and illegal logging.

He likewise praised the government’s decision to abolish communal titles which it said would give landowners more rights over their land.

But he said these achievements must be accompanied by more concrete policy decisions.

“All the assurances and promises must be institutionalised. The government must move from rhetoric to action.”

Universiti Malaysia Sabah lecturer Lee Kuok Tiung meanwhile criticised the state government’s announcement last month that it would consider placing refugees from neighbouring countries on a border island for humanitarian reasons.

“Humanitarian aid is important but never to the extent where we risk our nation’s sovereignty.

“We must understand the mother of this problem in Sabah is border security. The government should put in more effort to tackle this problem,” he said, adding that these people might eventually claim the island as their own.

“We might see them as refugees, but they would see themselves as the rightful owners of the territory. We risk losing all the sea and natural resources from or surrounding the island.”

But Lee said it was too early to comment on the rest of the government’s policies, saying more time is needed to see how they pan out.