Shafie defends performance of Sabah ministers in federal Cabinet

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal arrives for the National Day celebration organised by Sutera Harbour Resort in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Shafie Apdal today defended the performance of the Sabah ministers in the federal Cabinet, saying they have highlighted the concerns of the state over a number of issues.

He said that while the priority of the federal ministers is the country, it is normal that they will highlight issues that are of relevance and concern to Sabah or their constituencies during Cabinet meetings.

“I believe they have raised issues for the good of the country as a whole. Of course, for the interest of Sabah, we have a different platform where issues can be raised at the (steering committee to review and implement) Malaysia Agreement 1963 meeting.

“We have had frequent meetings with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad,” he added after launching a National Day celebration held by Sutera Harbour Resort here today.

Shafie was commenting on a report in the Daily Express that federal ministers from Sabah had not raised state issues in the Cabinet, quoting remarks allegedly made by Mahathir.

The local daily had quoted the prime minister as saying: “As far as I’m concerned, they (Sabahan representatives in the federal Cabinet) did not say anything (about various current issues).”

De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong has demanded a retraction by the newspaper, accusing it of publishing a distorted account of Mahathir’s remarks.

Liew said that on reviewing the video recording of the press conference, he found that Mahathir had clearly said: “Well, the Sabah government did not say anything to us, only you (Express editor James Sarda) said it.”

“Nowhere in the prime minister’s response did he mention that my Sabahan colleagues and I had never raised our concerns in the Cabinet on major issues,” he said.

The issues raised by Sabah Express included the airport departure levy, the appointment of the new vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Sabah and the introduction of Jawi script in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus for Year 4 pupils in vernacular primary schools next year.

Shafie said the MA63 meetings were ongoing and hoped certain announcements would be made soon.

“There are issues that we have realised. I hope they will be announced in this coming celebration (Malaysia Day) but I think what’s important for us is to build the country.

“Whatever differences in our views should not deter us as Malaysians to work harder,” he said.

On a separate matter, Shafie said he would be getting reports from religious authorities soon on whether preacher Dr Zakir Naik should be banned from making public speeches in the state.

He said Sabah had shown it was serious in weeding out extremist views by passing a bill to amend Section 52 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1995 to provide definitions of “religion of Islam” and “Ahli Sunnah Waljama’ah”.

“This is a very moderate kind of approach on how Islam must be taught and spread (in Sabah). You can’t force people to believe what you believe.

“There are verses in the Quran indicating that one should not belittle other people or religions … it’s quite clear,” he said.