KOTA KINABALU: With the clock ticking closer to nomination day for the Sabah state assembly elections next Saturday, a host of various issues are likely to come under scrutiny by opposing parties during the two-week campaign period.
Lee Kuok Tiung of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) said the illegal immigrant problem and the Malaysia Agreement 1963 would be “dinosaur issues”, long-drawn-out matters played up numerous times and which have yet to be resolved.
“They remain in the abstract, going nowhere,” he told FMT.
However, illegal immigrants continued to be a problem in Sabah and that the state had yet to obtain what it is owed from the federal government.
“Now, there will also be an emphasis on stateless children and cross-border diseases like polio,” he said.
Lee said fake identity cards and dubious or phantom voters would also be associated with illegal immigrants in the state.
Another issue that evolved from the illegal immigrant debate is the opposition’s accusation that Warisan is an illegal immigrant-friendly party, a claim that the multi-racial party has repeatedly rejected.
Caretaker chief minister Shafie Apdal was also accused of being an illegal immigrant and that Warisan was a lanun (pirate) party, to which the Semporna MP had threatened to sue if such allegations did not cease.
Economy, jobs and Warisan’s promises
The sliding state economy would be another issue, Lee said.
“These are bread and butter issues. There is too much politicking and the people’s rice bowl or welfare has been forgotten. With the Covid-19 pandemic, trust me, everyone is worried about their finances.
“Many have been disappointed with both sides and they are determined to come out on their own as contestants this time. So do not be surprised to see a clash of many corners this election,” he said.
Sabah UiTM’s Firdausi Suffian said there were high expectations of Warisan when it came to power but that development was stifled due to the pandemic and the change of government at the federal level.
“As much as they (Warisan) can put these perspectives to the voters, the fact remains (that the) people will tend to question how they resolve and mitigate economic issues (including) during Covid-19, which there have been many complaints about,” he said.
Mega projects and political appointments
He added that Warisan promised in the last election it would not repeat the actions of the previous government, for example, no political appointments in government-linked companies (GLCs).
“But they still did it (political appointment in GLCs). This is similar to the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) last time.”
Lee also said issues surrounding mega projects like the Kaiduan Dam and multi-billion ringgit Tanjung Aru Eco-Development (TAED) would also take centre stage.
Both were BN era projects which received plenty of brickbats from the public. Warisan and its allies, then in the opposition, campaigned against the projects in the 14th general election.
After assuming power, however, the construction of the Kaiduan Dam which was supposed to be in Penampang was shifted to neighbouring district Papar and renamed Papar Dam.
On TAED, Shafie had denied Warisan was against the controversial project, saying the plan was to downscale it.
Attacks by the opposition, and Warisan’s defence
Romzi Ationg, also of UMS, said among other issues to be thrown in by the opposition would be the lifting of the two-term limit for the Sabah governor’s tenure and the lack of political alignment between state and federal governments.
He also said the opposition would try to portray the Warisan-led government as being incompetent due to many of its inexperienced and young leaders.
However, he said the Warisan Plus coalition could hope to counter the negatives by brandishing the initiatives it had undertaken besides picking bones on failures by previous state administrations.
“Warisan will showcase the distribution of individual native status land titles and the case for ‘Sabah for Sabahans’. They will also claim that the opposition are greedy as well as the rife practice of money politics and nepotism by the opposition and previous governments.
“Besides that, Warisan will also bring up claims on the awarding of citizenships to foreigners during the BN reign and the culture of ‘politik katak’ (party hopping) among the rival parties,” he said.