Whither Sabah’s Chinese?

Sabah’s Chinese community has no elected representatives who can be considered for Chief Minister Hajiji Noor’s Cabinet. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Is there room in the new Sabah Cabinet for a Chinese representative? That is the question the community is asking itself after an overwhelming number of them rejected Chinese candidates in the now ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) in favour of those from Warisan Plus.

Politicians like former state assistant minister Pang Yuk Ming reckon as much as a whopping 95% of votes from the Chinese community went to Warisan Plus candidates.

As a consequence, GRS’ Chinese candidates from MCA, PBS and SAPP were defeated – some losing their deposits – leaving the community with no elected representatives who could be considered by new Sabah Chief Minister Hajiji Noor for his Cabinet.

Hajiji, who has yet to name five more of his ministers, could name one or more Chinese community representatives for any of the six nominated assemblymen positions and they could then be appointed to the state Cabinet.

Federation of Sabah Chinese Associations president Goh Tian Chuan alluded to this when he called for the chief minister to form a state government that was multiracial and said a diverse Cabinet was necessary to ensure no particular race was marginalised.

PCS deputy president Pang Yuk Ming.

However, Pang, who is the PCS deputy president, questioned whether it was even possible for Hajiji to take such a move given the “complexity” within the GRS coalition comprising Umno, PPBM, PBS and STAR.

“Umno and other parties have brokered for the various portfolios in the Cabinet. Do you think they would be willing to give up a portfolio to accommodate a community that had overwhelmingly supported the other side?” he asked.

Political observer Hamid Ismail said he personally believed the Chinese community deserved a voice in the Cabinet.

However, even if this did not materialise, he said there were alternatives for the community to be heard, including at the state legislative assembly where the Chinese elected representatives from the now opposition Warisan Plus and PKR could voice out their issues.

“No matter what happens, the chief minister is not going to abandon or forsake any community,” Hamid said.

Political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung said it was time for Sabahans and Malaysians in general to move beyond the thinking that only an elected representative of a particular community could represent that group.

“In this day and age, it is not necessarily true that a Chinese should represent the Chinese community. We need to see ourselves as Malaysians first and not just as Sabahans or of a particular ethnicity,” he said.