Sabahans must show they back local autonomy

For the third time in Sabah’s history, the Tuan Yang Terutama (TYT) has had to play a pivotal role in deciding who should lead the government. It happened previously in 1986 and in 2018.

At the federal level in March, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was also the final decider on who should form the government.

Under the state constitution, TYT Yang Dipertua Negeri has the discretion to appoint as chief minister one who is likely to command the confidence of the majority of state assemblymen.

How do you know whether someone has the confidence of the assembly or Dewan Rakyat if it is not tested in either house?

There may be no finality in using external evidence such as a statutory declaration or by holding interviews with the assemblymen, as their allegiance is as fluid as the developing situation.

The sad thing about these turns of events is that it robs the people of their right to vote for a government or individuals of their choice. The power has been taken away from the people and placed in the hands of the so called “frogs” who have jumped from one party to the next for some kind of benefit or gain.

Voters have become innocent bystanders in a high-stakes political game, while assemblymen or MP’s decide on who should rule the state, and not the other way around.

The question now is what is the role of an assemblyman or MP? Is it to leap over others to benefit oneself or to serve the constituents? Is it going to be the same as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s famous statement, this government is not necessarily the one that Malaysians voted for but we care for you all the same?

The former chief minister Musa Aman may have felt he was played out the second time, but the ones who were really played out were the people who voted for reforms and change.

Voters who feel short changed and angry over shameless “traitors” have another chance to place their votes.

Some clever people have developed a website kataksabah.com which tracks all the politicians who have leapfrogged from party-to-party over the years. Names or pictures of assemblymen who betrayed the Warisan-led government are being circulated on this website and it would be interesting to know whether they will survive the coming election.

Some say it’s the end of their political career.

The incoming government should focus on regaining Sabah rights and autonomy under the Malaysia Agreement 1963. The groundwork which began under Pakatan Harapan has had little traction since. Maximus Ongkili’s hope to resolve MA63 issues within six months was mere political talk. It’s now close to the deadline and there is nothing much to show.

Perikatan Nasional is further away from where PH left off in resolving the 21 issues that were negotiated between the Sabah and Sarawak chief ministers and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The big issues on the table are still the 20% oil royalty, petroleum sales tax, 40% tax revenue and autonomy.

Umno’s race politics is still the same

East Malaysians are riled up by MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman’s repeated claim that Malaysia is Malay land. Sabahans abhor such conflicted statements about Malaysia. How would Tajuddin feel if Sabah and Sarawak claimed that Malaysia belongs to the 50 ethnic native tribes of Borneo?

Sarawak and Sabah are the largest and second largest states in Malaysia, and Peninsular Malaysia contains only 40% of Malaysia’s total land area.

Sabah now has the dubious reputation of being claimed by two countries, the Philippines and Tajuddin’s “Malay” country. The two need to sort out their claims with Wisma Putra.

Always on the receiving end

Being the biggest oil producer, the state receives peanuts compared to what Petronas and the federal government get in revenue and taxes and dividends respectively.

In 2019, Petronas paid RM54 billion in dividends to the government, including a special dividend of RM30 billion. This does not include the corporate tax Petronas has to pay.

Out of the RM30 billion, the two major oil producing states, Sabah and Sarawak, got nothing.

Between 2008-2019, RM24.54 billion was paid to Sarawak and RM12.78 billion to Sabah. These 5% oil royalties paid to Sabah and Sarawak are only a tiny bit of what the federal government gets from Petronas.

Autonomy in politics

The official report about the 21 items negotiated by the PH government and Sabah and Sarawak has now been classified under the Official Secrets Act. East Malaysians want to know what happened to the rights and autonomy negotiated. If there is honesty between the two sides, what is there to hide?

Sabah yearns for its autonomy over matters like religion, health, education and immigration. The state remains very much lacking in social and economic development.

Shafie Apdal’s Warisan party may not be the best, but people are warming up to the idea that Sabah should be led by its own homegrown party. There’s this independent streak in Warisan reminiscent of PBS.

In the high-stakes political game, Shafie probably made the right decision to call for a snap election. He has done his part. Now it’s the turn of Sabahans to do the right thing, vote out the same and bring in the new.

 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.