Shenanigans aside, Sabah’s aspirations still remain

Azmin Ali, on his recent visit to Sabah, urged Sabahans to elect a state government which would share the same aspirations as its federal counterpart, to ensure that state development plans run smoothly.

He said the alignment of minds was important so that federal policies could be implemented more effectively at both state and grassroots level.

Azmin had also urged the people to reject a non-functional state government that would only want to play politics.

While the Warisan-led state government may not have been the best, it was at least functional. Those playing politics were the “former has beens” backed by parties at federal level.

What resulted after the “Sheraton move” in February created the greatest dysfunctionality between the state and federal governments: the constant political outmanoeuvring destroyed any sense of order.

In many ways we cannot blame Sabahans for the political shenanigans because they learnt from what has happened at federal level and repeated the same.

The game of politics being played at the federal level led to the intervention of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in the formation of a federal government; in the case of Sabah, the Yang DiPertua Negeri had to accede to Chief Minister Shafie Apdal’s request to dissolve the state assembly to maintain peace and order to protect the rakyat.

In the most jumbled up political landscape since the formation of Malaysia, no one in Sabah can make any sense of what is going on at the federal level.

Umno president Zahid Hamidi has reaffirmed his party’s earlier decision not to formally join Perikatan Nasional (PN). Instead, Umno will remain dedicated to its Muafakat Nasional pact with PAS.

If Sabahans vote for Umno, they are also voting for PAS, which is only interested in implementing Islamic law, including hudud.

At the state level, PKR and DAP support Anwar Ibrahim to be the next prime minister, while Sabah PKR and Sabah DAP back Shafie as the prime minister candidate.

Sabah Umno is likely to collide head-on with Muhyiddin Yassin’s ruling party, PPBM, helmed by former Umno stalwarts.

Sabotage of each other’s chances is likely and cannot be discounted.

We can easily expect five or six-cornered fights with parties splitting the votes and every man for himself.

The coming state elections are the first under the PN government and will be a barometer for the next national general election. Also, this is the first time the voters are given the chance to vote in a government legitimately after the fall of the BN government in May 2018.

Shafie has made a brave decision that there will be no “palace door” or “backdoor” government; win or lose, Sabahans will vote in a government of their choice.

With the likes of the Liberal Democratic Party entering the fray led by veteran Chong Kah Kiat, Sabah has more options than ever before.

Chong is best known as the chief minister who cracked down on illegal immigrants. He is remembered by Sabahans for the deportation of massive numbers of illegal migrants and for taking the “pendatang tanpa izin” (PTI) or illegal immigrant issue by the horn.

Chong was also an effective assemblyman who developed Kudat and made famous the tip of Borneo with the sunset classical extravaganza.

Of importance to Sabahans are the promises made under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, which many people are still not conversant with.

The issue came under Pillar 4 of Pakatan Harapan’s Buku Harapan manifesto for the 2018 general election. Under this pillar, the federal government was to return equal status to Sabah and Sarawak, increase oil royalties to 20% and return 40% tax revenue back to Sabah, according to the constitutional requirements.

This has not happened and Sabah and Sarawak are deprived of revenue badly needed for development.

The Sabah and Sarawak chief ministers have negotiated 21 items for implementation, and 17 have been approved.

The negotiations were cut short when PN came into power and since then, everything has gone downhill.

Maximus Ongkili, the veteran minister for Sabah and Sarawak affairs, promised action within six months but there is nothing to show so far.

It was announced in Parliament that the final report from the cabinet special committee to review the implementation of MA63 will not be available to the public because the document has been classified under the Official Secrets Act 1972.

The government said there was no need for the final report to be distributed to the public as the content was technical in nature and involved sensitive matters.

After 57 years in Malaysia, there are still secrets being kept over Sabah and Sarawak’s oil rights, revenue and autonomy. Sad as it sounds, Sabahans are feeling duped once more.

Azmin was part of the PH promise. Can he deliver the same under PN? Same face, same rhetoric, just different uniforms, logo and flag.


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