SABAH, SARAWAK AND OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY KINGMAKER

In the spur of excitement and eagerness to remove UMNO-BN, could Sabah and Sarawak be compromising their autonomy once again by a total surrender this time to PR just like the present UMNO-BN local leaders today who are subjected to KL decision makers in the running of the state?

By Darshan Singh

SABAHANS have to be very clear in mind as to what is the real focus of Sabah’s struggle within the Federation of Malaysia. Sabahan’s political perception and mindsets are obviously split between what some say, national and regional geopolitics.

Some say that aligning with Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is playing mature politics in tandem with the impending development of a two-party system. It is assumed that all political parties must align with either one in order to be relevant in Malaysian politics.

There are others who beg to differ. This is because Sabah and Sarawak has a special position in the whole scenario of Malaysian politics. The approach to national politics not necessarily by being absorbed into either of the coalitions because their agenda are different.

Wan Azizah of PKR is obviously furious and confused over the Borneo Alliance’s drumming of Malaya parties vs Borneo parties and the Malaya Agenda vs Borneo Agenda. The local objection is the perceived domination of Malaya-based parties – PR (PKR, PAS, DAP) and BN (UMNO, GERAKAN, MCA) while Wan Azizah could not understand why the sentiments but focus only on the joint effort with PR domination in Sabah targeting in ousting UMNO-BN from Putrajaya.

Many Sabahans felt the heavy presence of UMNO (Najib, Muhyddin, Rais, Mahathir, Ibrahim Ali, Hishamuddin) and the looming and impending takeover by PR (Anwar, Nik Aziz, Mohd Sabu, Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh). There is a heavy cloud of Malaya presence, they say. Where are the Sabahans? Sabah is for the taking.

Some have labelled Datuk Dr Jeffrey as a King of frogs, that Datuk Yong Teck Lee cannot be trusted and Datu Badaruddin Tun Mustapha has no clout while PBS, UPKO, PBRS and LDP prefer to be safe in the warm blanket of UMNO-BN comfort. I am trying to think who in Malaysian politics has never changed parties either for survival or for strategic reason or for sulking. Even Mahathir has been in and out of UMNO. What kind of a frog is that?

What about all the Borneo-based parties forming an Alliance as a third force and sharing the seats among themselves?

While BN with its Sabah and Sarawak collaborators, and PR both being Malayan based parties, view Sabah and Sarawak as being of the same status as the other states in Malaya, many Sabahans reject this notion. For example, the Borneo Alliance (STAR, USNO Baru, SAPP) view Sabah and Sarawak as being equal in status to Malaya and not the individual states in Malaya. This is spelt out in the Malaysia Agreement and the various statements of the leaders involved in forging Malaysia.

Is the PRU13 about toppling BN which is deemed to be corrupt and unjust? Is it about putting PR which is deemed to be clean and just in Government? Is it about having a check-and-balance between the government and the opposition in line with the vibrant democracy? All these questions sound relevant as what many people term seeing the big picture at the national level.

The maxim says, “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The BN Government since the time of Mahathir has been alleged to be a fitting testimony to the maxim mentioned above notwithstanding the progress Malaysia has made. There has been no opposition before PR came into existence. At the national level it looks very logical.

Rest assured that there is no government, be it BN or PR, which can be free from corruption and injustice. To have a stable and just government, there is a need for a strong opposition whoever they maybe. The BN Government has had a good PR opposition to check on them. In the event PR becomes the next government, BN must become a strong opposition to check on the PR government. One just wonders how long the local BN components would stay loyal to BN if it loses and not be like “the fleas leaving a dead body.”

This is the big picture some Sabahans are looking at. The objective they say is for PR to capture Putrajaya and to change the BN Government that has monopolised power 55 years in Malaya and 49 years in Sabah. The two-party system is supposed to save democracy and the interest of Malaysia.

Looking from another angle, some Sabahans and Sarawakians (the Borneo Alliance), paint a different scenario of the big picture. They ask who would look after Sabah’s and Sarawak’s special interest – the autonomy guaranteed in the Malaysia Agreement. Both Sabah and Sarawak are supposed to be ruled by local Borneon based people and parties. What are the real interests of UMNO-BN and PR from Malaya who are so eager to install a direct rule over Sabah and Sarawak just like they did over Labuan?

Do UMNO and PR really have the soft spot, so to say, for the people of Sabah and Sarawak or just that they are mere trophies to be won to ensure either Najib or Anwar sits in Putrajaya? To borrow the words of Tan Sri Harris, are the Sabahans “jumping from the frying pan into the fire” implying (whether he realises it or not) that both of which situations are detrimental to Sabahans and Sarawakians interests?

The Borneo Alliance implied that for as long as both Najib (UMNO-BN) and Anwar (PKR-PR) do not respect the local autonomy and the special rights of Sabah and Sarawak, neither of them are relevant to Sabah.

The Malayan Federal mind set seems to assume superiority when dealing with Sabah and Sarawak. In 1977, when declaring open the Berjaya Party headquarters, Mahathir (Tun) said blatantly that “there is nothing special about Sabah’s position in Malaysia” to the disbelief of the audience. But nobody said anything for fear of the infamous ISA. DAP wants the immigration control is Sabah and Sarawak to be removed (Karpal Singh, 2009). The PR is demanding all Parliamentary seats to be contested by them and treating the local parties as nuisance. These seem to represents the mindsets of KL leaders – KL must control.

Datuk Dr Jeffrey landed in Kamunting under ISA in 1991 for demanding Sabah’s rights since 1986 and is still at it today after failing to get the message through to KL via several parties in the past whose leaders feared his proposal and rather have him out in order to please BN leaders. Does Anwar favour Sabah’s rights? He, too, had Jeffrey out from PKR. Does UMNO favour him? He tried to push the Borneo Agenda through UMNO but his membership was rejected too. Today, leaders from Sarawak who see eye to eye with him join hands through STAR party forming the Borneo Alliance to create a front to jointly demand Sabah’s and Sarawak’s rights. For this, the 63-year old Harvard University PhD graduate is labelled the “King of Frogs”. Is he really? One wonders.

In the spur of excitement and eagerness to remove UMNO-BN, could Sabah and Sarawak be compromising their autonomy once again by a total surrender this time to PR just like the present UMNO-BN local leaders today who are subjected to KL decision makers in the running of the state?

Sabah and Sarawak have become the focus of both BN and PR as their doorway to Putrajaya. Both states have become the trophies to be won. The pawn is Sabah’s autonomy. BN controls Sabah through UMNO, MCA and GERAKAN (KL based) plus the local riders – PBS, UPKO, PBRS and LDP while PR is trying to control Sabah through PKR, PAS and DAP (all KL based). It is alleged that PR does not trust the local parties preferring to have it all to themselves by seemingly propping up local Sabahans as their front line cover-up. Sabahans are definitely falling for it.

What is the main focus that Sabahans and Sarawakians ought to have? It is not about putting Najib (BN) or Anwar (PR) in Putrajaya. It is about Sabah’s and Sarawak’s power in their hands in this “window of opportunity” to dictate terms and stake their demands to KL their rightful place under the Malaysian sun. We are now in a position to make or break any Federal Government. This is the time Sabahan and Sarawakian opposition parties must capture all the Parliamentary seats in order to be respected as equal partners and not as serfs to be used by KL.

Remember in 2008 PR obtained only 75 seats while BN 95 in Malaya. Neither could form the government which requires 112 seats to get a simple majority. It was Sabah and Sarawak that threw their weight to BN to form the Government.

Sabah and Sarawak can make PR the government too but PR must be ready to back the local Borneo Alliance on a one-to-one fight against UMNO-BN and not to compete with them and or treat them as spoilers and being greedy because they can also label PR as such themselves. The question rather, is PR willing to fulfil Borneo Alliance’s demand for reinstatement of Sabah’s rights?

Let us have a paradigm shift and consider the following:

Borneo Alliance says that Malaysia Agreement states that Malaysia is a partnership of three Independent Nations – Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya (after Singapore left). But BN says it is a partnership of 13 states. Raja Petra said (in Malaysia Kini), “..the establishment of Malaysia was much like a marriage: Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. Singapore has left (1965).” “Relationship is no longer sacrosanct, a marriage rocked with broken promises. The East Malaysian states have descended in rank to become no more than a wronged spouse in an unfortunate union, with West Malaysia enjoying political supremacy and socio-economic advantage.”

Datuk James Masing Jemut, the President of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) said (in Malaysia Kini), “Are we really part of three regions – Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya?” “To foster unity, we must recognise that there are three regions in Malaysia, not two out of 13 states. If we understand that, I think a closer relationship can be built much faster”.

Tunku Abdul Rahman said in 1963, “..North Borneo (Sabah) to stand on its own as equal partner with the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore.”

Despite these statements, BN and PR are still treating us as one of the 13 states. Datuk Dr Jeffrey and his STAR party in Borneo Alliance are fighting for Sabah being one of the three partners in Malaysia and not one of the 13 partner states. It is said that today documents and history has been designed, manipulated and amended to that effect. It was only recently that the KL leaders agreed to acknowledge that Malaysia Day is 16 September 1963 and not 31 August 1957 (an example of history manipulation).

STAR in Borneo Alliance asks if Sabahans and Sarawakians are taking it lying down hopelessly fearing to reverse the trend to the original concept of Malaysia. Will BN or PR make it good? Would BN and PR be the wrong horses for Sabah and Sarawak to bet on? Would Borneo Alliance be the right knight to check-mate both BN and PR?

With the political events that have swept the nation in 2008 election, Sabah and Sarawak’s role have become crucial to the survival of PR and BN. This is trump card. We stand on our own and level up to them and not subservient to them, i.e. three power centres as check and balance.

Both Sabah and Sarawak are now in a position to demand the reinstatement of the three-partnership. Sabah and Sarawak must dictate the politics of federalism since the opportunity has arisen, it is now or never. It has always been Malaya politics of federalism.

In the light of Malaysia supposedly to be partnership of three and not 14 partners (including Federal Territories), the distribution of Malaysian wealth has grossly been lopsided and unfair.

The federal budget should have been divided by three for distribution to their respective territories. As it is now, Malaya takes the bulk of it in the form of 11 shares while Sabah and Sarawak get only one share each when Sarawak has 7 Divisions and Sabah 5 Residencies. Sarawak and Sabah should have been entitled to 7 shares and 5 shares respectively. Based on the average of individual areas of states in Malaya, Sarawak nation could be divided into 10 states while Sabah nation 7 states.

Perlis, Malacca and Penang states in Malaya combined equals only to Keningau District (3533sq/km) in Sabah. Perlis a mere 308sq/km has a Sultan, Menteri Besar, Exco. Negeri, 3 MPs and 10 ADUNs. While Keningau District only has one District Officer, two Assistant District Officers, One MP and 3 ADUNs. Keningau gets a meagre budget of RM10 million as against RM1 billion for Perlis.

The Malaysian budget for 2013 is RM253 billion and Sabah gets only RM4 billion and Sarawak RM5 billion while Malaya gets a fat chunk of RM244 billion. Just one project in Malaya, the New KLIA, cost RM3.9 billion which is equal to the whole of Sabah’s 2013 budget!

What is Sabah’s contribution to the federal coffer in 2011? It was fourthy two (42) billion ringgit (RM15 billion from oil and gas and RM27 billion from other taxes). The Malaysia Agreement stipulates that 40% of federal taxes collected from Sabah must be returned to the state. This has not been honoured since 1970. This year Sabah gets only RM4 billion allocation when it should be RM16.8 billion (40% of RM42 billion).

Is there any wonder why Sabah is the poorest state followed by Sarawak in Malaysia? And yet these two states are the richest states in term of resources contributing 60% of Malaysia’s oil revenue. For as long as this anomaly is uncorrected, Sabah and Sarawak will forever be poor. The one “pain in the neck” for both BN and PR seems to be the so called “King of Frogs” who wants this corrected.

STAR-Borneo Alliance claims that the politics of federalism played by UMNO-BN has resulted in the socio-economic and political predicament of Sabah today. Not only has it become the poorest but also infested with undesirable foreign population supposedly engineered through the late former Home Minister Megat Junit as alleged by former Director of NRD Sabah during the RCI hearing on the 16 January 2013. Would PR also be of no difference if they are given a free hand?

Should Sabahans and Sarawakians stand up against both BN and PR and change the course of history and stand tall to be respected by playing a king maker role to reinstate Malaysia in its proper perspective? Sarawak in the hands of Sarawakians.

Should Sabahans place Sabah back into the hands of Sabahans or leave it to the West Malaysian politician? You decide!

*This article was published on Daily Express’ Comment & Analysis column on Sunday, 27th January 2013.

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About dusunbukit

You've got your truth, I've got my truth. We can't be both wrong. The real challenge is to discern the difference. Pardon me if I offend you, but I'm going to put my words bluntly. So, lets rumble..
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