Sabah, synonymous with poorest state in Malaysia with million plus illegals and hundreds of thousand more waiting at its doorstep to enter and settle down, today wears a new look. From better health care to improved education to greater security and safety from criminals across the border, Sabah now has everything it needs for it to prosper.
How did this metamorphosis come about?
The able Musa Aman has given Sabah a much needed makeover. Under his charismatic leadership, the Barisan National has pulled up the sagging fortunes of the state.
Musa Aman, who took over as Sabah’s CM in 2003, turned the state’s economy around: it went recorded 6 per cent growth every year between 2007 and 2009, as compared to 3.5 per cent in the prior five years.
After the Sabah landslide win in 2008, a research by a Think-Tank said: “We believe the Sabah election results underscore the upside risk to Malaysia’s growth and development, given what we view as the electorate’s resolve to incentivise politicians who focus on these issues.”
Sabahans think Musa Aman has a comprehensive vision, and is not focusing only on the state’s capital Kota Kinabalu. Even in remote places like Sook and Kalabakan, people are saying development is even.
His landslide win in 2008 has shocked the opposition, but the people of Sabah knew the opposition days were counted. Musa Aman has given them Sabahans the safety they crave for. After coming to power, many illegals were locked up as criminals and thrown out of the state, which made Sabahans, especially the ones near the Philippines waters, feel safe.
Another example of his farsightedness was his donating of more than RM 24 million for Chinese temples, Sikh temples, Hindu temples and churches all over the state which was never done to such a scale by previous chief ministers.
It was not easy for Musa Aman to break the grip of race and religion over Sabahans. Over 15 long years, they had lived with the complex arithmetic of race and social engineering equations imported from Peninsular Malaysia and UMNO. Musa Aman managed to break all myths of race politics but without seeming like a hard leader.
A seasoned and down-to-earth man of simple tastes, Musa Aman, delicately balanced the interests of his party UMNO and the Barisan National. He has managed to carry people along, even in the absence of populist views on job reservations for Sabahans, both Muslims and Non-Muslims.
Did women play a major role in Musa securing a second term? Yes, it did. They went out in hordes to vote for him. By reserving more seats for women in institutions and giving them a role in decision-making at the kampong level, Musa Aman has won the confidence of women in Sabah. His first tenure as CM created an environment, and influenced women to give him their vote.
Has Musa Aman changed the way Sabahans vote? A difficult question to answer, but one thing has changed for sure – the Sabah Natives now want to see development and growth. They want the same lifestyle as people in Peninsular Malaysia, and they refuse to be trapped in the politics of race and religion like in Peninsular Malaysia. Don’t forget that for ages Sabahans have been more open when its comes to race and religion compared with West Malaysians, as, many families in Sabah, including my wife’s own family, have Christians and Muslims and even Taoist as family members. This was not new to Sabah until UMNO and West Malaysian politicians try to change this concept of moderation among the more than 30 ethnic tribes and groups here in Sabah.
Musa Aman’s votes came from all communities, and not just one, a sea change in a state where votes had always been divided on race and religion lines.
Musa Aman managed to do the impossible: he routed Anwar Ibrahim’s Party Keadilan and Yong Teck Lee’s SAPP in the recent Batu Sapi Parlimentary by-election, parties that thought they had Sabahans support.
How did Musa Aman pull this off? The answer is simple. He made development his agenda, and it worked. He was careful not to make the same mistakes as Pairin-PBS did from 1985 to 1994. In fact he learned what not to do from them.
Musa convinced people of the seriousness of his effort and the sincerity of his intent. This is the reason he managed to cut through Sabah’s thick race politics imported from West Malaysia since Mustaffa.
In all this mayhem, there is a lesson for all our leaders: playing the race and religion card is not enough to get voted to power. The ‘rakyat’ does vote for growth and development, and not just for some Ketuanan Malay cause. Besides, the more than 30 ethnic groups in Sabah may have political differences but they all reject attempts to propagate politics of racial superiority like those hardcore UMNO chaps from Peninsular Malaysia.
So, apart from the pride I have for my wife and both my kids as Sabahans, I too have expectations as a Malaysian.
The magic of Sabah be replicated elsewhere.
There is no doubt that Sabah enjoyed the status of the most grim, dismal and dangerous state of Malaysia at one time. Now, speak this to anyone who has been to Sabah recently and he will rectify you. Acting courageously with simple but effective strategies, Musa Aman has indicted recently that the GDP growth rate of Sabah for next year will be close to 7 per cent.
Definitely, change is possible. All States can do the things Sabah has done. And why only Sabah – commendable results have been achieved in Penang under Lim Guan Eng. And Tan Sri Khalid in Selangor has done marvelous job even Tok Guru Nik Aziz has done a fantastic job in Kelantan. Incidentally, the above states were decreed as the black sheeps of the nation. Trends are changing.
Apart from a brave and visionary leader, it is people and the hope they harbour that matters. Hope dispels complacency. No person likes to languish in miserable conditions. People in many other states want things to get better. They have to be given Hope!!
This hope is not delivered by rhetoric, garlands and slogans or just our Premier Najib’s “feel-good” 1Malaysia concept….it’s more than that!