Archive for June, 2011

Sabah is a state which has defied good governance. But in just eight years Musa Aman as chief minister has proved that diligence in administration can bring about wonders. If little has been heard of him during this time it is because he has been working quietly. Turning a state around is no easy task. And getting Sabah on track is doubly difficult.

The results of the recent Batu Sapi parliamentary election results, however, have left no doubt about the impact that his government has had. Now Musa is really big news.

So what is it that Musa has done so right? How has he succeeded in improving the life of the poor people in Sabah.

Musa spends long hours in his secretariat. He is known as the “18-hour chief minister”. Till the election results came out you couldn’t be sure whether the description was being used out of derision or admiration. Yong Teck Lee, for instance, made it plain that he saw little hope for Musa, saying a “glorified clerk” couldn’t be expected to run Sabah. The people of the state clearly think otherwise because Yong Teck Lee has been wiped out.

One of Musa’s priorities has been to restore order and discipline in the state government. The only way of doing this was by setting an example. Since he himself works long hours and doesn’t hold up files, officers and his ministerial colleagues have to be pretty sure that they do likewise. He has also chosen good officers to fill important posts in Kota Kinabalu and empowered them to bring the administration in the districts back to life as well. Government staff, long accustomed to snubbing authority, found they couldn’t bully the new chief minister. They had to come to work on time, accept computerisation and so on.

Earlier chief ministers, rarely came to office. Meetings were held sometimes at home and decisions were taken whimsically, with little consultation. They saw themselves as royalty who would rule by fiat and favour. The result of over 15 years of this behaviour was that the government lost its systems. The depth of its decision-making diminished.

Musa’s next step has been to restore the morale of the enforcement people. Sabah used to be called the “abduction capital” or the “curi Kayu capital” of Malaysia. “Timber Thieves” and “Abu Sayyaf” with political connections ruled and there was no question of the forest rangers and police exercising any control over their nefarious activities in the forest reserves and the east coast of Sabah. As the number of criminals, timber thieves and illegals kept growing they became bolder and would openly steal timber from forest reserve and kidnap, sell “Shabu” and other drugs and even run guns.

As Security Chief of the state Musa made it a priority to enforce the law and ensure that timber thieves, criminals and illegals are punished and kicked out of the state. Under previous chief ministers there were lesser arrest and deportation of illegals. Once Musa came to power, there was more arrest of criminals and up to now nearly 100,000 plus illegals have been deported and the process of deportation is an an ongoing exercise. This was a huge jump but the arrests would have meant little if they weren’t followed up by trials and punishment.

Now it doesn’t seem such a good idea to take to crime in Sabah any more. Average people cannot believe that they are free of the terror that was once unleashed upon them by names that they had come to widely feared like “007”, Abu Sayyap and the Moros from Southern Philippines.

Musa has shown that in a low-key but determined manner it is possible to restore the writ of the State and revive the justice system. His ability to transform Tawau, Sandakan, Lahad Datu and even Kota Kinabalu into a safer place to live in has left a huge impression. Kota Kinabalu had become a city where children, mothers and young girls could move around safely till the wee hours of the morning.

With proper policing, the number of abductions has fallen.Till March this year there were a mere 1 abductions in Semporna. While earlier people used to hurry home as soon as it got dark, now tourist find it safe to stay out till late at night, restaurants are open and life has returned to Semporna and other east coast towns.

A significant fallout of this normalcy is that real estate prices have begun to rise. People were selling off their properties for whatever they could get and moving out of Sabah. It had become common for properties in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau and other towns to be forcibly occupied and possessed by Filipino illegals.

Musa in fact went out of his way to make it a referendum on the performance of his government. In meeting after meeting during the campaign in Batu Sapi Parliamentary election, I remember, he would ask voters to choose between the past eight years under him and the 15 years that preceded his government.

He made no personal attacks, didn’t call rivals names and refrained from making exaggerated claims.

By asking voters to judge his government on the basis of how it had changed their lives, the chief minister raised the threshold of the debate during the election. He appeared far taller than Yong Teck Lee or Pakatan Rakyat. In comparison to them he looked progressive and seemed to have a vision for Sabah.

The three key tasks for Musa Aman was to develop the state to be on par with Selangor and Penang and to restore the authority and credibility of the civil servants in Sabah and to cleanse the administration of corruption. He has set a personal example by not allowing family members and close supporters to use his name. So unlike his predecessors he does not have a coterie that runs the government from behind to its own advantage. There are strict rules for all ministers and party people and civil servants. For instance, the State Forestry Department was instructed to follow the implementation of Sustainable Forest Management practices, and because of such instruction, today Sabah manages its forest remarkably, particularly in terms of phasing out short term logging license which did not adhere to sustainable principals. Through new practices, long term forest management plans were designed, reduced impact logging was introduced and the State started protecting High Conservation Value Forests, home to diverse wildlife and plants which serve as watersheds. Not only that, by committing to sustainable ways of logging, Sabah has also been able to safeguard the interest of the Native Communities whose lives depend on the forest. And because of such policies, today Sabah has close to 400,000 hectares (FSC) of certified forest areas – the largest in Malaysia. This is indeed a success story – thanks to Musa Aman. To date, Sabah has some 839,477 hectares of forest area under some form of certification accredited by FSC and this includes 50,000 hectares Tangkulup Forest Reserve and 241,098 hectares Ulu Segama and Malua Forest Reserves. Even Yayasan Sabah concession area of about 260,000 hectares is part of the UNDP-GEF project on Biodiversity Conservation in Multiple-Use Forest Landscape.

Similarly, the chief minister introduced Communal titles with the noble intention to expedite land alienation to Natives and to ensure they develop their land at the same time. Communal title is a fast-track way to provide land rights to Natives in mass groups. Communal land titles first of its kind in Malaysia is granted to communities instead of individual titles to ensure that all recipients, particularly Natives, benefited from land use. A Communal title prevents the landowner from selling the land for quick profit and being landless again. Communal title ensures that the allocated land is kept in perpetuity for the family concerned. So far the government had issued communal titles for 33,600 hectares to 7000 Natives. In Kemambong alone about 1400 Natives had received communal titles for land covering an area of 3650 hectares and Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) will develop it with oil palm to help the poor villagers there.

Keeping the administration on the straight and narrow path is just part of the story. Much more important are the positive measures that make people feel that life is looking up.

So, when the government takes an active interest in land matters and tries to make sure the natives don’t sell of their land to some Chinese businessman from West Malaysia or Sarawak for some quick gain, a new optimism is created. After all, if we just go to Kundasang and across the state and see the Natives going deeper and deeper into the mountains and forest because they had sold off their lands on the roadside to some Chinese businessmen from Sarawak or West Malaysia, we can only feel sorry for them. Now with the communal land title this will be history.

Musa Aman has chosen to plunge in and look for solutions. Often he has been mired in disputes with KL and NGOs’ over measures or the number of extremely poor people getting state land through the public distribution system. But it hasn’t gone unnoticed that under him the state government is refreshingly in search of solutions.

The chief minister distinguished himself by his hands-on approach to so many things. He went into great detail over the measures that were being taken. Traditionally, land matters in Sabah has been an opportunity for politicians to siphon off money. But this time around there is supervision right from the top and it matters

Musa Aman has shown that governments work best and deliver results when they are activist in their orientation. Turning Sabah around requires not just stamina but inspiration and a willingness to be seen as aspiring, somewhat crazily, to the impossible.


Today, Wednesday, 29th of June, from 2pm-6pm, is Bersih’s day of internet activism. Our goal is to exponentially increase visible support for Bersih online, as part of our movement for a free and fair electoral system, and for a better Malaysia for all Malaysians.

We call upon all Malaysians of all backgrounds, regardless of their affiliations, to join us in helping ensure that Malaysia’s citizens will always retain the right to choose their government in a clean, democratic manner.

We hope to use democratic tools on the internet to objectively demonstrate how many Malaysians stand united behind these goals. In the first stage of our campaign, our objectives are to:
1. Reach 50,000 PicBadge Users –
2. Get 50,000 Facebook Likes on our Official Page –
3. Get 10,000 followers on Twitter –

Also change your profile picture to something yellow.

The only way we will achieve these goals is if as many Malaysians as possible spread the message through their social networks – Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and so on.

This marks the beginning of a web campaign that will last to the 9th of July and beyond, where every day from 2pm – 3pm, we will call on Malaysians to help spread the message.

On the 29th of June from 2pm to 6pm, the theme for Facebook and Twitter is to write about “Why #Bersih?” – why it’s needed, why we as individuals are choosing to walk, and why it will make Malaysia better for all Malaysians.

We call upon activists to encourage positively, avoid pressuring others, and not get drawn into unproductive arguments. Ultimately, what we need are numbers to support the cause.

Thank you all for your kind support – together we will change the country we love for the better.

It was a great experience watching in CNN how on that night in US, Obama became President-elect. That election energised people across the US – and the world. There was great hope and expectation. How I wish we could say the same about Malaysia’s leaders.

Here, there is an air of resignation, of politics as usual, like the gutter politics of sex videos. We need a leader who can energise us, whom we can relate to, and who embodies a vision for the New Malaysia. We need to get a large percentage of our citizens involved in the community process – which is what Obama managed to do.

So, who can be Malaysia’s Obama? I think we have elections happening in the next 6-odd months. We need change, but will probably not get it this time. The three choices this time are likely to be Najib Tun Razak (who has disappointed more than delighted), Anwar Ibrahim (let’s hope he governs as well as he talks), and a dark horse in Muhideen Yassin (also a total disappointment). I think we will have to wait a few more years before Malaysia’s Obama emerges.

What helped Obama was the Internet – in raising cash for the campaign and mobilizing millions of supporters across the country. In Malaysia, that change will come in 5-6 years although we saw something close to it in the 2008 elections with the mobile platform. But we also need leaders who can think big and put Malaysia first, but sad we don’t have that kind at this moment.

So, who will be Malaysia’s Obama? Any ideas? If I had to pick one person, it would be Nurul Izzah Anwar Ibrahim. She is young even younger than Obama, relatively young compared to the people we have now. She is liberal, hardworking and gone through baptism of fire when her dad was thrown in jail for sodomy and portrayed as the biggest sex maniac in Malaysia, all trumped up by the system. She survived all that shame and continued to be a good efficient Member of Parliament and to the people in her constituency. Mind you she is a women, a mother, a daughter and what shame she has been put through, and she still stands tall in spite of all the shit thrown at her father.

Obama used the electronic media effectively to build his brand and channelise the tremendous support for his message of hope and optimism. A few years down the line, we might have a large number of Internet subscribers but I seriously doubt that we will have a politician who can rise above the cesspool and generate the same kind of enthusiasm among common people.

Of course the two names I have mentioned the current PM, his Deputy, has been a massive disappointment. They maybe effective campaigners and communicators but they rely heavily on the same old strategy of divide and rule. In summary, our search for Obama is going to be a long and hard one.

Most newspaper has not often taken political sides. Indeed, Malaysian journalism has not had the western tradition of the media declaring its political preferences. In Sabah, however, which has now entered a probable election period, the choice is clear and preferences should be stated. Sabah’s voters have to choose between five more years of a government led by Musa Aman, or five years or less of confusion created by an uncertain and split verdict, or five years of some nameless politician serving his tenure in Kota Kinabalu at Putrajaya’s beck and call.

There are many reasons why Sabah deserves Musa Aman. First, he is a decent chap. In the rough and tumble of Sabah politics it is not easy to come across men and women of basic and simple decency. That in itself should be a good reason for his remaining at the forefront of Sabah politics. Second, he has done an impressive job. While the Pakatan Rakyay plus SAPP has every right to criticise his government and question his record, the fact remains that Musa Aman has done more for Sabah than any other chief minister of this hapless state in the past five decades. Consider some simple numbers.

According to the state’s economic survey published earlier this year, Sabah’s economy registered an annual growth rate of 8 percent over the five-year period from 2004-05 to 2009-10, covering most of the term of Musa Aman. It was only 3.5 percent per year in the previous eight years. This should rule out the idea of returning to an opposition regime. Sabah’s per capita income rose from RM4402.6 per year in 1990 to RM 8441.7 in 2010. This impressive growth comes from an across the board improvement in the state’s performance, barring the industrial sector. Sabah’s agriculture sector, construction, education, health and services sectors have all witnessed impressive growth. Manufacturing and services have been identified as the main growth sectors accounting for 6.9 percent of the total 8.0 percent GDP growth. The manufacturing sector alone is expected to contribute 33.1 percent to the total share of the GDP by the year 2010 from 9.1 percent in 1990. It is only in the industrial sector that the state’s economic survey shows low growth. The services sector, which consists of wholesale and retail, restaurants and hotels, transportation and communication, and other services is targeted to account for 39.3 percent of total GDP by 2010 with an average annual growth rate of 8.9 percent. Sabah has less than 25 per cent share of Malaysia’s agro-processing industries. Despite the much improved performance of agriculture, health and education, Sabah remains a laggard and has a long way to go before it can catch up even with some of the more developed states, not to mention the states of Penang and Selangor.

However, if Sabah has to have a chance, if it has to finally catch up with Selangor and Penang, it needs another five years of the kind of development-oriented administration that Musa Aman gave the state. If Sabah can move closer to the national average in terms of the various indicators of development, that national average will itself rise significantly. Malaysia cannot sustain growth rates of over 8 and 9 per cent, not to mention 10, if populous and large states like Sabah and Sarawak remain stuck in the morass of backwardness, both economically and socially. While Taib Muhamad is wasting a golden opportunity in Sarawak, doing little for development and being obsessed about himself and his wealth and power, Musa Aman has remained focussed on development. He is a model chief minister that other BN states should also aspire for. Our vote goes out to Musa Aman.

Remember Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, my good friend, that old gadfly of Sabah politics? Well, after spending several years on the margins of mainstream politics, the maverick at long last might be on his way back to the Parti Bersatu Sabah. The return of the prodigal son, as it were, has the blessings of the PBS supremo, Pairin Kitingan.

Even though a couple of second rung leaders are rather apprehensive of their own place in the party should Dr Jeffrey be allowed to stage a comeback, Dr Maximus Ongkili is still opposed to his return, known to keep his own counsel in these matters, however, cannot be too pleased at the prospect of one of his more trenchant critics a more capable leader than him being allowed admittance in the PBS.

On his part, Dr Jeffrey has been wooing the PBS leadership for sometime now, clearly with an eye on making himself relevant yet again in the state polity. Having come a cropper as the head of his own one-man United Borneo Front (UBF), this highly positive, former Harvard scholar has taken up causes dear to the pro- Sabah outfit, now pro-Borneo outfit or the Borneo Agenda. Along with some strong supporters from PBS days, Jeffrey alone, among all well-known pro-Sabah protagonists, defended the 20 Points, when the then Mahathir government had locked up the latter in Kamunting Detention Center under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) for 3 years in connection with the taking “out”  Sabah from the Malaysian Federation.

Now read this report Daily Express dated 13 June, 2011

Pairin stepping aside?

Kuala Lumpur: For the past two weeks there has been speculations that Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) may see some changes in its leadership as its top leader is said to be preparing a transition plan.

The talk became intense after PBS Deputy President Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili was reported to be shifting his political base to his Tambunan hometown where his family is said to be building a big house on ancestral land, just a stone throw from the house of his uncle and PBS President Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

Pairin is currently Tambunan assemblyman and also Member of Parliament for Keningau. Pairin 71, is said to be contemplating winding down his public role as he has been an assemblyman for Tambunan for the past 35 years, uninterrupted since 1976 when he was still with Berjaya.

He also is the “huguan siou” or paramont leader of the Kadazandusun, a Deputy Chief Minister-cum-State Minister of Rural Development, president of the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) and sits in many committees, including the Asean Eminent Persons Committee.


Scientist say, if men are stuck in a tricky situation and struggling to make a decision, it would be better if they leave it to the wife.

Researchers at the University of Southern California found that men respond differently to risky situations when under stress, while women tend to take their time before taking a decision.

They found that when the pressure is on, men charge ahead and make snap decisions for small rewards, while women are likely to take their time. It’s also found that the sexes have different brain activation patterns during the decision-making process, the Daily Mail reported.

Lead researcher Nichole Lighthall said: “Being more cautious and taking the time to make a decision will often be the right choice.” “It might be better to have more gender diversity on important decision because men and women offer differing perspectives,” she said.

For the study, published in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, the researchers gave volunteers a task of filling up a computer-simulated balloon with as much air as possible without popping the balloon.

Subjects earned from USD 4 to USD 45 based on their performance, with the men earning much more cash under stress. Lighthall said that although men performed this task better, the more important conclusion may be that important decisions made under stress should include input from both genders.

So guys, if under stress to make decisions, pass the buck to the other half, and if the stress is due to the other half then should go and consult Dr Rohaya Mohamad of the Obedient Wives Club.

PERCEPTIONS may vary on the balance of power in Sabah’s political arena and the outcome of the impending elections, 60 state seats and 25 parliamentary seats are up for grabs, but observers as well as practitioners of different brands of politics agree on one thing: that elections, scheduled to be held soon, could well be the most significant in the history of Sabah in the past two decades. They have arrived at this conclusion after studying the situation from their own view points.

According to Chief Minister Musa Aman and the Barisan National led by him, Sabah has witnessed a social, political and economic paradigm shift in the last eight years under his rule. Musa Aman contends that this shift will be reflected in new political parameters with development as the key factor, pushing aside considerations based on Kuala Lumpur’s dominance and interference that have for decades dominated the State’s electoral politics.The Barisan National’s coalition partners in the state, largely shares this perception, though some sections in the party are sceptical.

The Pakatan Rakyat and the SAPP led by Taiko Yong Teck Lee, which constitute the main opposition, dismiss the “paradigm shift” premise as baseless and assert that these elections will, as always, be dominated by “Sabah For Sabahan” (Sabah Rights) sentiments and community considerations and illegal immigrants.

“Sabah for Sabahan” sentiments and illegal immigrants, of course, have traditionally dominated elections in Sabah. Elections have been fought and won on the basis of careful manoeuvreing of “Sabah for Sabahan” sentiments coupled with some deft social engineering via illegal immgrants. This time, however, a significant number of political activists and observers agree with the Chief Minister’s assessment. Governance under the Barisan National government in the past eight years, they say, has changed society and politics in the State, allowing the urge for “development” to sideline “Sabah for Sabahan” considerations.

At a ceramah recently, Musa Aman said: “In the past eight years, the whole political grammar of Sabah has changed. The beginnings of the same were seen even in the 2008 polls when Sabahans decidedly voted for a change and gave Barisan National 59 State seats out of the 60 State seats and 24 Parliament seats out of 25. Over the past eight years, more and more sections of society have joined that process on account of the policies and governance we had adopted and the net result has been the concretisation of the change in political grammar.” He added that despite this obvious change, his principal adversaries, Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and Taiko Yong Teck Lee and even Chong Kah Kiat now, were clinging to the “old syllabus” based on sentiments, confrontation, race permutations and combinations. “They will soon be brought to realisation with a thud,” he said.

A large number of people in and outside the State endorse his view. They believe that development has been brought firmly on the State’s radar and that nobody would want to upset that. However, the other side sees the Chief Minister’s claims as just so much rhetoric. For Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and Taiko Yong Teck Lee, the “development” story is a creation of a pliant media rather than a realistic assessment of the situation on the ground.

As for the UMNO, which heads the ruling Barisan National at the Centre, it is ready to admit that the State has witnessed better development under Musa Aman than under earlier governments since 1963. But it asserts that this was made possible by the substantial funds that Kuala Lumpur made available, the political stability and the security factor “The Feds” has provided his government.

Several other significant issues are expected to come into play in the run-up to and elections and during the polling process. One of these is the so-called political magic of Musa Aman and its impact on the Barisan National’s prospects. Musa Aman was credited with being the man behind Barisan National’s reasonably good performance in the Batu Sapi Parliamentary elections recently. Was that a flash in the pan? Or does the scion of the PBS, Pairin Kitingan have a real hold on the people in Batu Sapi?, just a joke! Jokes aside, a poor performance by the Barisan National in the Batu Sapi Parliamentary elections would have put question mark on Musa’s ability, but no, he got full marks.

Clearly, the stakes are high for all the players. Shafie Apdal – form a third factor in the equation and have pockets of limited influence in different parts of the State because in his own Semporna he is seen as a failure. Shafie served as Member of Parliament since 1995, appointed Deputy Minister of Housing and Local Government on 1999, and then moved to Defence Ministry, and then was appointed Minister of Domestic, Trade and Consumer Affairs on 2004, and then Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage and now Minister of Rural and Regional Development, but no real development is seen in Semporna up to now. Semporna is still lagging in infrastructures and economic opportunities and in many places the roads are in a deplorable condition and illegals from Southern Philippines dominate the town, in spite of Shafie having high powered position in Kuala Lumpur since 1995.

Meanwhile, the principal players are pursuing their respective agendas before the election dates are announce, albeit with some clever nuancing. While Musa Aman swears by the new development-oriented agenda, he has also roped in leaders with overt race and community appeal, such as former Chief Minister Salleh Said Keruak, another former Chief Minister and PBS supremo Pairin Kitingan and intellectual Dr Yee Moh Chai. Taiko Yong Teck Lee has not compromised on his “Sabah for Sabahan” sentiments and inducted former USNO leader Tun Mustapha’s son Datu Baharudin and one time Umno leader and assistant state minister Nahalan Damsal, belonging to the Suluk community.

The Barisan National’s campaign thrust will be the perceptible changes in the State, especially improvement in the law and order situation, continuously deporting illegals across the State. The number of cases of kidnapping in the East-coast of Sabah, which had acquired the status of an industry during the 9 years of PBS rule, has gone down considerably. The sprucing up of the infrastructure, including road connectivity, and the strengthening of the health care and educational systems will also be highlighted. There have been also some appointments, including ones aimed at empowering women, and the Native Communities given greater opportunities through jobs in local bodies. The Chief Minister’s personal integrity will be a significant part of this campaign and he projected as a visionary capable of steering Sabah into a prosperous future.

Musa Aman’s development credentials and his Muslim support base will presumably dictate his stance.

The opposition parties, meanwhile, have their own political dynamics. The DAP has to be generous to the SAPP by according it more state seats. The opposition’s basic calculation is race-oriented. It hopes to ride on the Chinese votes, the USNO vote base, the new-found attraction of Internet/FaceBook voters and woo a section of the native vote base of the Barisan National and also Muslims.

Musa Aman hopes to repeat the 2008 result in spite of the SAPP/ Pakatan Rakyat alliance in the making. His contention is that this election will not be about “Sabah for Sabahan” arithmetic but about the hopes and aspirations of Sabahans.