Star: Rich Sabah poorest state in Malaysia a paradox
KOTA KINABALU: Sabahans know the difference between wealth and poverty and they don’t need former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who “squatted” on them for 22 years and Petronas, to “insult their intelligence on the difference between the two situations”.
That’s the challenge from the State Reform Party (Star) on Mahathir’s take in the local media on Wed forecasting Sabah will be the richest state soon in Malaysia in terms of natural resources.
The former PM disclosed that he was citing a study by Petronas where he’s Advisor.
“Sabah is indeed a rich state in terms of the natural resources discovered so far but at the same time, it is the poorest state in Malaysia. That’s our paradox,” said Star deputy chairman Daniel John Jambun.
“It was the World Bank which pointed out in a report released in Kota Kinabalu at the end of 2010 that Sabah was the poorest state in Malaysia and Sarawak the second poorest.”
Sabah cannot go from being the poorest state in Malaysia in 2010, added Daniel, to escaping this cruel fate anytime soon “even if the Federal Government doesn’t take a sen from us from today and more of our natural resouces are discovered”.
Daniel alleged that Mahathir was trying to cover up his failings and deny his karma by blatantly trotting out a half-truth on Sabah and presenting it as the whole truth.
“How could we not be poor when Putrajaya takes 95 per cent of our oil and gas revenue from the inner waters, 100 per cent from the outer waters and almost all our other revenues,” lamented Daniel.
“Our chairman Jeffrey Kitingan recently presented all the figures to show that the Federal Government is taking some RM 40 billion a year from Sabah alone.”
In return, Putrajaya only allocated RM 4 billion for Sabah, the same figure as for Sarawak, explained Daniel. “Peninsular Malaysia got the remaining amount from almost RM 200 billion of the National Budget last year.”
Allocating funds for Sabah and actually releasing the pledged amount are not one and the same thing, said Daniel.
Those who are interested in knowing the actual truth of the matter, continued Daniel, “can Google for Jeffrey’s talk which is available on You Tube.”
To add insult to injury, he claimed, the Badawi Government gave away “our” Oil And Gas Blocks L & M to Brunei.
Delving into the heart of the matter, Daniel urged the Federal Government to honour the 1963 Malaysia Agreement which envisaged that Sabah and Sarawak would be equal partners of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) in the Federation.
Honouring the Malaysia Agreement, belaboured Daniel, would mean Putrajaya respecting the autonomy of Sabah and Sarawak.
The Star deputy chief dared the Federal Government to “confine itself to defence, foreign affairs and national economic and financial planning” and leave the rest of the portfolios to Sabah and Sarawak.
“We need to take charge of our destiny and not continue to be internally colonised by Malaya,” said Daniel. “Tunku Abdul Rahman pledged in 1963 that Sabah and Sarawak would not be exchanging British colonialism for Malayan colonialism under the guise of Malaysia.”
The Federal Government should take heed of the lessons learnt from the departure of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965, he warned in a veiled threat. “The late President Sukarno of Indonesia was right when he warned that Malaysia was a plot by London and Kuala Lumpur against the people of Sabah and Sarawak.”
If we are left in charge of our destiny, he softened, Sabah and Sarawak will be able to manage their own revenues and release themselves from the vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance and disease.
As an example, he alleged that the public healthcare facilities in Sabah are in an appalling state, “in fact the worst in the country”.
The recently announced minimum wage of RM 800 per month for Sabah and Sarawak, he further ventured, also ignored the stark reality that the cost of living in Malaysian Borneo was 40 per cent higher than in Peninsular Malaysia.
He attributed the absence of a “1Country, 1Price” regime to the National Cabotage Policy (NCP) which “enriches 25 shipowners in Peninsular Malaysia linked to MCA at our expense so that we can continue to be poor”.
He sees no reason why goods from China to Sabah, for example, cannot go directly to the state but must be re-routed through Port Klang.
“China is very much nearer to us than to Port Klang,” said Daniel. “In fact, goods from China for Peninsular Malaysia can be re-routed at much cheaper cost from Kota Kinabalu.”
On a brighter note, he conceded that Air Asia was the “one good thing to happen to Sabah and Sarawak” but pointed out that the airline’s recent pact with Malaysia Airlines has seen a sharp reduction in frequences, cancellations of some direct flights, higher fares and a steep drop in visitor arrivals.
He suggested the establishment of Air Asia Borneo as one way out of the dilemma instead of MasWings offering shares to the Sabah and Sarawak Governments.
“We can’t afford to have our tourism indistry collapsing as well and sending us further into the depths of poverty,” fumed Daniel. “We can’t be reduced to depending on palm oil alone with the timber almost gone and very little happening in oil and gas diversification locally even if more of these resources are discovered.”
Wed 2 May, 2012