Archive for the ‘Datuk Dr Jeffrey @ Gapari Kitingan’ Category



It appears that a critical mass of the Sabah electorate wants to reward Musa Aman for the good work he has done over the past several years, since he first assumed Chief Ministership in March 2003. Each person this writer spoke to heading for the early polls in Sabah had only good word to say about the chief minister. This is indeed what makes it difficult for a divided Sabah opposition – The United Sabah Alliance (USA) and its four State-based opposition parties namely Star, Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), Lajim Ukin’s Parti Harapan Rakyat, Shafie Apdal’s Parti Warisan Sabah together with Malaya based DAP, PKR & Amanah, to attack Musa on any of his development agenda. Shafie Apdal himself has characterised Musa’s regime as marked by fourteen years of malfeasance, but could never publicly attack him on the plank of development.

In a big public meeting outside of Sandakan late 2016, Shafie asked those who attended if Musa’s reign as Chief Minister was ever marked by a lack of accountability but the response was cold. In reply Shafie fumed before the crowd: “I have no other motive than to defend the rights of Sabah”, but having held five terms Member of Parliament of Semporna since 1995 and appointed as parliamentary secretary, Deputy Minister of Housing and Local Government in 1999, Deputy Minister of Defence from 1999 to 2004, Minister of Domestic, Trade and Consumer Affairs, and later Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage, he has yet to prove that. On 10 April 2009, he became the Minister of Rural and Regional Development which coincided with his election to one of UMNO’s three vice-presidential posts. Shafie Apdal is hence the first Sabahan to hold a vice-presidency of UMNO but has done little to “defend the rights” of the varied population of this state.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that there is an authentic Musa wave in Sabah as is. It is no wonder that divided Sabah opposition groupies are very worried about the general sentiment generated before polling. The local opposition parties anxiety is reflected in the manner in which it is bringing issues like illegal immigrants, the re-issuance of identity cards, and the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Elsewhere, near Penampang, Shafie Apdal is doing what he does best – playing the polarisation game. When he said Sabahans will celebrate if the BN is defeated in Sabah, he again betrayed the fact that the party’s desperation has reached newer highs. By invoking BN, Parti Warisan Sabah believes it can consolidate Sabahan votes across all races but the party’s attempts has failed to bear fruit as voters are seen shying away from Shafie Apdal’s new party. In fact, large sections of Sabahans seem to be inclined to give Musa Aman another term.

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the founding father of the second largest political party in Sabah, a long serving assemblyman, MP and Huguan Siou (paramount leader of the Kadazandusun community), has indicated an intention to retire from politic but is also complementing the broader sentiment in favour of Musa by holding on to his KDM vote base – to which opposition groupies have mainly tried but failed to break by raising numerous issues including the delayed Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) technical working committee report on illegal immigrants.

The KDMs, emotionally impacted by the down fall of the PBS Government in March 1994, seemed to have put their fullest weight behind the grand BN alliance. Pairin’s meetings are attracting unusually large crowds with hundreds of youths enthusiastically clicking away on their smart phones. I had seen a similar spectacle only during Pairin’s public meetings in Tambunan and Keningau during GE13 polls in 2013.

In many ways Sabah looks so much like a forerunner of events in national politics. Both Musa and Pairin speak the same language and the political grammar converges around a larger strategy of demanding Sabah rights under the Constitution, the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) report and Malaysia Act. The devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the state was an ongoing process, with the principal objective of addressing and resolving public concern over the erosion of the special safeguards granted to Sabah under the Malaysia Agreement and the Constitution.

Musa Aman articulates this strategy cogently as he says, “We are all Sabahans, who advocated a constant campaign to resolve issues between state and the federal and the Sabah Government has its own “gentler” approach – more effective, better than shouting and demanding” – “The Sabah Way”. When Musa said this a decade ago, the BN was the establishment. Today, the BN, and the forces its represents, have become the establishment, forging a front against the opposition and its divisive politics, the state government believes in consultation not confrontation.

Musa has repeated over the years that the Sabah State Government under his watch believes in diplomacy rather than confrontation and has achieved some excellent results through this approach, particularly in its negotiations with Petronas on oil and gas matters. These include the appointment of a Sabahan to the Petronas board of directors and Petronas undertaking to increase the number of Sabahans at executive and management level. Now there is a clear understanding between Petronas, the Federal Government and the state government as to Sabah State Government objectives.

UMNO is benefiting in Sabah due to the image of Musa Aman as an urbane, decent and efficient chief minister. The visit to Sabah by Wu Bangguo, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine, and many other world leaders, confirms that Musa has placed Sabah ahead of many other states, making it the most successful state in Malaysia in attracting private investments. China’s decision to open a consul-general office in Kota Kinabalu confirms the state’s growing importance as a world-class city favoured by tourists and businesses. For the first quarter of 2016, Sabah under Musa Aman managed to attract private investments in the amount of RM10 billion, way ahead of other states. Apart from that, as of September 30, the amount of cumulative investments in the private sector, under the Sabah Development Corridor projects, had reached RM114 billion since its launch in 2008. Among the many reasons include having a stable, business friendly and a prudent government as well as stringent forestry laws and strong conservation programme. Totally Protected Area (TPA) – now covers over 1.5 million hectares of the land area or some 22% of Sabah. The government policy has been launched to achieve 30% TPA by 2025 or 2030 at the latest or over 2.2 million hectares of Sabah under forest.

So tell me, which other state in Malaysia has set aside 22% of TPA including rich agricultural lands and virgin forests at high opportunity costs? Only Sabah under the Aman administration, that’s for sure.

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Hello everybody!

It’s here!! The final stretch for our Kickstarter campaign. There are only 7 more days to go before the campaign ends!! With still more than half way to go to reach our goal I implore you to rally those around you, friends, family, colleagues, somewhat friendly acquaintances, anybody you can get to please help support our film. We really want this film to reach an audience and to do that we need every single pledge we can get. The issue of stateless people in Sabah is one that directly affects Sabah’s socio-economic landscape and the growing population of stateless individuals is one of the bigger problems that has been plaguing Sabah. It is high-time this issue was addressed and awareness on the human implications of the situation cultivated.

As promised we have prepared a clip from the film that showcases the opinions of various knowledgeable sources on the dilemma. I hope you enjoy the video and you have not yet pledged please pledge any amount you can so we can get this film out to the public.

Many thanks,

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Di Ambang: Stateless in Sabah


This is a comment piece by my friend Joe Fernandez on yesterday’s highly anticipated debate between two former Chief Ministers – Tan Sri Harris Salleh and Datuk Yong Teck Lee.

by Joe Fernandez

COMMENT If there are any lessons that emerged from a “non-debate”, of sorts, between two former Chief Ministers of Sabah on a cold rainy Fri evening in Kota Kinabalu, it was this: “that ignorance is bliss in matters of law, Parliament and the Constitution and that a little knowledge is dangerous”; that even the best subject matter expert opinion would have little chance against a wall of ignorance acting in perhaps good faith and with little else to go on.

Siapa yang makan cili akan rasa pedasnya!

If the cap fits, wear it!

Moderator Simon Sipaun, a former Sabah State Secretary, had his hands full keeping Harris Salleh, 83, from interrupting his opponent Yong Teck Lee, 55.

The debate was supposed to be about Sabah’s rights in the Federation of Malaysia which entered its 51st year on 16 Sept last month. Fifty years of Malaysia, in particular in the Borneo nations of Sabah and Sarawak, is a watershed year. The word out in the streets in Borneo is that there must be some form of consensus on the way forward. If the past 50 years is any indication, the people want no more of it.

Harris and Yong, going hammer-and-tongs against each other offered little help here. Yong was more than willing to help forge consensus on a way forward but for the most part Harris refused to play ball. He took no baits.

Harris, chief minister from 1976 to 1985, was the past which refuses to go away and offered little clues in forging a way forward for the next 50 years.

Yong brings up four issues for Debate, Harris only one

Yong, chief minister from May 1996 to April 1998, had to concede at least in his heart that he had little chance to begin with against Harris in their impromptu debate on Fri 11 Oct, 2013 at the Sabah Golf and Country Club in the Sabah capital.

He was “out-done” by Harris on all fronts in a way that only the latter could do: dismissed in a few words and sentences; or otherwise berated and out-shouted when it came to the law, Parliament and the Constitution. Yong did most of the talking; taking up his full 15 minutes allotted for every issue, while Harris did not go beyond three minutes each time on each issue.

Yong is a British-trained lawyer. Harris had only six years of school education.

One story making the rounds is that Harris was once offered a place as a mature student to do the Bar in London but apparently dropped the idea when another student in a similar situation as him gave up the idea after three years in the British capital. It must have been the English language. Had Harris completed his Bar, perhaps he could have had a better idea of the difference between Rule of Law and Rule by Law and that the Constitution is not so much about law but the ultimate political document.

Yong had four issues to bring up during the Debate: the 20 Points (20P)/1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63); the Petroleum Development Act/Oil Agreement; the surrender of Labuan island to the Federal Government; the power grab incident and the street riots which broke out in Kota Kinabalu in 1985 when the Berjaya Government headed by Harris was thrashed by the 45-day old Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) led by Joseph Pairin Kitingan in state elections that year.

Yong pledges to “shoot himself” if White Paper on SAS implicates him

Harris merely wanted Yong to explain to the crowd why the shares of the state-sponsored Saham Amanah Sabah (SAS), a unit trust, had fallen from its initial RM 1 offer price and was now hovering at about 0.35 sen. Harris felt that Yong, as a former Chief Minister, owed a duty of care to the 66,000 SAS holders – mostly Chinese housewives — saddled with bank loans in buying their stake.

Yong explained that Bank Negara (Central Bank) rules prohibited political interference and involvement in SAS or any unit trust. In short, he had no role in the misfortunes of SAS, no matter how much he sympathized with the stake holders. Yong’s successors have since tried injecting Sabah Government assets into SAS, in a bid to boost the unit trust price, but to no avail.

The SAS issue remains a political hot potato and Yong has paid a heavy price for it. In General Elections this May, his PBS-breakaway Sabah Progressive Party (Sapp) failed to win even a single seat in the Federal and state legislatures. SAS was by no means the only reason but that’s another story.

Yong wants the Sabah Government to release a White Paper on SAS and pledged twice, dramatically with a fore finger to his head, that he would “shoot himself” if the White Paper on the SAS found any wrongdoing (criminal) on his part.

Harris denied that the street riots of 1985 were masterminded by the losing Berjaya leaders who allegedly hired illegal immigrants to go on a rampage of burning and general mayhem.

He admitted, in downplaying the riots, that there might have been “a little burning” but was rebutted by Yong waving pictures of the incident from the newspapers and pointing out that a curfew had to be imposed. The latter also stressed that local Muslims – Dusun and other Orang Asal (Natives), Suluk, Bajau and other Muslims – were not involved in the riots “meant to pressure the Federal Government into declaring a state of emergency” to facilitate the take over of the Sabah Government from PBS.

Mustapha failed to persuade Court on early bird theory

Harris attributed the riots to the “Malay Muslims’ being cheated by PBS in not forming a coalition government with United Sabah National Organisation (Usno). Harris is Brunei Malay on his mother’s side. His father was Indian. There are very few Malays in Sabah.

The “cheating”, Harris claimed, was behind the infamous power grab incident which saw Usno and Suluk leader Mustapha Harun clambering over the walls of the Istana (palace) in the wee hours of the morning and having himself sworn in as Chief Minister.

Usno, defeated by Berjaya in 1976, came in with 17 seats in the 1985 state elections, Berjaya had six and PBS took 25. The power grab incident saw Usno and Berjaya disingenuously forming a coalition Government together with six nominated state assemblymen. Mustapha, explaining the power grab, said that “the early bird catches the worm”. He was ousted within days by the Court which he tried to persuade with the “early bird” theory.

Harris cautioned the crowd against referring to every Tom, Dick and Harry in Sabah as an illegal immigrant. He pointed out that the present Governor was a Suluk, yet the Suluks in Sabah – and also the Bugis among others – were being referred to as illegal immigrants. He claimed that the Suluk – people from the southern Philippines like the Bajau — had been in Sabah the last 500 years and the Bugis (from Celebes, Indonesia) have also been here for a very long time.

Whenever Harris came up short in the argument, he had one constant piece of advice for Yong throughout the debate which turned out to be a stormy affair that lasted three hours: campaign hard throughout Malaysia, win two thirds majority in Parliament, amend the Constitution, and reinstate the 20P and the MA63 to set up a “banana republic” and/or win independence for Sabah and Sarawak.

He offered to be Speaker of the new Sabah Parliament, proposed his former Berjaya Deputy Mat Nor Mansor — a Brunei Malay now with Sapp – as the Sultan of Sabah and Yong as Prime Minister.

Parliament Supreme and can do anything on 20P/MA63

For Sarawak, he urged Yong to look around for a Dayak leader to be the new Rajah of that country in echoes of the Brooke Dynasty of white rajahs from England (1841 to 1941) who once ruled there for some 105 years.

It was Harris’ considered opinion that the 20P and MA63 no longer matter, that they had either been incorporated in the Federal Constitution or done away with through amendments in Parliament and in the State Assembly. He did not mention any part of the 20P/MA63 being excluded from the Federal and State Constitutions.

Yong begged to differ and wants the Sabah Government, for a start, to amend the State Constitution and restore Sabah’s status as a Negara (nation) in the Federation, a key point in the 20P.

He explained that he could not do anything on 20P/MA63 during his term a Chief Minister as the Federal Government was very powerful at that time and the “window of opportunity” did not present itself until the 2008 General Election when Sabah and Sarawak came centre stage as the Kingmakers in Parliament.

He echoed the popular view that that there was no Malaysia without 20P/MA63 which formed the basis for both Sabah and Sarawak to be in the Federation with Malaya. He wants the letter and spirit of both constitutional documents on Malaysia to be upheld, honoured and respected. His plea if true will fall on deaf years, Harris retorted.

Both Speakers did not touch on the need to interpret the intention of the framers of the various constitutional documents on Malaysia in a manner which reflected as if they contained a Basic Features Doctrine i.e. the 20P/MA63 could not be amended out of the Federal and state constitutions, done away with or not included.

Harris wants to take on Jeffrey Kitingan on colonisation

Sensing that the mood of the crowd was definitely against him, Harris denied that he was consistently taking a pro-Federal Government line on Sabah.

He claimed disingenuously in a simplistic brief that he was more concerned about the thinking among the people in Sabah on Malaysia. The Muslims, he stressed, would attribute their poverty to fate. The others including those in the kampungs (villages), he anguished, blamed Putrajaya for demolishing State rights – the famous 20P – and/or otherwise being in non-compliance on MA63.

Turning at one point on Bingkor State Assemblyman and State Reform Party (Star) chairman Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, who was seated in the front row, Harris reminded him that he had no response to his offer in a local daily (Daily Express) to debate him and other activists on the issue of whether Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) had been in colonial occupation of Sabah and Sarawak since the British departure in 1963. The issue is that there was no Referendum on the British leaving Sabah and Sarawak after their independence – 31 Aug and 22 July 1963 — in a Federation with Malaya on 16 Sept 1963, whether expanded or new.

Harris obviously feels compelled, even though long in retirement, to speak up whenever something doesn’t quite jell with his weltanschauung (worldview).

Jeffrey had no opportunity to explain that a Right of Reply delivered to the said newspaper by the UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (BOPIM) chairman Daniel John Jambun was not carried by it until the Debate day. (It was carried the next day after the Debate almost a week late.)

“No one” held under ISA for opposing Labuan handover

Harris warned Yong at one time during the debate not to imply in any manner that he had sold Labuan Island, ostensibly to become an International Offshore Financial Centre, to the Federal Government. He challenged Yong to repeat any insinuations against him on Labuan outside the debate hall and promised to retaliate with a swift lawsuit against him. He mentioned that there was already a lawsuit pending in Court on Labuan and the matter was subjudice.

Harris stressed, in response to a question from the floor, that the question of seeking compensation for Labuan did not arise at the moment since the island was a losing concern. Similarly, the Sabah Electricity Board was handed over to the federal Government without compensation because it was another losing concern.

Harris denied that anyone had been held under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) for opposing the Labuan handover and dismissed a statement on the issue by one Darshan Singh from the floor. Darshan spent some time in detention without trial under the ISA apparently for opposing the Labuan handover. A lawyer in the crowd confided that he was standing next to Darshan when the latter was detained but escaped arrest, according to him, because he was “a Muslim”.

Yong disclosed that he was in Labuan on handover day and witnessed the Federal Reserve Units and Royal Malay regiments out in full force on the island to put on an intimidating display of brute force apparently to deter any opposition. It was a defining moment for Yong as he vowed then and there to enter opposition politics to oust the Berjaya Government.

Harris, not so long ago, picked up RM 1 million in Court-awarded damages from Yong in a defamation suit where the Judge held that the latter had implied that the former had “blood on his hands”. This was a reference to the tragic 6 June, 1976 air crash which wiped out almost the entire Sabah Cabinet led by Berjaya President Donald Fuad Stephens. Harris became Chief Minister by default and days later signed the infamous Oil Agreement with Petronas, the National Oil Corporation, and the Federal Government.

Harris, in response to Yong and questions from the floor, denied that he had been under any pressure to sign the oil agreement. Nevertheless, he disclosed that there was only RM 2 million in the kitty left by the ousted Mustapha Government. Signing the Oil Agreement meant an immediate cash infusion from Petronas in the form of Oil Royalty amounting to 5 per cent.

Besides, added Harris, Sarawak and Terengganu had earlier signed the Oil Agreements. If he had not signed, he ventured, “it would look as if Sarawak and Terengganu were stupid to do so”.

Harris claimed, in defending the Oil Agreement, that it was “international law” – at one time he even referred to the Law of the Sea – that onshore waters belong to Sabah and that the offshore belonged to the Federal Government.

Parliament Supreme and can do anything on 20P/MA63

He begged to disagree with Yong’s take that the boundary of Sabah was what it had at the time that it was taken/pushed by the British into the Federation of Malaysia. Yong, while not faulting Harris for it, also pointed out that the Oil Blocks L and M handed over to Brunei not so long ago were within Malaysia’s maritime boundaries in Sabah and Sarawak.

Harris showed little evidence during the Debate of the articulate self presented of him in the numerous press statements purportedly attributed to him in the local media, the Daily Express in particular.

Age, in any case, may be catching up with Harris in more ways than one. He had little patience with issues brought up by Yong, and in no mood to be apologetic, even displaying open defiance in taking a pro-Federal Government line in Sabah.

The crowd had turned up in the mistaken belief that Harris would concede that mistakes had been made during his time in public office and that he harboured more than his fair share of regrets.

On a plus note, Harris is willing to join the pro-20P/MA63 activists in Borneo if it can be demonstrated in any way that there’s probably a “cause for action” and that “any lost rights can be recovered”.

Parliament, he reminded, was Supreme and can do anything in explaining the perception that the 20P/MA63 had not been honoured. He failed to mention that the Veto Powers of Sabah and Sarawak in Parliament, a pledge under MA63, had been done away with by the Election Commission, the Attorney General and the Registrar of Societies.

Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez is a graduate mature student of law and an educationist, among others, who loves to write especially Submissions for Clients wishing to Act in Person. He also tutors at local institutions and privately. He subscribes to Dr Stephen Hawking’s “re-discovery” of the ancient Indian theory that “the only predictable property of the universe is chaos”. He feels compelled, as a semi-retired journalist, to put pen to paper — or rather the fingers to the computer keyboard — whenever something doesn’t quite jell with his weltanschauung (worldview) or to give a Hearing to All. He shuttles between points in the Golden Heart of Borneo formed by the Sabah west coast, Labuan, Brunei, northern Sarawak and the watershed region in Borneo where three nations meet. He’s half-way through a semi-autobiographical travelogue, A World with a View . . . http://fernandezjoe.blogspot.com/



Creating history in Sabah’s politics, Musa Aman is once again back to the power of the state as the poll result of the just-concluded 13th General Election of May 5 showed that he won a landslide victory. The UMNO and Barisan National alliance grabbed more than two-thirds of the seats (48) in the 60 state assembly seats and 22 of the 25 Parliamentary seats. Musa Aman’s victory is said to be due to the triumph of development, progress, and good governance.

From the very beginning, the 2013 assembly poll counting hinted that the UMNO-BN alliance would create a history in Sabah with their new win and they proved by attracting a total of 442,493 votes for state seats and 434,522 for parliamentary seats which total 877,015 in all. The opposition, on the other hand, received only 59,862 votes for the State seats and 287,559 votes for Parliamentary seats.

Musa Aman, received the biggest chunk of votes with 16,637 for a state seat in Sibuga among the coalition’s state component leaders, a majority of 11,569 votes, underscoring the popularity of his Halatuju policy for the state’s development. His acceptance of a renewed term as Chief Minister also makes it the first time a Sabah Chief Minister had broken the nine-year jinx and continued to hold the fortress, basically what I have been saying all along.

Also as predicted, the Sabah Progressive Party led by former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee was wiped out losing all the 41 state and eight parliamentary seats contested. Yong himself was beaten by DAP’s Youth leader Junz Wong in Likas state seat. Apart from Bingkor, Dr Jeffrey’s STAR candidates lost all 48 state and 21 parliamentary seats it contested. Except for the Klias state seat, Sabah UMNO retained all its 13 parliamentary and 31 (out of 32) state seats it contested.

While many facile analyses will attribute the electoral outcome in Sabah to factors that were marginally relevant, the more astute of analysts will see in the turnout figures what this election was really about. Of particular interest would be the number of first time voters and of even greater significance the spike in the Women Voter turnout. It would not be exaggeration to describe this election as the one where Women and Youth reposed their faith overwhelmingly in Musa Aman. In the processing putting up a Firewall against Race, Religion and every other political construct from the decades gone past that have come to define incumbencies.

This win signifies 6 things for Musa and Sabah:

#1 – He is a trend setter and has established that pro-incumbency sentiment can firewall against even the toughest of incumbencies and a 10 year run for the Chief Minister.

#2 – He is able to break from the past, having able to discard political constructs of the past 5 decades to analyse this election. This requires a new political construct to analyse how elections of the future will be fought as well.

#3 – He proves that Technology can be a winner – and that is necessary to stop being apologetic for being tech friendly.

#4 – He has sent a signal to the Pakatan Rakyat and its extended ecosystem of Sabah Progressive Party and Star that the cliche victimhood card as a permanent political agenda is past its sell by date. Cynicism no longer sells.

#5 – It is reflective of what the future can hold for Malaysia.

#6 – It shows Sabah is kingmaker in Malaysian politics.

Between women and youths lies the “New Sabah”. The story of this election’s win is really the story of how the ‘New Sabah’ came to be and how Musa Aman has laid out a political roadmap to realise its aspirations. Musa Aman preferred to call this a ‘Covenant of Commitment’. But I would go a step further to call it the ‘ladder of opportunity’.

For the first time in the middle of a high stakes election for an incumbent Chief Minister in a country like Malaysia to go on record and express his commitment to Development takes both courage and conviction. It is much easier to resort to cheap populism. What I find striking about this election is the creativity with which the “Safety of Net” has been promised. This has been done so while being steadfast about creating a “Ladder of Opportunity”. Thus there is the opportunity for more citizens to cross over that much riled “Poverty Line” through targeted interventions and join the “New Sabah”. The “safety net” that has been promised is less of a trap that sucks you into dependency but more of a trampoline that helps you bounce right back to find your way up that ladder of opportunity.

The earliest indicators of the rise of the ‘New Sabah’ came from the Census data of Rural Households. Between the fall of Harris Salleh’s Berjaya that was wrongly attributed to “Sabah Shining” and the re-election of Pairin Kitingan’s PBS that was once again wrongly attributed to ‘Sabah rights based entitlements’ most commentators have ignored what the Census data told us going as far back as 1985. In block after block, district after district, when queried over what kind of assistance Rural families preferred one message came out loud and clear – education, skills and security.

Musa Aman’s comments on the rise of the ‘New Sabah’ during the release of Sabah BN’s manifesto for the May 5th 13 General Elections may come as a surprise to many but there is a sound demographic basis to it. Back in 2008 as an academic exercise an economist friend had dissected the electoral landscape in Sabah through the prism of the 2006 Census data. It was found that the opportunity exists to materially alter the battleground in Sabah through a platform that emphasized on ‘economic issues’ that can size up to the ‘economic aspirations’ of the “New Sabah”.

It is this “New Sabah” that a hunger for job opportunities and infrastructure is shaping a different kind of electoral discourse where development and economic growth are viewed as essential to the ladder of opportunity while concerns over inflation manifest into the desire for a subsidy-oriented safety net. This is markedly different from the Pakatan Rakyat, SAPP and Star rhetoric which is all about imaginary rights and entitlements with the lure of cash transfers. The key difference is that the “New Sabah” is far more impatient to climb the ladder of opportunity rather than militate like the opposition parties for a safety net woven out of rights and entitlements.

Social engineering and victimhood narratives have been political anomalies for some time now with a young and impatient Sabahans hungry to satisfy its aspirations making electoral choices that defy conventional political wisdom. Soon they will become anachronisms with the Sabah victory marking the first time an explicit agenda targeting Sabahans being advanced by Musa Aman receiving such a resounding endorsement from the citizenry.

The opposition hasn’t been able to counter Musa Aman, but they say they have been able to contain him. That is one way of looking at it. What Musa has won is 18 seats more than the required majority, which is not spectacular, but the number is still more than what the opposition has managed to win. In fact, this is more a personal victory for Musa Aman than for the Barisan National.

There is no question Musa Aman is a master strategist.


In February, Musa Aman seemed a trifle embattled. The Lahad Datu standoff the intrusion of almost 200 armed Filipinos in Lahad Datu, 10 of our Security Forces were killed – for the first time in his decade-long rule in Sabah, the Chief Minister was feeling the pressure.

But come April, as he announced his election manifesto, neatly appropriating the legacy of the state leader, Musa Aman had put behind him all disadvantages of the month before. He then set off to the length and breadth of the state showcasing his “Vibrant Sabah” policy. The message was lost on none – Musa Aman was still a crowd puller.

After eleven days of campaigning, as the Sabah Chief Minister reaches the fag end of his final round of campaigning, the biggest question being asked is – will that charisma continue to translate into votes for the Barisan National? Surveys and analysts predict yet another victory for man who has adroitly changed his image to development role model. At stake are bigger ambitions – Musa Aman reckons another impressive victory could propel him to be the longest serving chief minister of Sabah, breaking the 9 yrs jinx. But is this road a smooth one?

All I can say is- The situation in 2004 and 2008 is very different from that of 2013.

The ending of the rotation of chief minister every 2 years in 2004 saw Musa winning hands down. By 2008 Musa had begun constructing his new avatar, that of able administrator. But 2013 is without any emotive issue except for the Lahad Datu standoff. The fragmented opposition has managed to keep the election battle low profile, avoiding another bad showing like 2008. That has forced Musa Aman to keep his campaign confined to development as the key agenda.

But does that suit Musa Aman? “Not at all,” says a political commentator, who later add that, “His political existence and shrill rhetoric is what makes him an unstoppable leader. But this time there seems to be no emotive issue. The developmental plank can’t excite voters to a decisive point.”

Musa Aman, the master strategist, realises this. And so, analysts say, he has attempted to add another element to his electioneering this time, projecting this to be not only a Sabah vs Pakatan Rakyat battle but also the personality battle between Musa Aman and Anwar Ibrahim. By taking the battle to a new level, he is sending a very subtle message to the electorate. He may not concede his national ambitions but when he talks about the Sabah vs Pakatan Rakyat battle, he is sending out a message; here is a Sabah leader who can stop Anwar Ibrahim from taking the throne in Putrajaya. If that’s the case, 2013 will, in a way, establish what connects Musa Aman to three million Sabahans. If he wins yet again it clearly establishes that even without a polarized vote, Musa Aman can win based on a campaign revolving around development.

But this road is not without potholes.

Though pre-poll survey and pundits say former Deputy Chief Ministers Lajim Ukim and Wilfred Bumburing are unlikely to do much damage to Musa Aman. The L & B factor, as it’s is called in these parts, could play spoiler at least in the politically critical Beaufort and Tuaran region. Lajim had won a huge majority in the Beaufort Parliamentary last time in 2008, but this time both Lajim and Wilfred could play a role in obtaining less than half a dozen seats. After all Lajim represents the all-powerful Bisaya community and Bumburing represents the Dusuns to an extend, which is a sizable chunk of the electorate. But the basic problem with L & B would be absence of an organizational structure since both are using unregistered NGOs PPPS (Pertubuhan Pakatan Perubahan Sabah)and APS ( Angkatan Perubahan Sabah) riding on Pakatan Rakyat, to topple Musa Aman as chief minister. Lajim is politicising the position of “Janang Gayuh”, causing disunity among the Bisaya, a Dusunic group, found only in the Beaufort region. Lajim ran away from UMNO because he knew he would not be fielded this time, the same with Bumburing and UPKO who didn’t want him to stand in Tuaran. To be honest, what has Lajim and Bumburing done the last 30 years? Zilch.

After eleven days of campaigning in this 13th General Elections, Musa Aman is looking to retain power again, thus enabling Sabah to live up to the tag of being “the fixed deposit” of the BN. Despite the opposition pact’s onslaught for the parliamentary battle, Sabah BN is likely to win most of the seats won in the 2008 general elections. However, BN can expect tough fights for Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau, Beaufort, Tuaran, Penampang, Sepanggar, Pensiangan, Kota Belud and Kota Marudu parliamentary seats. In the 2008 general elections, Sabah BN won 59 of the 60 state seats and 24 of the 25 parliamentary seats, losing the Sri Tanjung state seat and the Kota Kinabalu parliamentary seat to the opposition DAP.

The determining factor for BN’s ability to continue ruling Sabah lies in the fact that the coalition is more united in facing the elections, while the oppositon is pitted not just against BN but also against each other. Despite pre-election calls for the opposition parties to reach an understanding so as to ensure straight fights with the BN, only the Tanjung Batu State seat and Sandakan parliamentary seat are seeing one-to- one contests.

The decision by Star Sabah (Sabah Reform Party), SAPP (Sabah Progressive Party) and PKR to field almost equal number of candidates for the state seats is clear example of serious faction among them. Given the bickering among them, its hard to imagine any one of them winning enough seats to become the leader of the pack. On top of that, PKR’s insincere gesture of offering SAPP a limited number of state seats has resulted in the latter completely abandoning the hope of wanting to work with the peninsula-based party. There are campaign whispers alleging that SAPP had received RM60 million from BN to split votes in favour of the ruling coalition. Worst still during a ceramah in Foh Sang Kota Kinabalu which I personally witnessed, SAPP was on a DAP bashing spree causing distrust among the voters.

Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s STAR on the other hand, the youngest parties of the lot, is making unexpected inroads particularly among the mostly Christian Kadazandusun Murut community in the interiors, and the BN message is as such tailored to them. So, if Pakatan cannot turn things around, it can only likely bag the Chinese-majority seats of Sandakan, Tawau and Kota Kinabalu, while in Beaufort where incumbent Lajim Ukin, who is contesting on PKR’s ticket, is likely to pull through. Pensiangan could be taken by Dr Jeffrey’s Star Sabah. SAPP is most likely not able to get even one seat.

With the end of the race just days away it is evident that winning big is extremely important to Musa Aman and how Sabahans vote will decide the road map to power politics in Putrajaya.


Even before the May polls campaign process has reached full momentum in the state of Sabah, three generalisations dominate the marketplace of political ideas about its consequences:

a) that a third-time victory for chief minister Musa Aman in Sabah is nearly certain;
b) since this victory is a foregone conclusion, the time is ripe for a bigger role for Musa Aman

and

c) this victory is likely to be a direct outcome of ‘good governance’, understood primarily as robust economic growth, delivered under Musa’s leadership.

I see this approach as problematic for two reasons: in terms of method, it seems that QED has been etched in even before one could see the proof of what one set out to examine. More importantly, however, there is a certain naivete in this formulation that leads us to a complacence in examining the very complicated and nuanced role of electoral competition currently being witnessed in this state. I engage myself with unravelling this second strand, as viewed in the terrain of practical politics, analysing the strategies and counter-strategies of the main contenders—the ruling BN/UMNO the Pakatan Rakyat the Star Sabah and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP). I then examine the robustness of each of these three ‘generalisations’, and in conclusion argue that although it is an advantage to Musa Aman, there is political competition to be witnessed before one could declare the match won.

For one, the Pakatan Rakyat Sabah in the field does not have a sense of local issues, an understanding of pockets of disadvantage, and also a macro-strategy of where to deploy its energies spatially. In not associating themselves with Sabahan struggles against Malayan colonisation, the party has been aligning itself on the wrong side of popular grievances. Anwar Ibrahim’s campaigns will be of disadvantage, given his historical roots in the toppling of the duly elected PBS government in 1994 and his hands together with Dr Mahathir’s in the Project IC to dilute the native population in the state. Also Pakatan’s lineup, who is going to be chief minister if they win? Lajim as chief minister? Bumburing? Tamrin? Ansari? Who? They have no one of Musa Aman’s standing and Musa’s record of governance the last ten years can speak for itself.

For the SAPP the party’s grassroots base was not evident even in the Batu Sapi parliamentary by-elections held on 2010. Besides, the SAPP had a low vote-share of 10 per cent or less even in the March 2008 elections. This will not be translated evenly into enough seats for the party this coming GE 13th May 5. Also, the margins of losing are very low. The party’s President, Yong Teck Lee failure to win over Pakatan’s Ansari in the Batu Sapi parliamentary by elections means even the Chinese in Sandakan have rejected the SAPP. SAPP’s most impressive pre-poll offering has been its “Autonomi for Sabah” battle cry, promising new Sabah IC for Sabahans if it comes to power, is questionable because they have been in the BN government for 14 years and Yong Teck Lee had been chief minister of Sabah for 2 years yet did not do zilch.

Part of the Star Sabah strategy is to focus on the interiors of Sabah, Jeffrey Kitingan’s roost, where it is said that the natives are disgruntled. As a macro-strategy, the Star Sabah is concentrating on the interiors of Sabah, where natives who are farmers have been adversely hit by high prices of fertilizers and agrochemicals and cost of essentials rocketing sky high The region accounts for nearly a third of the total seats and is the stronghold of PBS supremo Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan the “Huguan Siou”or paramount chief of the Kadazandusun Murut community, the backbone of UMNO Sabah. There is a story about Pairin saying his bids this time is his last battle to retain both constituencies of Keningau and Tambunan for the Barisan Nasional in the interest of the people, meaning Jeffrey will have a tough time to win in Keningau. Besides, there is no tacit approval by Pairin to the natives that Jeffrey will takeover from Pairin, as claimed. As an unfolding of this macro-strategy, Jeffrey might launch the Star Sabah’s manifesto for the May polls’s in Keningau, in the heart of Indigenous Sabah.

Also, the Najib government’s decision to get The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah is of recent vintage, and can win favours for the BN. Natives disgruntlement owing to disadvantages due to the presence of huge numbers of illegals becoming instant Malaysians and Bumiputras. Najib and the Federal Government seriously addressing it by having the RCI on illegals, along with the Lahad Datu drama, makes for a strong force. After all, the defeat of Haris Salleh in 1985‘ was scripted similarly, combining agricultural disgruntlement and fear of illegals reverse taking over of Sabah and sentiments of regional disadvantage.

To the advantage of the Barisan National is the fact that there is no state-wide anti-incumbency even after a decade-long rule by Musa Aman. Economic indicators are certainly robust, with state GDP growth rates averaging 6 to 7 per cent or more (between 2003-12). Interestingly, Musa Aman has raised it to a campaign pitch, telling everyone to “learn” from the Sabah growth story. The sectoral composition of this growth rate, particularly the advances in construction, agriculture and tourism, have received wide attention. Although there have been disputes whether the growth has been as high as Musa Aman claims, even modest estimates available accept agriculture grew at higher than national average at around ten per cent or more. Economists also note the significance of the consistently high growth rate in the agriculture, construction and the tourism sector, notwithstanding the constraints it faces.

But electoral competition, and even more electoral victories, are not simple outcomes of people calculating the benefits of policies and voting for political leaders who set the regional economy right. Were this hypothesis correct, why would Premier Najib Tun Razak have announced a series of cash incentives a year before the May poll dates set in? These include promises of farm loan and free internet usage, electricity bill waivers, enhanced allowances to security personals and civil servants, allowances for youth earning less than RM2000 and payment of arrears to teachers among others and the BR1M and many more goodies. Even the kampong headman has been promised a increase in allowances. The cash transfers build a new constituency of supporters, while countering some of the opposition from the lower bureaucracy and the poor. Advantage to Musa Aman again.

Of greater bearing for electoral fortunes is Musa Aman’s use of political vocabulary and tailoring the campaign language to hype his achievements and castigate the opposition. In state wide ceramahs, the opposition are his target, as if the party’s state unit led by Lajim Hj Okim, Wilfred Bumburing, Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Anwar Ibrahim has no bearing. To malign the image further, Musa Aman adds that the “Pakatan Rakyat and the local opposition is not united and cannot really be trusted.”

Coming back to the three generalisations I began with, it is the first of which the chances seem highly likely. But Musa Aman’s victory is unlikely to be attained without competition from the local unit of the opposition front. The opposition front has also made pro-poor election promises of housing and employment for the poor, reduction of petrol prices, abolition of PTPTN and Sabah rights. How well they are able to sustain these as campaign issues, and combine their attack along with the challenges from UMNO dissidents, may have very little implications for this election.

The second generalisation about “a bigger role for Musa Aman” for the moment seems to be a ploy to hype the leader into a “larger than real” stature, and is certainly a political statement intended for local Sabah consumption. Finally, robust growth notwithstanding, Musa is not relying on these laurels alone. So also the opposition, which has understood that growth pursued in a certain way produces grievances amongst the displaced and the rural poor, and these can be woven into a counter-campaign strategy. In conclusion, it is advantage Musa Aman, but the battle is yet to be fought.


You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

I’m always reminded of Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman whenever I read this poem entitled “Still I’ll Rise” written by the black poetess, Maya Angelou. Although Angelou wrote this in the context of her protest against White racism, it is almost as if a large portion of this poem was written with Musa Aman in mind. In the recent decade, there has been continuous allegations and abuses hurled at him. No invective has been left unused while abusing him. The Pakatan Rakyat and its major and minor cohorts in the media have carefully indulged in a systematic campaign of Musa’s character assassination. Despite this, their efforts have gone in vain because he’s won election after election with a two-thirds majority. That’s not all. In the ensuing 2013 13th general elections, there’s every indication that he is likely to be the Barisan National Sabah’s Chief Ministerial candidate again.

If that happens and UMNO declares Musa Aman as their Chief Ministerial candidate, let no doubt remain that this poses the biggest danger to Pakatan Rakyat, SAPP and Star Sabah. And it is to prevent this exact situation that the fragmented Sabah opposition is working overtime. The Assembly Elections scheduled from anytime now till May 2013 will witness yet another victorious Musa Aman. It takes 31 seats to capture the 60-member Sabah State Assembly. However, if the Barisan National under Musa Aman manages to garner a tally 35, it will be portrayed as a defeat of Musa Aman. This is why the fragmented Sabah Opposition is willing to stoop down to any level to ensure that the Barisan National bags a figure under 35. The electronic media as usual, has become a willing handmaiden to aid the Pakatan Rakyat, SAPP and Sabah Star in its every nefarious move. However, this time around, many have already begun to shed light on these dirty tricks.

According to a Pakatan Rakyat strategist, PKR has identified two ways to accomplish this. The first is the one it implemented in Selangor and Sabah. In Selangor, the Pakatan Rakyat capitalized on the Umno’s infighting and its in-house traitors thereby wrecking the opposition Barisan National. In Sabah, it has already yoked up the disgruntled Umno elements in the form of Lajim Ukin and Ibrahim Menudin, and has pitted them against Musa Aman. The second way is vile way of direct, open character assassination. But why is the Pakatan Rakyat after Musa Aman with such zeal? What is it about him that’s giving it sleepless nights?

Today, the only state which stands between Anwar Ibrahim and the Prime Minister’s chair is Sabah. Obviously, What is stopping Anwar Ibrahim from becoming Prime Minister is Musa Aman. Anwar Ibrahim needs at least 20 Parliamentary seats out of the 25 Parliamentary seats from Sabah for his dream to become Prime Minister to become a reality. Musa Aman controls the bulk of the Parliamentary seats in Sabah. The argument that Musa Aman allows for corruption is shallow and the opposition front is very aware of this fact. Historically, corruption in Malaysia has always been connected to both government and opposition, who are both equally corrupted, a fact that the opposition front is well-acquainted with. However, they repeatedly uses the corruption card for obvious reasons. In the present day, using the same card to discredit Musa Aman has become over played, and if we allow such divisive politics to succeed, we can only shudder at the future of this nation.

The fact is that despite numerous attempts over the last 10 years, the opposition front has been unable to find even one flaw in Musa Aman. Why?
Well typically, every successful politician or leader or public figure has a team or at least one shrewd adviser who guides and advises the leader on various matters. Tun Mustaffa had a Syed Kecik, Pairin Kitingan had a Dr Jefrey Kitingan before he went under ISA, Dr Mahathir had Daim Zainuddin and Abdullah Badawi aka Pak Lah had son-in-law Khairy Jamaludin, and so on. In present day politics, this applies to a Lim Guan Eng who had Daddy Lim Kit Siang and Uncle Karpal Singh, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim who had Anwar Ibrahim, Taib Mahmud who had a Bomoh, Anwar Ibrahim who had Azmin Ali, Najib Tun Razak had Rosmah Mansor. None of these leaders took any decision without first consulting their advisers and every decision once taken, has the imprint of their adviser in some form or the other.

If this is the case—an age-old precedent—who is this one person who advises and guides Musa Aman?

There’s no answer to this question because Musa Aman is his own King and wise counsel. Historically, the opposition front is known to “book” such advisers and exploit the weakness of the adversary through this key person. However, despite painstaking efforts spanning a decade, the opposition front encountered a solid wall in the case of Musa Aman because—apart from having no adviser, he is clean. Of late, the opposition front has explored the avenue of trying to tarnish him through his family and distance relatives—for example, a distance relative Manuel Amalilo aka Mohammad Suffian Syed who scammed 15,000 Filipinos of 12 billion pesos (RM895 million) in a ponzi scheme in Philippines is purportedly engineered by Musa Aman. However, even this turned out to be a dead end. The handlers and the dirty tricks department of the opposition front apparently found out that Musa Aman isn’t in politics for selfish ends, and was forced to accept the fact that Musa Aman’s interest lay in Sabah’s interest. It’s left to our imagination as to the future of Sabah if a man like this becomes Chief Minister again for the 4th term.

This is the reason Musa Aman has captured the imagination of the Sabah masses.

He comes across as an introvert. It’s hard to predict when he speaks or when he doesn’t. By himself, he’s a great strategist. In the 2008 Sabah assembly polls, he steered the Barisan National to more than two-thirds majority winning 59 of the 60 seats contested, without calling in any central leader from the party to the campaign trail. This is because of the confidence that comes from demonstrating performance and delivering clean governance. Thus, it’s clear that he’s the only leader in Malaysia who can mount an effective opposition to Anwar Ibrahim becoming Prime Minister. One of the easiest slurs to assassinate the character of a person is to brand him corrupt and a womanizer. So the Chinaman Micheal Chia’s story will be recycled over and over again stooping to a new low. And that’s not all—according to Pakatan strategist, the Pakatan Rakyat is pulling no stops. It has created an entire “stop-Musa” machinery by roping in all sorts of activists, media persons, and disgruntled UMNO Sabah elements. Yet, as Maya Angelou says:

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise. You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Let Musa Aman rise, vanquish his opponents and lead Sabah towards progress and prosperity.


by Joe Fernandez
Guest Columnist

COMMENTIf the Government in Putrajaya is truly honest with itself, it will confront the fact that there’s very little sympathy in Sabah and Sarawak on the ground for the security forces apparently battling it out in Lahad Datu. It’s 50 years too late. They might as well pack up and go home and instead recall the Sabah Border Scouts and Sarawak Rangers.

At the same time, the continuing statements from one Jamalul Kiram III, the Manila press, the Philippines Government and Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Sabah and Sarawak are being viewed in the right perspective.

Local political parties in Sabah and Sarawak are convinced, like the descendants of the heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate and Nur Misuari that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is the best venue to settle rival claims to the two Borneo nations. Already, the State Reform Party (Star) led by Jeffrey Kitingan, has reportedly included the ICJ option in their draft Manifesto for the forthcoming 13th General Election.

The ICJ is also the best venue to address the fact that Singapore was expelled in 1965 from the Federation of Malaysia by unconstitutional, unlawful and illegal means. It’s an open secret that then Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had the doors of Parliament locked until the MPs agreed to the expulsion of the city state from the Federation.

The general consensus across both sides of the Sulu Sea is that the Sabah/Sarawak issue will not go away unless there’s a final resolution one way or another. In the absence of a final resolution, the security of both Sabah and Sarawak will continue to be compromised and thereby affect investor and consumer confidence.  

Singapore Application would be a continuation of Pulau Batu Putih case

If Singapore is featured as well at the same time that the cases of Sabah and Sarawak are considered, it would amount to a revisitation of the Pulau Batu Putih hearings which saw the island of a few rocks being awarded to the city state.

The Singapore Application could be made by the Government of that island or vide a Class Action Suit commenced by concerned citizens seeking closure on an issue which has bedevilled relations on both sides of the causeway since 1965.

The descendants of the nine heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate claim that they have private property rights to Sabah or parts of it. They further claim and/or used to claim that sovereignty over Sabah rests with the Philippines Government. This is a grey area since one Sulu Sultan apparently “transferred” his sultanate’s sovereignty over Sabah to the Manila Government by way of a Power of Attorney which has reportedly since expired.

Jamalul Kiram III claims to be Sultan of Sulu.

Sulu claimants, Nur Misuari don’t have a leg to stand on in Sabah, Sarawak

At last count there were some 60 claimants to the Sulu Sultanship, not all being descendants of the nine heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate.

The nine Plaintiffs viz. Dayang Dayang Piandao Kiram, Princess Tarhata Kiram, Princess Sakinur Kiram, Sultan Ismael Kiram, Sultan Punjungan Kiram, Sitti Rada Kiram, Sitti Jahara Kiram, Sitti Mariam Kiram and Mora Napsa were recognised by C. F. Mackasie, Chief Judge of Borneo, on 13 Dec, 1939 in response to Civil Suit No. 169/39.

The Judge ruled that the nine heirs, as the beneficiaries under the will of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram, who died at Jolo on 7 June 1935, are entitled to collect a total of RM 5,300 per annum from Sabah in perpetuity for having foregone in perpetuity the right to collect tolls along the waterways in eastern Sabah. The reference point was the deed of cession made between the Sultan of Sulu and the predecessors of the British North Borneo Chartered Company on Jan 22, 1878, and under a confirmatory deed dated April 22, 1903.

If the descendants of the nine heirs end up at the ICJ in The Hague, there are no prizes for guessing which way the case will go.

The Sulu claimants don’t have a leg to stand on in Sabah.

Nur Misuari ready to do battle with a battery of lawyers

The Sulu Sultans of old were extorting tolls, virtually a criminal activity, from the terrified traffic along the eastern seaboard of Sabah. The Brunei Sultanate meanwhile denies ever handing any part of Sabah, or the right to collect tolls along the waterways, to Sulu.

The British North Borneo Chartered Company had no right whatsoever to enter into negotiations on behalf of the people of Sabah with anyone.

The entire land area of Sabah, by history, Adat and under Native Customary Rights (NCR), belonged to the Orang Asal (Original People) of the Territory.

The sovereignty of Sabah rests with the people of Sabah. This sovereignty was re-affirmed on 31 Aug, 1963 when the state won independence from Britain which had occupied the state after World War II. Therein the matter lies. The sovereignty of Sabah had never been transferred to Brunei, Sulu, the Philippines, Britain or Malaya, masquerading as Malaysia since 16 Sept, 1963.

Likewise, Sarawak’s independence was re-affirmed on 22 July, 1963 when the British left. Sarawak had been an independent country for over 150 years under its own Rajah until World War II intervened and the Japanese occupied the country. The war over, the British coerced the Rajah to hand over his country to the Colonial Office in London because they had plans to form the Federation of Malaysia with Sarawak as one of the constituent elements. British occupation of Sarawak was illegal and an act of piracy.

Nur Misuari claims that Sarawak had belonged to his family, from the time of his great great grandfather. He claims that he has the services of the best lawyers at his disposal to make his case at The Hague.

Cobbold Commission a scam by British and Malayan Governments

The outcome of any hearing at The Hague will be a forgone conclusion: the Sulu and Nur Misuari petitions will be struck out without even a hearing; the Court will rule that the people of Sabah and Sarawak never agreed to be in Malaysia; and Singapore will hear that its expulsion from Malaysia in 1965 was unconstitutional, unlawful and illegal. The people of Sabah and Sarawak must be given the right to intervene in the Applications at the ICJ which will determine their fate. There’s nothing to prevent the people of Sulu and the southern Philippines from throwing in an Application that the Philippines Government has no business to occupy their traditional Muslim homeland.

The people of Singapore decided in a Yes or Note Vote in 1962 to the idea of independence through merger with Malaya via the Federation of Malaysia. The inclusion of Orang Asal-majority Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei was to facilitate the merger between Chinese-majority Singapore and non-Malay majority Malaya.

Brunei stayed out of Malaysia at the 11th hour after an armed rebellion in the Sultanate against the idea of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei being in Malaysia.

No Referendum was held in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Malaya on Malaysia. The Kelantan Government even took the matter to Court.

A sampling of community leaders conducted by the Cobbold Commission found that only the Suluk and Bajau community leaders, perhaps sensing some personal benefits for themselves as proxies of Muslim-controlled Kuala Lumpur, agreed with the idea of Malaysia.

Revolution another possibility to finish off Sulu, Nur Misuari, Manila

Orang Asal community leaders wanted a period of independence before looking at the idea of Malaysia again. They asked for further and better particulars on Malaysia to be used as the reference point for a future re-visitation of the Malaysia Concept. They were not provided these further and better particulars.

The Chinese community leaders, keeping the eventual fate of the resources and revenues of the country uppermost in mind, totally rejected the idea of Malaysia. They were not wrong. Putrajaya today carts away all the resources and revenues of Sabah and Sarawak to Malaya and very little of it comes back to the two Borneo.

The Cobbold Commission disingenuously declared that two third of the people in Sabah i.e. Suluk/Bajau + Orang Asal supported Malaysia. The Commission made the same declaration in Sarawak where only the Sarawak Malay community leaders supported the idea of Malaysia for self-serving reasons.

When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak – the facilitators of the merger between Singapore and Malaya – were not allowed to exit the Federation. This is a crucial point which will feature at the ICJ.

Security became an afterthought. But as the continuing influx of illegal immigrants into Sabah and Sarawak, and the Lahad Datu intrusion, has proven, there has been no security for both Borneo nations in Malaysia. ESSCOM (Eastern Sabah Security Command) and ESSZONE (Eastern Sabah Safety Zone) comes too little too late, after 50 years.

In the unlikely event that the ICJ rules in favour of the heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate and Nur Misuari, it would be the sacred duty of Sabahans and Sarawakians to launch a Revolution and decapitate all the claimants to their countries from the Philippines.

This would bury the issue once and for all and shut up the Manila press and the Philippines Government.

Singapore’s re-admission to Malaysia, if it materialises, would not persuade Sabah and Sarawak to join the Federation as well. The people would want Malaya even quicker out Sabah and Sarawak. It would be the end of a long drawn out nightmare.

 

Joe Fernandez is a graduate mature student of law and an educationist, among others, who loves to write especially Submissions for Clients wishing to Act in Person. He feels compelled, as a semi-retired journalist, to put pen to paper — or rather the fingers to the computer keyboard — whenever something doesn’t quite jell with his weltanschauung (worldview). He shuttles between points in the Golden Heart of Borneo formed by the Sabah west coast, Labuan, Brunei, northern Sarawak and the watershed region in Borneo where three nations meet.


The coming state assembly elections for Sabah may be a pivotal moment in determining the future trajectory of the state’s political economy and indeed progress, in the near term. Pitted against each other are two contesting visions of Sabah: the incumbent coalition government comprising the Umno-led BN in a coalition with local parties Party Bersatu Sabah (PBS), United Pasok Momogun Kadazan Organisation (UPKO),Party Bersatu Rayat Sabah (PBRS) and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), are campaigning on a platform of good governance which is supported by the arithmetic of rapid economic growth — approximately 7 per cent on average — in the last ten years of Musa Aman’s government.

On the other side is the Pakatan Rakyat combine shepherded by Anwar Ibrahim and Bumburing’s Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS) and Lajim Ukin’s Pertubuhan Pakatan Perubahan Sabah (PPPS), which still believes that it can acquire power in Kota Kinabalu by manipulating the state’s race and religious arithmetic in its favour. The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and Sabah STAR is the third front in this contest — trying to take on the incumbent government on a Borneo agenda-Sabah autonomy, rather than governance plank — but not yet powerful enough to be a credible alternative in government, leaving many to believe that both the SAPP and Star Sabah have been planted by Barisan National to split the opposition votes. After all, President Yong Teck Lee himself will have plenty explaining to do on what he did during his tenure as chief minister when SAPP was in the BN.

It would be in the larger interest of the state of Sabah and its people if this election puts to rest the notion that power can still be captured based on old social divisions and grievances. It is important for Sabah’s political economy to move on to a politics of aspiration, where people vote for a party or coalition that delivers governance. This will force all serious political parties (including the SAPP and Sabah Star if they want to remain relevant) to contest future elections on a forward looking governance plank in the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement within the framework of the Federal Constitution, rather than a backward looking social engineering plank. This time round, such reasoning undoubtedly favours the UMNO-PBS combination which is the main pillar of Barisan National Sabah, and a majority of opinion polls, for what they are worth, suggest an easy victory for the Musa Aman-led coalition.

But a political economy which puts governance at its centre may not favour the incumbent government for all times to come, such are the huge challenges facing any government that is elected to power in Sabah. To what extent can Musa Aman’s government claim credit for Sabah’s apparent turnaround, powered by a growth rate higher than Malaysia’s average over the last five years? A dissection of the growth figures shows both the contribution of the government and the challenges that remain. Most of Sabah’s growth these past five years has been powered by agriculture, construction, tourism and services, particularly hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, trade and, to an extent, oil and gas. The impressive growth in these sectors isn’t matched by the lethargic performance in manufacturing — those are challenges that still face the next government.

The state government can claim credit for fuelling the growth in agriculture, fisheries, tourism and construction, since much of this has come through rural development projects, water supply, electrification, bridges and roads funded through the federal and state’s exchequer. In fact, the government’s public spending record has been good, and a massive improvement on the poor spending record of the previous governments before Musa Aman that preceded it. Planned spending was tripled within ten years of the Musa Aman government taking office. This has spillover effects, in a Keynesian “stimulus” sense. Apart from increasing spending, the government has also taken huge strides in improving the law and order situation especially in the east coast of Sabah where bulk of the illegals with fake or questionable Malaysian identity have outnumbered the locals. That has helped boost not just agriculture and the construction activity but has also given a fillip to service industries in the tourism sector like hotels and restaurants which have registered impressive growth.

In short, the government has effected the turnaround in the state’s economic fortunes by simply doing the two things any good government ought to: implementing law and order as well as spending on infrastructure. In doing so, it has reversed the long decline in the state’s fortunes that took place before Musa Aman took over the chief ministers in 2003. It is also important to remember that a lot of this impressive growth in the last five years has plenty to do with Sabah starting from a very low base — and that there is a limit to the sustainability of a growth rate that is powered largely by government spending and a small section of services industries and not forgetting that Sabah is the 2nd largest state in Malaysia with an area of 74,500 sq. km which is 260 times bigger than Penang, which is only 293 sq. km in size even, smaller than Sabah Forest Industries (SFI). Therefore for growth to be sustainable it needs to be more broad-based into manufacturing and agriculture.

Here, the task gets a lot harder, and will involve massive policy reform in land, labour and product markets. What makes Sabah’s task of industrialisation harder than that of some other states is the fact that goods are more expensive in Sabah due to the federal government’s cabotage rules a policy set in the early 1980s, making sure that all the domestic transport of foreign goods could only be done by Malaysian vessels, reducing Sabah’s attractiveness as an investment destination. This protectionist policy has led to excessive shipping costs, importers and exporters in Sabah had to pay more than RM1 billion for shipping services as a result, causing prices everywhere in East Malaysia to go up and ultimately a higher cost of living and higher price of goods as producers hike up prices to compensate the increase in cost of production. Further more, Sabah lost a lion’s share of its industries after Labuan became a Federal Territory.

What may also turn out to be an unforeseen advantage is the rather shambolic state of governance in surrounding states — Sarawak, Brunei, The Sulu States, and even Kalimantan. If Sabah can consistently outperform these states on governance, it could easily become the industrial hub of East Malaysia — a region which still trails Penang and Selangor on most economic parameters by some distance.

But to capitalise on these potential advantages, the Musa Aman government will have to do much more than maintain law and order and actively engage in spending which has been done of late with a huge budget approval of over RM4 billion this year. It will also need to take bold policy steps to liberalise rules that deter investment. In doing so it may have to go further than other states which already have a head start in attracting investment. The government will, for example, need to ease labour laws and better wages, so that Sabahans can be gainfully employed within the state. It will need to take aggressive steps to ease land acquisition so that it can have an advantage over neighbouring Sarawak. If the government fails to do this and more, growth will begin to slow, giving the opposition plenty of ammunition. At any rate, Sabah’s future elections ought to be fought on these issues of the future rather than the outdated legacies of the past. This leaves Musa Aman still the best man for the job.



President of Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) Taiko Yong Teck Lee’s romancing of the Barisan National may end his love affair with the Sabah opposition front soon. But this new love story bring up the moot question as to why he is so desperate when the Barisan National has hardly given any indication to warmly accommodate him under its fold. Sources in the Barisan National say Yong Teck Lee can’t be trusted. How can they depend on a leader who was willing to ditch the Barisan National—his decade-old senior partner — when he felt the relations between both were strained because of one man Pak Lah? Earlier too, Yong Teck Lee parted ways with Pairin Kitingan and formed the SAPP. The gainer of this triangular game being played in the state may be Shafie Apdal a good friend of Yong Teck Lee who is waiting and watching in the wings to take over as chief minister from Musa Aman.

Remember when Yong Teck Lee was chief minister he together with Shafie Apdal milked Yayasan Sabah until it nearly when dry? However, thanks to Musa Aman,he saved the day for Yayasan Sabah. Even Lajim Ukin, Sabah’s famous party hopper and old buddy of Yong Teck Lee from the Party Bersatu Sabah (PBS) days where both began their political career and where both plotted to destroy PBS are seen regularly together nowadays. If recent gathering in the meetings of SAPP is any indication, then Yong Teck Lee being adamant to go for a majority of the state seats (60 in Sabah) this coming looming 13th general election on what he termed as “the principle of Sabah autonomy” is all about splitting the opposition votes and helping Barisan National win big.

The political signal coming from Yong Teck Lee in the last few months indicate that he is trying to sail on two boats — Barisan National and Pakatan Rakyat — at the same time. His shifting statements to keep both the major political parties in good humour may end with a backlash. At the same time, Pakatan Rakyat camp specially The Democratic Action Party (DAP) feels that Yong Teck Lee is not dependable and his track record for the last couple of years shows that he is more committed to divide and split the opposition votes. It is a known fact that despite poor governance Yong Teck Lee ruled this politically vibrant state for 2 years but a lot say he worked 4 long years (pun added because he worked day and night 24hours a day making hay while there is sunshine with his partner in crime Joseph Ambrose Lee).

Yong Teck Lee’s new political strategy to oppose Pakatan Rakyat and hinting he would also ditch Dr Jeffrey’s State Reform Party (STAR) anytime is also meant to hijack Dr Jeffery’s old battle cry of ” Sabah For Sabahans” , “Sabah Rights” and now “Ini Kali Lah”, and keep his minority flock in his pocket. In the meantime, Yong Teck Lee is trying his best to sweep the issues of malgovernance and corruption during his time as chief minister under the carpet with the help of captive media. Being a shrewd seasoned politician, Yong Teck Lee knows his limitations; he also knows the art of handling the levers of the power equations. He has hardly missed any occasion to profess his loyalty to the Party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), and Anwar Ibrahim in particular. Recently, he took the opportunity to welcome Anwar Ibrahim in the Kota Kinabalu International Airport and this says a lot. Though he is not a part of the Pakatan Rakyat but only supports it from the outside, he also denounced DAP Sabah strongly. Is Yong Teck Lee driving a wedge between Anwar Ibrahim and DAP Sabah?

In a given political situation, Yong Teck Lee doesn’t have any other alternative but to support the PKR in Sabah after his bad outing in the Batu Sapi Parliamentary by-election where even Ansari of PKR did better then him. He can’t think of joining Pakatan Rakyat because of DAP Sabah whereas Dr Jeffrey Kitingan can move in any direction. The challenge for the opposition is how to strike an agreement among themselves so that there will be only one-to-one fights with the Barisan. It will not be easy because SAPP and DAP are eyeing the same seats while Jeffrey is unlikely to give way to PKR on choice seats. Besides, there is no love lost between Dr Jeffrey and Anwar Ibrahim.

Now, as political churning is going on in Sabah, the situation is that the two political stalwarts Yong Teck Lee and Dr Jeffrey Kitingan are being used as pawns in a game played by the Barisan National and Pakatan Rakyat, both “Party Party Malaya” as they say here in Sabah.