Archive for the ‘Joseph Pairin Kitingan’ Category


2016 was the best year for Sabah tourism with an arrival of 3,427,908 foreign tourists amounting in a whooping RM7.25 billion in tourism receipts.

First it was the RM7 billion proposed Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) a green township comprising hotels, Eco golf course, the Marina, and the enlarged Prince Philip Park approximately 348 hectares or 3,481,400 square meters to the west of Kota Kinabalu International Airport. Later that year Sabah was allocated another RM11.42 billion to implement several infrastructure projects under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) 2016-2020 by the Federal Works Ministry, this is just the first phase. The second phase of the 11MP will involve RM8.55 billion for 32 projects, including the ongoing construction of the Pan Borneo Highway and more improvements to infrastructure. The Pan Borneo Highway in Sabah, involving a 706km stretch from Sindumin to Tawau, will be fully-completed by Dec 31, 2021. And then another RM3 billion in MoUs signed by Sabah State Government with private sectors to invest in agriculture and forestry and tourism and manufacturing.

It is a commentary on the bizarre priorities of our information order that investment commitments totaling $114 billion under Sabah Development Corridor, equaling nearly one fifth of Malaysia’s GDP, are either ignored or put on par with anodyne political statements. This, however, is not the occasion to lament the lack of even-handedness in the treatment of anything remotely connected to Sabah chief minister Musa Aman. It is the time to celebrate something that is fast becoming undeniable: the emergence of Sabah as the investment powerhouse of Malaysia.

In the start of the Cockerel Year, there was a stark contrast between a Sabah bubbling with optimism and the rest of the country despairing over economic mismanagement and missed opportunities. It is not that all the MoUs signed with private sector will be translated into reality. Many will remain paper commitments . But when the who’s who of Malaysia’s industry line up to proclaim their faith in Sabah as a wholesome place for investment, having already put their money where their mouth is, neither Malaysia nor the rest of the world can afford to be in denial.

The proclamations of faith in Sabah are all the more meaningful because they have been made despite some in Kuala Lumpur’s unremitting displeasure with anything that could bolster Musa Aman’s credentials. However, Musa Aman doesn’t usually win awards for being the “Reformer of the Year” or for innovative governance. In fact, he doesn’t even make it to the shortlist. Nevertheless he has invariably secured an unequivocal thumbs-up from those who have a real stake in the emergence of Sabah as a Malaysia economic power house.

Skeptics and naysayers who insist that the rise of Sabah has little to do with the state government, are partially right. Entrepreneurship and business are part of the Musa Aman’s DNA and not because he is Sabahan, and its reason why Sabah has always proudly cloaked itself in the business ethos since Musa took over as CEO of the state. Sabah has registered the highest GDP growth in the past 14 years and owes much of this success to the targeted, business-friendly approach of its government.

In relation to this, four features of ascendancy stands out. The first is quick decision-making—what Musa Aman has dubbed the “red carpet, not red tape” approach, ask corporate philanthropist Datuk Victor Paul, for example, recount how the land allotment and development for the Perdana Park in Tanjung Aru was made possible. Datuk Victor Paul built the multi-million ringgit park all with his own money, there was no such thing as land swap and he build the park entirely as part of his Corporate Social Responsibility and as a gift to the state and the people without any form of payment or reward. Victor Paul completed the whole project in less than two years, a quick-fire decision that has fetched Sabah this park.

The second feature is the curious phenomenon of the near-absence of political corruption at the top. Even Musa Aman’s worst enemies will not deny that the chief minister’s fanatical personal integrity has had a salutary trickle-down effect. Irritated by politically inspired extortion, industry has identified Sabah as a place where it is possible to do ethical business. That’s why when the Sabah Water Department scandal broke out, involving alleged abuse of power in the siphoning of RM3.3 billion of federal funds for water development in Sabah, Musa Aman sent out a tough message against corruption ordered dismissal of corrupt officers from service. The chief minister directed speedier action against the corrupt officials and ordered dismissal of all of them after completing departmental proceedings and other formalities including allowing MACC to deal with it.

Since 2003, Musa Aman’s Sabah has been marked by social and political peace. Particularly important for industry is the absence of political unrest, which unseated Tan Sri Pairin Kitingan in 1994. This is because Sabah has bucked a national trend and is witnessing high growth in many sectors especially eco-tourism and agriculture—last year the sector grew by 9.9%. This means that farmers mainly natives, now have a stake in the larger prosperity of the state and aren’t swayed by populists.

Sabahans and those interested in the state must remember that in the past one such populist, Shafie Apdal had nearly succeeded in selling off stakes in Yayasan Sabah when he was Chairman of North Borneo Timber Berhad (NBT) a subsidiary of YS, when his uncle Sakaran Dandai (now Tun) was Chief Minister in the mid 90s. This share swap ICBS-NBT could have resulted in the Yayasan becoming public listed and native Sabahans losing their birth right of a valuable asset, including Sabah Softwoods Sdn Bhd. However, it was Musa who was serving as CHAIRMAN/CHIEF EXECUTIVE of INNOPRISE CORPORATION (ICSB) then was able to intercept the transaction, ensuring that power remains in the hands of it’s people. Now imagine if such a populist becomes the Sabah Chief Minister.

Finally, the growth of Sabah has been spurred by a philosophy of “minimum government and maximum governance”. In plain language, this means that the state government has concentrated on creating the infrastructure for growth and left it to the private sector to get on with the job of actual wealth creation.The extent to which this vibrant Sabah capitalism will benefit Musa’s ambitions is difficult to predict. But one thing is certain. As Sabah shines and acquires an economic momentum of its own, more and more businesses will find it worthwhile to channel a major chunk of their new investments into Sabah. Kuala Lumpur may not like the resulting uneven growth but the alternative is not to thwart Sabah by political subterfuge-such as preventing public sector from engaging with the state government and the whimsical use of environmental regulations. Sabah has shown that accelerated and sustained growth is possible when the state plays the role of an honest facilitator, rather than a controller.

Musa Aman didn’t create the Sabahan character; he but he certainly did mould it. He gave it the much needed contemporary thrust as well as an ethical dimension. If more of our politicians focused on these important nuances, Malaysia as a nation will be a much better place.



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.


Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman has ordered for an immediate review to be carried out on procurement procedures, monitoring and financial management of all state departments and agencies, particularly those involving allocations and funds outside the state budget.

In a statement issued in Kota Kinabalu today, Musa, who is also Sabah finance minister, gave his assurance that the review would not affect the ongoing Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigation into the alleged corruption involving two top officials of a Sabah government agency.

“The review will focus on the procurement procedures and monitoring of all state departments and agencies involved in the management of funds that are outside the state budget and those channelled through the ministry, departments and outside agencies.

“At the same time, I also call on all quarters to give full cooperation to the MACC. Do not act ahead of the MACC, including in issuing statements that can disrupt their investigations,” he said.

Musa also said that the state government had always been committed to fighting corruption and had always placed integrity compliance as the main principle in every aspect, including in the management of state’s finance.

Yesterday, MACC arrested a director and a deputy director of Sabah Water department over suspicion of having monopolised projects under the purview of their department and awarding them to their relatives. Both senior officers were said to have handled infrastructure construction projects valued at more than RM3.3 billion since 2010. This particular RM3.3 billion worth of federal projects is under the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development and Shafie Apdal was Minister then. MACC has also picked up the deputy director’s brother and an accountant, who is believed to have helped managed the ill-gotten gains. Their arrests led to the seizure of RM112 million cash, including that recovered from bank accounts belonging to the senior officers and their family members. A total of RM52 million in cash was confiscated during raids at the officers’ offices and homes. The four suspects are being remanded for seven days.

This case is “the biggest cash bust” in the history of MACC involving civil servants.



(A Facebook picture shows Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri being served turtle eggs allegedly at the Restoran Indah Keranamu in Sandakan which went viral)

Media has always been a significant pillar of society. Media doesn’t just report happenings, it also builds public opinion. This puts the media in a powerful position in a democracy and wherever there is power there is a chance of misuse of that power.

In some countries, powerful media houses are said to have influenced election results by portraying people and events a certain way. In Malaysia too.

The media space has changed a lot with the emergence of social media. With social media, the public has eyes and ears everywhere. They are not limited to camera crews of a few TV channels or reporters of a few newspapers.

Social media is a platform that showcases public opinion such that it cannot be easily doctored. It reflects the pulse of society. Even traditional media channels keep an eye on ongoing social media trends.

In the recent past, we have seen so many top news stories originate from social media. Apart from highlighting issues that are socially relevant and crucial, social media has also exposed the disconnect between the government and the population. People are more aware of what our leaders are up to and exchange notes on how laws and policies affecting them are being made. Gone are the days when the government could pass laws behind closed doors without the public realising it for months. Thanks to the social media, discussion on political issues and implications is widespread and immediate.

Some politicians thrive on keeping communities apart and playing one’s interests over the other to secure their votebanks. As boundaries between people blur over social media, and they become more aware and better informed, this will no longer be easy to do. One needs to be more aware and alert while making speeches or statements. People see through any gimmick done with an ulterior motive and any sign of a narrow mindset comes in for severe criticism, just like the ‘kafir harbi’ issue.

Like all powerful tools, social media should also be used with utmost care and responsibility failing which it can cause damage to the society. In the recent terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in Turkey, terrorists used social media widely to plan and execute their attacks, 42 people were killed and injured hundreds of others. More recently, in Sabah, The Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA), headed by Huguan Siou Joseph Pairin Kitingan had to lodge a police report against the “Majlis Himpunan Rakyat Membantah Penarikan MyKad” (Council of the Gathering of Citizens to Protest the Withdrawal of the MyKad) which was planing to hold an anti-RCI event in Kota Kinabalu on May 31, a poster on the event circulating in social media went viral, social media was used to spread panic and fear among Sabahans leading to the police report.

However, with its potential to bring people together, social media also holds immense promise as a tool for social change. We have recently seen many successfully executed protests organised over social media that have made the right impact,like Bersih the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, for the first time, the act of mass civil disobedience ran for 34 hours in Kuala Lumpur. Another application of social media could be to effectively utilize the vast diversity of human resource that Sabah has which is still lying untapped. For instance, in my SIB (Sidang Injil Borneo) church, somebody announces a dental camp in a locality on a date and others join, including doctors, dentist, dental nurses and even pharmacist. Likewise, somebody announces a tree planting drive or a cleaning drive and people support the initiative with their time or resources.

We are clearly passing through a phase of transformation. Sabah is a nation of youth who have a big role to play in that transformation.

Social media is a medium that connects them and gives them voice. This voice is growing louder. It is a welcome sign and I’m really glad Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman has embrace the social media in a big way and he is very active on Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp groups, and he regularly updates events and photos.


Anybody vaguely interested in politics or international relations would be familiar with the term, “In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.” Today’s enemy can be a tomorrow’s friend and can be a best friend, in politics enemies are not permanent.

They say when words just cant say enough, a picture is worth a thousand words, Pairin, Musa Aman and Lajim Ukim during Tadau Kaamatan 2016 celebration – The Sabah Spirit- reflects the spirit of unity, brotherhood and humanity!


Kota Kinabalu: The passing of La Salle Brother Datuk Charles O’Leary once again poses the calling for Sabahans, especially from Tanjung Aru’s La Salle School, to take up the vocation of being a La Salle Order of Teachers Brother.

Bro. Charles’ top regret was no student of Sacred Heart or La Salle schools had the calling, thus far, to pursue what he dedicated as a vocation all his life, although there were Malaysians from other schools who had served under him when he was Principal of La Salle Secondary School like Bro. Yohan and Bro. Justin who was from Tambunan.

He had hinted so to many people, including his students, but none seemed to have had the calling. Fr. Cosmos Lee, one of his students, who eulogised in the homily at the funeral of Bro. Charles, is among the few who became members of the clergy.

Fr. Cosmos Lee said during the funeral Mass: “I am not sure if Bro. Charles would have agreed with the Archbishop asking me to deliver the homily as I was among the few who dared to stand up to him.”

Bro. Charles once jested that if La Salle brothers were allowed to get married, probably there would be more than a few from the La Sallian family who would take up the calling in health and poverty and devote their life to God in the service of education for the young.

He had experienced the church’s trial and tribulation from the Usno era when the work permits of some foreign priests were not renewed and had to leave Sabah to the present challenges posed by extremist elements.

After the fall of the Usno regime, the new Chief Minister of the Berjaya administration Tan Sri Harris Salleh arranged small part of the funding for the construction of the school senior block hall.

Harris also lifted the Usno ban on Chinese cultural activities like unicorn and lion dances, which benefited the school as the renowned La Salle Lion Dance Troupe raised funds from performances for the construction of the school’s senior block canteen first besides others.

In many ways, the fear felt by some complacent and ignorant Sabah civil servants for Harris’ inspection tours during the Berjaya regime was what La Salle School students felt under Bro. Charles’ watchful eyes.

They appeared unreasonable and at times punitively harsh, but that’s what Sabah requires from a leadership perspective to get things done and achieved amid an environment of mediocrity and apathetic attitude, as a saying goes: “Progress depends on the unreasonable man…”

It may be that being the non-populist example of Bro. Charles as an educationist exemplar is too hard to follow for the younger generations. But the challenge is still open for Sabahans to consider the La Salle Order as a life vocation in the service of our youths.

Following are some of the late Bro. Charles’ sayings: “Stars shine and they show the way to safety, security and maturity, and that is the work of teachers whose vocation is to touch and form minds and hearts.

I wanted to be a star with a small ‘s’ no doubt, so that I could and can form and mould young minds and hearts and prepare them for life both here and hereafter.

God has blest me in my life and work and I would not forfeit the peace, satisfaction and fulfilment I have acquired in my calling for anything else that this world might offer. To God be the Glory.” – (Bro. Charles M. O’Leary F.S.C.)

DAILY EXPRESS SABAH

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The Sabah State Cabinet wants the relevant authorities to take drastic action to resolve once and for all the issue of illegal immigrants in the state, after the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) blamed “corrupt officials” and illegal syndicates for the state’s burgeoning foreigner population.

Chief Minister Musa Aman said the State Cabinet, with consensus, welcomed the release of the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the issue of illegal immigrants in Sabah and supported the recommendations made to resolve the issue.

“THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UNDER PRIME MINISTER DATO SRI NAJIB TUN RAZAK HAS FULFILLED ITS PROMISE ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE RCI AND TO RELEASE ITS FINDINGS,” he said after being briefed on the RCI findings and recommendations at the weekly State Cabinet meeting today.

He said these findings have been released by an independent panel that has heard and scrutinised the testimonies of multiple witnesses.

Musa said based on these findings, it was discovered that there were wrongdoings committed by individuals for monetary gain.

“These grievous acts were committed by irresponsible individuals who were greedy and they have been brought before the law for their crimes,” he said.

In moving forward post-RCI, he said it was important for concrete measures to be taken to ensure that these acts do not recur and any efforts by any syndicates that could undermine the sovereignty of this nation must be dismantled and face the long arm of the law.

He said the State Cabinet therefore welcomed the recommendations to set up a PERMANENT COMMITTEE on Foreigners to be co chaired by Home Affairs Minister, Datuk Zahid Hamidi and himself as well as a Working Committee on Foreigners to be chaired by Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

“We also call on relevant Departments and agencies to overcome any weaknesses and tighten any loopholes within their respective structures to maintain the integrity of their respective governmental functions and the ultimate objective, which is serving the people,” he said.

In the meantime, he said the State Government would continue to work hand in hand with the Federal Government to overcome issues dealing with illegal immigrants in the state.

He said the relevant authorities such as Police, National Registration department and the Immigration Department are working closely through statewide operations such as Ops Bersepadu to flush out illegal immigrants in the state.

“It is also my hope that our counterparts in our neighboring countries will assist us in this effort by facilitating the return of their citizens to their respective countries,” he said.


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.


As the hours zero in on the closing of the Sulu standoff and a possibility of some intense immigrant backlash in Lahad Datu and her neighbouring coastal towns, one may wonder what is next for Sabah. Although speculations have indicated that the prolong stand off is due to meek and uncharismatic leadership by the top guns of BN, one could also say that they have been making calculated and planned moves to ensure success and simultaneously lessening the anti- BN war cry among neigh sayers. After all, an early move could result in multiple riots among Suluk immigrants throughout Sabah. As predicted, Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman, has had his share of publicity amidst the standoff as well. The Suluk Filipinos are after his head as they eye the Chief Minister’s post in a renewed bid and Musa, affectionately known as Moses among his fellow Dusuns, has Foreign Minister and brother, Anifah Aman along for the ride, this time around.

Their major critics, Suluk Filipinos and the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), allege that Anifah is Musa’s “real nominee”, who is involved in all sorts of shady dealings involving timber and even the recent arrest of 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 the Aman brothers which is so ridiculous. Those who know Anifah will swear that the Kimanis MP is one shrewd operator too. He’s strictly scrupulous about the way he arranges his public and private life. Having made his money and tons of it before he went into politics, Anifah has since then stayed out of business and professional dealings which would cast aspersions on his character and his integrity in public service. So, the critics would appear to be barking up the wrong tree on Anifah. I mean, why would you kick a dog just because you hate its owner?

Many want to see Anifah destroyed along with Musa to minimize any possibility that the younger brother taking up the challenge of being the Chief Minister if ever the opportunity presents itself. Anifah is getting closer by the day to the Chief Minister’s post as he has since chalked up an enviable record as Foreign Minister. Aside from Anifah, Pairin is the only other leader who will get Musa’s support as his successor. But Pairin has been Chief Minister from 1985 to 1994, and is unlikely to accept his old post even if offered. He is also extremely pleased with Musa’s performance as Chief Minister since he took over the reins of the state government. He works quietly without getting into needless politicking, or like PKR, promising the sun, the moon and the stars in between.

It’s not surprising that PKR has no qualms about walking on the wild side of politics in Sabah. It’s an open secret in the state that Opposition Leader and de facto PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim was among the chief architects responsible for placing illegal immigrants, mainly drawn from Suluk Filipinos, on the electoral rolls. He was then in the BN Government as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister. Anwar’s shady past in Sabah has caught up with him in the present to haunt his future. That’s why the call is getting louder in Sabah for Anwar to be called in as witness to the ongoing RCI on illegal immigrants in the state. Besides, PKR has even pledged, in an act of political suicide, that illegal immigrants in Sabah would all be given permanent residency (PR) status should the opposition alliance seize the reins of power in the state.

Between the Suluk Filipinos and Anwar’s PKR, they are not too happy that Musa convinced Najib Tun Razak and mobilised UMNO Sabah to pledge support for the RCI. More alarm bells have gone off when Anifah lashed out publicly not so long ago against attempts by the a special unit at the National Registration Department (NRD) in Putrajaya to issue birth certificates and MyKads to 40,000 people in Semporna alone without going through the local Mobile Court system. Anifah doubted that there could be that many people in one district alone without personal Malaysian documents. But the truth is, Semporna is undoubtedly infested with illegal immigrants, especially Suluk from the nearby Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines.

Anifah’s outburst on Semporna, coming on top of his brother’s public support for the RCI, was the last straw for the Suluk Filipinos. They, led by the Godfather, decided that the Aman brothers would have to go sooner rather than later. Their “secret weapon” is to recycle the old Chinaman’s story, of Michael Chia Thien Foh being nabbed with some Singapore $16 million at one time at Hong Kong Airport, and allegedly close to Musa. But the truth to the matter is, Micheal Chia is a bosom buddy to Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, minister in the Prime Minister Department. So close is Chia that he had even given Nazri’s son a Hummer SUV, as a gift of sorts.

The story, as it now transpires, is that Chia was never caught in the Hong Kong Airport with bag load of foreign currency. Chia’s hotel room in Hong Kong was raided by the Hong Kong authorities, acting on a tip-off which came from an estranged business partner of Chia, now at loggerheads. In that hotel raid, the Hong Kong authorities found in Chia’s room Singapore $ 16 million. So, this whole story about Micheal Chia getting caught in Hong Kong Airport is a whole lot of rubbish. It never happened in the Hong Kong Airport but indeed took place in the hotel room in Hong Kong where Chia was staying.

The Hong Kong case, if any, has been closed but PKR and Musa’s Suluk Filipino political enemies do not want to cease and desist. They are doggedly flogging the Hong Kong in various recycle versions and liberally dishing them around among the alternative media with known links to PKR and Anwar. A new spin from both PKR and the Suluk Filipinos, is that Attorney-General Gani Patail is related to Musa through his wife. Hence, as the spin continues, his reluctance to prosecute the Sabah Chief Minister and his brother “despite the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) having concluded its investigations”.

The fact of the matter is that it’s not the AG who immediately decides on the prosecution of Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders suspected of being involved in corruption. The MACC files on such leaders have to be sent to the Prime Minister who in turn will have to return them to the Commission before they are sent to the AG for further action, if any. In Musa and Anifah’s case, even if there’s an MACC file on both of them, it’s unlikely that it has been sent to Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak. Indeed, even if such a file exists and it has been sent to the Prime Minister, it’s highly unlikely that he would be so foolish as to send it back to the MACC for onward transmission to the AG.

This is the system first initiated by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The MACC files on Eric Chia of Perwaja Steel and Kasitah Gaddam were under lock and key in Mahathir’s office for years. It was his successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi aka Pak Lah, who sent these files back to MACC. The rest is history. Even if there’s a circumstantial case against Musa and Anifah, current PM Najib is unlikely to rock his Fixed Deposit state of Sabah just because some Suluk Filipino got too big for his boots and wants to be Chief Minister. For one, no Suluk Filipino will ever become Chief Minister of Sabah.

The Dusuns in particular — including the Kadazan and Murut – would not allow it. That would be the worst imaginable political scenario for them as it would open the floodgates to further influx of illegal immigrants from the Philippines in particular. Mindful that the Dusuns and Muruts through Joseph Pairin Kitingan and the Parti Bersatu Sabah are solidly behind Musa, the Suluk Filipinos recently tried to sponsor KDM Malaysia as an NGO to further split the non-Muslim Natives as a political force to reckon with in the state. Their efforts came to nothing and the NGO is currently on the verge of being deregistered by the Registrar of Societies (ROS).

For another, the Suluk Sabahans and other local Muslims – Dusun, Bajau, Barunai, Irranun, among others – are dead set against a Suluk Filipino taking the reins of the state government. The stand was made clear by the Suluk Sabahans who have re-grouped under the old United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) in a protest against the disproportionate political role being played in Umno by the Suluk Muslims. The Suluk Filipinos running amok in Sabah, like other illegal immigrants, should thank their lucky stars that they have not so far been detained and deported to the Philippines and banned forever from entering the state. If they think that they can cover up their tracks and buy political protection by seizing the Chief Minister’s post, they are sadly mistaken. Already, local Muslims feel increasingly marginalized and disenfranchised by the continuing influx of the illegal immigrants who go on to enter the electoral rolls and monopolize opportunities which would have otherwise gone to them.

The Lahad Datu armed intrusion and the Malaysian armed forces’ operations against the Filipino Suluk intruders claiming Sabah belongs to Philippines is a real eye opener. We have lost 8 of our security personals so far in this skirmish since the events began unfolding in Lahad Datu. For decades, we have allowed the influx of illegal immigrants and granted citizenships to Filipino immigrants under Project IC. The security threats posed by the large presence of illegals in Sabah has been highlighted by Sabahans for decades but this has fallen on deaf ears in Putrajaya. News of Azzimuddie Kiram’s brother who resides in Sabah, being placed on the police’s wanted list shows the complexities of the situation. Many of the Suluks and Moros, numbering 500,000 in Sabah, are ardent followers of the Sulu sultanate. Will they still support BN?

Although still too early to say who Sabah will decide to be their next leader, how they will go about it and the reasons behind it is no mystery. It has to be a “Sabah for Sabahan” stand for now, and having outsiders, local or otherwise, just may not make the cut. The tic-tac-toe of Sabah’s next Man will eventually be dealt with in good time. And who knows, perhaps other media oulets like Reuters, Al-Jazeera and Bernama just may have their own take on the socio-political landscape of Sabah, allowing for newer and more different ideas and even evidences to be discussed and showcased.

But for now, ladies and gentlemen, back to the stand off.