Archive for the ‘KadazanDusunMurut’ 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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The communities in Sabah should reflect on the significance of Tadau Kaamatan or harvest festival in order to close ranks and strengthen unity for the progress of the state.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said this was because the annual festival, commonly celebrated by the Kadazandusun Murut community on May 30-31, was associated with giving thanks for a bountiful rice harvest that contributed to friendship among the various indigenous and ethnic groups in the state.

“Although the planting of paddy is no longer a major agricultural practice, this festival is still an integral part of our local culture. Communities here respect and celebrate it as a mark of gratitude,” he said in his Kaamatan message here Sunday.

Musa said over the decades, Sabah has experienced growth and progress in terms of infrastructure and also has more bustling urban centres today.

He said locals now have better access to education and training opportunities and were contributing to the state through their chosen fields.

“This, combined with the fact that we are a melting pot of more than 30 ethnic groups, gives us a competitive advantage within Malaysia and the region.

“Our steadfastness in staying united and our commitment to work together encourage us to learn from one another and are positive factors in our quest to achieve more progress for Sabah,” he said.

In this regard, the chief minister reminded the people not to give in to attempts by certain quarters to damage ties among the people of various backgrounds.

“I call on Malaysians in Sabah to not succumb to such thinking. Calls by certain quarters for Sabah to leave the Malaysian federation are irresponsible and will only lead to division among the people,” he said.

Musa also said Sabah was on track in achieving the various developments outlined in the State Development Agenda or Halatuju introduced over a decade ago, with a focus on agriculture, tourism and manufacturing.

“The Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) launched in 2008 has further strengthened our quest to focus on the three areas outlined by the State Development Agenda.

“We are also participating actively in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and the Malaysia Plans, as a way to bring holistic and meaningful progress to the people of Sabah, regardless of where they live,” he said.

He also noted that Sabah was a large state making it necessary to close the gap between regions, especially those located in the interior, by continuing to focus on poverty eradication programmes and ensuring more school-leavers get the opportunity to study at a higher level, including at skills centres.

Musa also called on youths in Sabah to explore the opportunities available and help turn the state into a vibrant region within Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

To ensure successful implementation of the state government’s plans and policies, the chief minister said security remained the state’s priority, with the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) always ensuring that citizens and visitors felt safe while in Sabah.


The recent Sabah Quake has left a very damaging effect on Sabah and her people in all forms. The physical, psychological, spiritual trauma felt by Sabahans and friends of Sabah is one that cannot be erased so easily. As someone who has called Sabah my home for many years, I believe I speak for many that the Sabah Quake is a reminder of how insignificant we are to a land that had provided so much for so many. Clearly, life as we live it must take into account natures very living presence that is in as much of a position as human beings are in determining both life and death.

However, what I foresee to be the greatest burden befallen those effected by the quake is an economical one.The quake took 18 lives and left almost 20 people wounded and hurt. Over a hundred climbers were left stranded on the mountain, without other viable exit routes. Numerous homes and building in approximately 18 districts suffered structurally and more than 80 aftershocks recorded by the Meteorological Department, many more will soon be reported.

The point that I am making here is simple; There is a great need for funds designated to restoration works in Sabah. The local mountain guides (national heroes in my eyes) and affected local residents need to be taken care of till Mount Kinabalu is once again ready for climbers. In its current state, no climbers would even dare think of weathering Akinabalu and if climbers are no longer coming, an entire community that depends on this industry to make a living will be severely effected.

Recently in a conversation with Sabah Chief Minister, Musa Aman, I was told that he had appealed to several high ranking officers from PETRONAS ( a government endorsed oil and Gas conglomerate) to assist with the Sabah Quake victims. A verbal agreement was made between Aman and PETRONAS in which this special fund would serve as their CSR for Sabah. This has yet to take place, but for this assistance to make truly help, it needs to come in soon. Similarly, other successful companies and conglomerates need to come forward in a similar fashion. Anyone who has benefited from Sabah needs to pump resources back to the state immediately.

We can never blame anyone for the Sabah quake. Nature is unpredictable as it is beautiful and what happens within the realm of the natural is completely out of our hands. But what we can take complete control of are the aftermaths, the rehabilitation and and the recovery. If we fail to assist and support where it is needed, then blame is inevitable. Conglomerates, such as PETRONAS who have had the support of so many, need to take time from their busy schedule to realize that those servicing the Mount Kinabalu, a cherished and honored world heritage site, are in need of help. Help needs to come sooner rather than later, through swift action and not as lip service.

this piece was out today in the Sunday Daily Express forum


In October 7, 2003, when the Sabah economy was going through turmoil, Musa Aman took charge of Sabah as the Chief Minister. Turn to March 2008 Barisan National and Musa Aman in Sabah is stronger than ever. BN had swept the polls in Sabah retaining power with more than two-thirds majority winning 59 out of 60 seats contested. In this age of fragmented polity where getting a majority seems unreal, BN under Musa Aman bagged 65 percent of the votes in almost all the places. Interesting to note is that these poll victories continued even two years later in 2010 when the PBS won Batu Sapi Parliamentary constituency in a by-election.

Then in May 5th 2013, Musa Aman breaks the 9-year CM jinx and becomes the longest serving chief minster in the history of Sabah and brings Barisan National to another impressive two-thirds victory for the state seats and winning 22 out of the 25 Parliamentary seats. How did Musa Aman and the people of Sabah make all this possible?

One particular remark of Musa Aman caught my pride and attention. He claimed that only politics of development can do something good, not the politics of vote bank. He said, “I have succeeded to deliver my message that politics of vote bank or politics of appeasement would not do any good, but the politics of development would do.” The truth in this statement is the future of Sabah. The truth in this statement will bring in faith of the Sabah population into the political democracy. Development, prosperity and improvement of the standards of living will and can bring in a permanent political stability. And will tag along prosperity with stability.

Today we are being short-sighted. The political attitude is of vote bank politics, ‘blanket’ politics, immediate selfish goals and corruption ridden personal growth. It is vicious cycle that takes us away from socio-economic development. Musa Aman also could have been short-sighted. He could have assumed his imminent fall in the elections and could have concentrated his energies in making as much wealth as possible for a lifetime. Instead he chose the difficult path of development. He once said, “An opportunity to work is good luck for me. I put my soul into it. Each such opportunity opens the gates for the next one.”

Faced with massive economic losses brought in by 2001, he concentrated on reorganizing the government’s administrative structure including Yayasan Sabah and embarked upon a massive cost-cutting exercise when he took over as chief minister in 2003. As a result of Sabah government efforts under the guidance of Musa, Sabah registered a GDP growth rate of over 5% during his first tenure. This was one the highest growth rate among all the Malaysian states.

Sabah is probably the only state witnessing more than 7% growth for a long time and also the only state growing higher than the country’s 5-6 per cent growth. Sabah is growing faster than some of the ASEAN economies. Plan expenditure has also leapfrogged from RM 2 billion plus in 2003-04 to RM 4 billion plus in 2012-13. It’s all about security, infrastructure development, transparent policies and prudent State fiscal management, which have contributed to Sabah’s growth.

During my stay in Tenom, I remember Padas River a notoriously polluted river had begun to be transformed and now appeared to be much cleaner, although the water was still extremely yellowish with siltation brought down from the upper parts of Keningau and Trusmadi the second highest mountain in Sabah, now it is flowing bank to bank and the water is better quality. If the Padas River has begun to meander once again, that’s because the water is flowing freely from the upper parts of Keningau and Trusmadi, courtesy the ambitious river-cleaning project of Musa Aman.

Padas River in full flow is an apt metaphor for the miracle that Musa Aman has pulled off in making Tenom a model for rural/urban development. Today it boasts of wide roads, shorter time to reach Brunei, Lawas, Sipitang and even Kota Kinabalu, better traffic control and minimum traffic congestion and ample green spaces and the cleanest town in Sabah. It is a delight to hear Musa Aman speak about development. He once said, “Our roads will be as good as the Autobahns of Germany”.

Development of roads in the state epitomizes this wind of change. When a foreign tourist, who has been visiting tourist spots in the state for long, whom I met recently in Tenom was asked about the most visible change, he said it was road and the “Tenom Coffee”. Sabah, for long, remained infamous for its bad roads and pitiable connectivity. People suffered due to utter lack of connectivity. Though the state is criss-crossed by several rivers, there were very few bridges across them, forcing people to make long detours to reach their destination just across the river.

Musa said about the changing Sabah: “The state is experiencing all-round development because of our policy of ensuring that the benefits of development first go to those at the bottom of the social ladder. Over the years, we rose above the feelings of race and religion which Sabah is all about, and have worked tirelessly on the agenda of inclusive development of the state.”

It’s a proud moment for Sabah that a political leader is showing us the path of long term development to win a democratic election, to be a popular leader. This is learning and teaching to all the national and regional political parties, who have not been far-sighted like Musa Aman.

Lets salute to the power of development.


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.


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.


by Farish A Noor
http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/23020-between-a-fluid-region-and-a-hard-state

Allow me to begin by stating categorically that I am a committed Southeast Asian-ist and a committed ASEAN-ist.

In my work as a lecturer I have constantly reminded my students of the constructed nature of Southeast Asia today, the relative newness of our political borders, and the newness of our nation-states. I have also emphasized the shared overlapping histories of the many diasporas that populate this complex and sometimes confounding archipelago of ours.

I long for the day when the people of Southeast Asia can see themselves as ASEAN citizens, but despite the fact that the ASEAN Community is almost upon us (by 2015), many of us in the region are still driven by primordial attachments to place, identity, language and culture.

It can be summed up thus: We Southeast Asians are caught between a fluid region and a hard state.

No matter how hard some of the hyper-nationalists among us may try, they cannot deny the fact that we share a common, interconnected history/histories. These histories often overlap, make contesting demands and claims, and contradict each other. But that is the nature of history as a discourse, for it is a narrative without a full-stop and is a discursive terrain that has to be looked at from a multiplicity of angles.

There can never be a final history to any area or subject, for as soon as we put the pen down, time marches on and we are forced to return and revise our settled assumptions.

For those who seek a happy panacea to their existential angst, history is not the remedy because every single historical claim can and will be contested by another.

That makes history a soft and unstable foundation for any political-economic claim, but thankfully it is also the reason why historians like me won’t be unemployed any time soon.

So much for fluidity and shifting historical parameters. Now comes the hard part: We Southeast Asians also happen to be living in the present-day postcolonial world of ASEAN, made up of nation-states that do what nation-states do: Compartmentalize, categorize, delimit and demarcate, fix boundaries and police them.

I have to state here that I am not a big fan of the postcolonial nation-state for the simple reason that in my opinion the post-colonial nation-state is simply the inheritor of the proclivities, bias, myopia and solipsism of the colonial state of the past.

Look around us in Southeast Asia today and what do we see, but postcolonial nation-states that continue to police their people, their borders, their identities and the very epistemology and vocabulary that frames our understanding of ourselves and the Other. Categories like “citizen” and “foreigner” are modern labels that we, Southeast Asians, have inherited from our colonial past along with dubious concepts like racial difference.

Contradiction

What, then, are we today? It would appear to me at least that we Southeast Asians are a hybrid, mongrel lot of communities and peoples with a complicated past.

On the one hand we still retain the residual traces of our primordial roots to land and sea that tell us that this region is our shared home. But we also happen to be modern citizen-subjects living under the modern regime of the racial census, the identity card, the passport and the national flag.

We cannot escape this contradiction because this is what our common history has bequeathed us today. We are modern Southeast Asian citizen-subjects who live in a region with a complex history that predates modernity, colonialism and the nation-state, and we cannot escape our past any more than we can escape our present.

But this contradiction is now manifest in what is happening in the East Malaysian state of Sabah. In the midst of the chest-thumping, saber-rattling jingoism and hyper-nationalism we see rising in both Philippines and Malaysia today, we ought to take a step back and look at ourselves honestly in the face.

It seems that what is confronting us now is a clash between the modern state, driven as it is by its modernist logic of governmentality; and the primordial attachment of some people to land and space that exceeds the confines of temporality and space.

What has happened is that a group of non-state actors, namely those who claim to be the descendants of the Sultan of Sulu, have unilaterally and without the consent of the government of the Philippines, entered into the territory of another state – Malaysia – bearing arms and demanding their right to settle there.

Both the Malaysian and Philippine state are at a loss as to what to do, for both states are now forced to deal with a non-state actor that does not play by the rules of the modern state.

Such a situation can be extended hypothetically in a million directions: What if a bunch of Malaysian citizens unilaterally entered Singapore and claimed it on the grounds that it was formerly a part of the Malay kingdom of Johor? What if a bunch of Thais entered northern Malaysia and claimed the state of Kelantan on the grounds that it was formerly part of the Siamese kingdom?

The possibilities are endless, and dizzying to boot- but the problem would remain the same: How should a state or states deal with non-state actors?

Reviewing history

Two historical details ought to be brought into play at this point:

The first is that the history of Sabah itself ought to be foregrounded at this stage, as Philippine and Malaysian nationalists have failed to ask what do the people of Sabah think about this.

Let us note that Sabah was never an empty space that was passed on from one power to another. In the past, Sabah came under the domination of the Kingdom of Brunei, and it was Brunei that then gifted parts of Sabah to the Kingdom of Sulu, and it was both the kingdoms of Brunei and Sulu that then passed it on to the British North Borneo Company. But Sabah has its own past, its own history and its own people – who seem to have been left out of the discussion altogether.

The indigenous people of Sabah happen to be the Kadazandusuns and the Muruts, who consist of the Bonggis (Banggi island, Kudat), the Idaan/Tindals (Tempasuk, Kota Belud), the Dumpaas Kadazans (Orang Sungai, Kinabatangan), the Bagahaks (Orang Sungai, also Kinabatangan), the Tombinuo and Buludupis Kadazans (Orang Sungai, also Kinabatangan), the Kimaragang Kadazans (Tandek and Kota Marudu), the Liwans (Ranau and Tambunan), the Tangaah Kadazans (Panampat and Papar), the Rungus (Matunggong and Kudat), the Tatanah Kadazans (Kuala Penyu), the Lotuds (Tuaran), the Bisayas (Beaufort), the Tidongs (Tawau) and the Kedayans (Sipitang). Then there are the Muruts who consist of the Nabais, Piluans, Bokans, Taguls, Timoguns, Lundayehs, Tangaras, Semambus, Kolors and Melikops.

These are the indigenous communities of Sabah, and if anyone has a right to the land of Sabah it ought to be them. Nobody denies that Bruneians, Suluks, Ilanuns, Bugis, Malays, Chinese, Indians, Arabs and other communities have resided in Sabah too in the past, but the latter came from other kingdoms and polities, and in the case of the Bruneians and Suluks of Sulu, they also happened to be outsiders who imposed their dominance over the indigenous people of Sabah.

This brings me to the second point I want to make: It has to be remembered that both Brunei and Sulu held sway over Sabah as a territory under their dominion, in a manner that seems more akin to the way the British North Borneo company held sway over Sabah from the 1880s to 1940s.

When the descendants of the Sultan of Sulu claim to “own” Sabah today, what exactly does this deed of ownership entail and mean? Does it signify Sulu’s former political dominance over a territory that was gifted to it by another domineering power? If so, then how is this any different from making a colonial claim over a land whose people may not even recognize Sulu’s right to govern over them?

It is ironic that while the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu bemoans his loss of dominance, nobody (not even the Sultan) has asked if the Kadazandusuns, Muruts and other indigenous people of Sabah want to live under his dominion. Furthermore, it seems to only underscore the fact that Sulu’s claim (like Brunei’s and Britain’s) was that of an external polity claiming a territory that was not part of their homeland proper.

Cosmopolitan Sabah

None of this alters the fact that Sabah has always been, and remains, an extraordinarily cosmopolitan space where cultures and peoples overlap and share common lives and interests. In comparison to other parts of Malaysia, for instance, Sabahan society retains its fluid and dynamic identity until today.

In Sabah it is not uncommon to come across indigenous families where the siblings happen to be Muslim and Christian, all living under the same roof and celebrating Muslim and Christian festivals together. Sabah society also seems more decentered compared to other communities in the region: The Kadazandusuns do not have a concept of Kingship, and instead govern themselves along the lines of communal leaders (Orang Kaya Kaya) and their symbolic grand leader called the “Huguan Siou.”

So tolerant and open is Sabah society that inter-ethnic marriages are common, with Kadazandusuns and Muruts marrying Malays, Chinese, Arabs as well as Suluks, Bugis, Bajaos, Bruneians. It has been like this for hundreds of years; and I hasten to add that I actually grew up in Sabah between the years 1981 to 1984, and recall how open, eclectic and mobile Sabah society was then.

Sabahans have never had a problem with other communities settling there, and that is why we still see large numbers of Suluks, Bajaos, Malays and Chinese across the state, settling into mixed families or into smaller settlements. Furthermore Sabahans are attuned to the reality of living in a fluid archipelago, which is why its coastal settlements have always been transit points where people from abroad come in and out with ease.

Just before the Lahad Datu incident I was informed that a large number of Suluks had arrived for a wedding, and they came in without passports and visas, and left peacefully afterwards.

It has been like that in Sabah since my childhood. But my fear is that culture of openness and fluidity came to an untimely and graceless end when some of the followers of the Sultan of Sulu landed with guns and rocket-launchers.

Fluid borders only exist under one assumption: that the visitor is a friend, and not an aggressor. The moment guns come into the picture, the fluid border dries up and becomes hard.

Hardened borders, hardened hearts

I hate nationalism. I said at the beginning that I am a committed Southeast Asian-ist and ASEAN-ist, and this debacle in Sabah has not weakened my resolve, as both an academic and an activist, to work towards closer ASEAN integration.

Here in my institute in NTU, I see the faces of ASEAN every single day: My students come from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, in fact all of ASEAN. Being childless myself, I regard them as my wards and responsibility and like all teachers I want them to succeed in the future. I also want them to succeed in an ASEAN region where every ASEAN citizen feels that the entire region is his or her home, a place he/she belongs to, a place where he/she would not feel like a foreigner.

But as I said at the beginning, we ASEAN citizens also live in the age of the modern nation-state, and there is no escaping the fact that we are modern citizen-subjects as well. Being caught between a fluid region and a hard modern state is not an existential crisis that we cannot resolve, for we can bring to the modern nation-state our subjective longings to see greater integration on a people-to-people level that takes the nation-state one step further.

Already we see that the modern nation-state is beginning to transcend itself in ASEAN: The communicative infrastructure that we have built – through roads, rail and cheap airline communications – means that more Southeast Asians are traveling, studying, working and living in different parts of the region than ever before.

Gone are the days when a Malaysian, Filipino or Singaporean would be born in his country, study in the same country, work and die in the same country. In the near future, we may well live to see the birth of the first ASEAN generation who are born in one country, study in another, work in another and die in another, all the while feeling that he or she is still at home, in Southeast Asia.

But for this to happen, we cannot bypass the nation-state entirely; for we need the nation-state in order to transcend the nation-state. We need the nation-state to evolve where it may one day accept the reality that its citizens have multiple origins, multiple destinies, multiple and combined loyalties.

We need to work towards an ASEAN future where our governments may come to accept our complex, confounding hyphenated identities as something normal, and not an anomaly; when someone who is Javanese-Dutch-Indian-Arab like me can claim to come from Indonesia, be born in Malaysia, work in Singapore and love the Philippines.

Ironically, this is the impasse we are at today: To revive our collective memory of a shared Southeast Asian past, we need to work with and through the nation-state as the dominant paradigm that governs international relations.

What we cannot and should not do is selectively appropriate history to make outlandish claims that further only our own limited ends, the way China has been doing by turning to its own China-centric history books in order to claim the South China Sea as theirs.

Such selectivity, be it in the case of China’s or the Sultan of Sulu’s, denies the fact that history will always remain contested by others. Unless we are prepared to accept that whatever view we have of the ASEAN region is only one of many views, and that we need to accept that multi-perspectivism is the only way to navigate ourselves on the choppy waters of history, we will remain forever trapped in our own myopic delusions.

At present, the Sabah impasse has stirred violent emotions among nationalists in Malaysia and the Philippines, with armchair tacticians talking of more violence.

Such idle talk is unbecoming of us, a people who share a complex history whose richness we ought to be celebrating instead. And my final appeal is this: End this incursion into Sabah for the sake of the Sabahans as well as Filipinos and Malaysians; for what this has done is engendered feelings of deep fear and distrust among the Sabahans who have for centuries been among the most open communities in the region.

The thousands of Suluks, Bugis, Bajaos and others who have settled in Sabah for decades have done so with relative ease, but no longer. The Sulu gunmen who landed in Sabah did not only bring their M-16s and rocket-launchers with them, but also the divisive dichotomy of “Self” and “Other/Foreigner,” and the last thing this academic wants to see is yet another wall being built to divide Southeast Asians all over again. – Rappler.com

Dr Farish A Noor is Associate Professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU University Singapore. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent his institution.

All photos by the the author.


Lopsidedness is a matter of perspective. Consider this: 35% of Malaysia’s disposable income comes from the top six cities. The bottom 1000+ kampongs account for 35% of income. Of the rest of the income, 30% is in the remaining hundreds of towns. These are what some marketing pundits euphorically call the Tier-2 towns, places with perceived potential for immense growth. Does this Tier-2 layer really exist?

This must be judged from the headline news — “Malaysia’s August inflation seen steady at 1.4%”, “Falling Inflation”, “Bank Negara and the Malaysian economists celebrate volubly”. Is this really worth celebrating for all?

I was recently touring Kundasang, home to South East Asia’s highest mountain – Mount Kinabalu, also South East Asia’s largest cabbage and broccoli market which I’m very familiar with, as I was one of the pioneers years ago doing experiments on pesticides and introducing hybrid cabbage and highland vegetable seeds from Taiwan and Japan some twenty years ago. I can’t say people of Kundasang would celebrate a fall in highland vegetables i.e. cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli prices. Hundreds of farmers are mourning the crash of prices, sometimes to even below the cost of production.

The cost of cabbages has fallen at the farm gate by over 50% over just 6 months! Overall, prices have deflated over 30%. But it will take years before they could go up again.

Unfortunately, the farmer is not treated like an investor whose money commands the headlines, and who reports farm level profitability. No farmer ever computes his ROI (return on investment) on the land that he owns. It is inherited and comes for free to cultivate.

If we were to cost up all farm level production based on the cost of fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, weedicides, labour and land, everything will be ten times more expensive! Not many recognise this, but Malaysian agriculture is highly subsidised by the farmer who treats the cost of land as free.

Think about the positives of inflation for a moment. How many people know how inflation is computed actually? There are 435 articles or commodities across three major groups that are taken into consideration and given different weights. Milk has the highest weight (4.4), rice is (2.44), weights for all fruits and vegetables are less than that of milk.

This raises another question: how many times do the media complain about the cost of milk? Cabbages and most highland vegetables have a collective weight of 0.54, jagung (corn) even less (0.09). Then, why are corn prices more of an issue than cabbages? The Malaysian farmer would say that vegetables and fruits get unfairly low attention in the context of the perceived causes of inflation. I want to argue that farmers need inflation for a better living.

When I did economics as one of my first year papers in uni, as a student, I was taught that “a little inflation is not such a bad thing”. But how ‘little’ is little? The bigger issue is, 65% of Malaysia that lives off agriculture, will have to suffer from curtailed income due to deflation. And this clearly takes money out of the hands of semi-urban and rural people.

Would the Tier-2 story stand then with just 2% inflation? I would think not.

One also begins to wonder about the policy-making process and about those who are entrusted with the hallowed job of policy-making as well. Time and again, we have seen that Parliament is not where policy is made; it seems as though it is an arena where political parties stage their differences in acts of one-upmanship.

Policymakers are influenced heavily by three kinds of people: the man in the street types who just look at day-to-day gains and valuation; the politicians who do not understand economics when it is separated from politics; and the global investors who are at best opportunists and who treat Malaysia like a cell in a game of snakes-and-ladders.

The point is, good intentions of a few policymakers are not getting translated into ground reality at the farm level. There is too much media glare on produce prices than is required.

There is an urgent need for a fresh look at the needs of specific businesses in rural Malaysia, in terms of supply chain infrastructure, training and financial support. One size does not fit all. Individual ministries must debate thoughts and ideas with commercial businesses at the grassroots level, to understand the travails and opportunities.

Meantime, surely the dreams of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies and other categories must be put on hold till the work performed by farmers in smaller towns and kampongs for their livelihood becomes profitable again. Some inflation is surely good.


 

The Sabah state assembly elections or the 13th General Elections will be held before March/April 2013.  The state is witnessing a political undercurrent in favour of Chief Minister Musa Aman. However, his critics and an analyst like Karim Gani stoutly argue against such a claim. Karim says, “Musa’s charisma may be there, but there is no undercurrent in favour of Musa.”

Here are some pointers favouring Musa Aman:

# Undoubtedly, there is no political leader in Sabah who has been as popular as Musa Aman since its inception in 1963. Musa Aman had charmed the poor and Natives, his influence is not limited in UMNO pockets.

Shafie Apdal is, largely, a Suluk leader and Lajim Ukin is, largely, a Bisaya leader. Both have theirs pockets of influence, but none could match Musa’s clout over young minds and men and women be it in the urban areas or even rural.

In the last five years, after appropriating the Best Chief Minister’s title, Musa has calibrated his communication with people through the language of development. That has clicked with people because the subtext of his act says that under Musa’s rule you could make money and have a comfortable life without many political, communal or social disturbances.

There is madness in crediting Musa Aman for every good thing happening in Sabah. In the last five years, the rains have been good, the KLSE is zooming up, agricultural income is booming and real estate is making middle-class families millionaires. Many middle-class voters say “Musa’s rule is auspicious.”

This shows that people are ready to re-elect Musa Aman. In his statewide meet the people sessions, men, women and youngsters gather to see him. Their faces evoke emotions. They look pleased to see their leader. The relation of trust between Musa Aman and his fans is certainly there.

In Sabah’s political circles, DAP and SAPP compete in the urban areas. Traditionally, they oppose each other with vengeance during election time as seen in the last Batu Sapi Parliamentary by-elections.

So is Datuk Pairin and Dr Jeffrey Kitingan both fighting tooth and nail for the indigenous KDM votes, although Pairin at this moment of time has still  got the numbers, but its dwindling. Musa knows this, Musa also knows Pairin is loyal, Musa also knows Pairin is “HUGUAN SIOW” to the KDMs and when push come to shove KDMs will still throw their support to their Paramount Leader.

Musa has transcended political rivalry and is expected to divide them successfully.

Then in Beaufort, as soon as Lajim Ukin declared Musa his enemy, Bisayas and Kadayans thought why strengthen Lajim by backing UMNO rebels? The Former Umno supreme council member Lajim Ukin says he will set up a new political party as a vehicle to field candidates in the upcoming general election. Lajim, had recently announced his resignation as an Umno supreme council member, Beaufort Umno division chief and Beaufort BN chairman with immediate effect and declared his support for Pakatan but remained an Umno member. So funny, people are not stupid, Lajim wants to have his cake and wants to eat it too. Like this, better to trust Musa Aman, the community leaders, both Bisayas and Kadayans argued. The Lajim stance is the only mysterious factor and will be known only after elections.

When the Pakatan argues that Musa’s leadership is not as much identified with the poor, natives as with urban, middle class and upwardly mobile voters of small towns, it is quite unbelievable.

But one can’t ignore the fact that today is Musa moment.

# Musa’s pluses and minuses are the only talking points of this election. Musa, being the experienced and cunning election strategist, has written the role for himself and has won not only his party but has captured the minds of UMNO leaders in Kuala Lumpur and the Prime Minister himself too.

This is the amazing factor of this coming election.

The coming 13 General Elections in Sabah will be known as the Musa versus Musa election. Musa Aman is in the battleground selling his own virtues, while Pakatan Rakyat and all the other wannabe opposition parties in Sabah is moving in lanes and bylanes of Sabah highlighting Musa’s vices, weaknesses and lies.

People are asked to vote for Musa’s virtues or against Musa’s lies. Right now the Musa magic works. Musa has staunchly identified himself with Sabah as Pairin did with Sabah in the 1985. He is raising regional parochialism to new heights by negotiating with the Federal Government for higher oil royalty for the state, getting the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the illegal immigrant to be conducted quickly before the 13th general elections. In fact according to LITTLE BIRD when Premier Najib comes to Sabah tomorrow 1st September 2012, Najib will announce and increase in oil royalty for Sabah. I don’t know for sure how many percent but definitely its going to be more than 10%. This is definitely going to create shock ways if what LITTLE BIRD told me comes true.

# In and around Tawau, and other coastal areas in the east coast a large section of voters believe that during the Musa government they have remained free of Abu Sayyaf and kidnappings. Absence of kidnapping means more tourism related development and more peace of mind for fishermen as safety and security is well taken care of. People here say “Musa means development without fear.”

On other hand, opposition voters, particularly urban opposition voters also acknowledge that when Musa is in the CM seat, it means, “Miscreant is the monitor of our class” and that guarantees peace in Sabah.

Musa unlike the earlier governments has successfully foiled all the kidnapping in the east coast of Sabah. This argument is appreciated by average people and they say previous governments were not been able to stop the kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf in the east coast.

# The Musa government has created the “feel good” factor by giving electricity supply to most homes in Sabah. There is a vital difference between the 2003 situation and now. Of course there is still power cuts but its not as bad as what it was before 2003.

Musa has succeeded in setting up new power plants and have changed infrastructure fundamentals big time. Now with the setting up of Kimanis RM1.5bil gas-fired plant a 300MW power plant to address the power supply issue in the state, things will get even better.

Now, a large number of people do mention that the government has given them uninterrupted electricity. For Musa Aman, whatever good government or its wings have done in the name of development is exclusively credited to “Musa” and is helping him to connect to people at this crucial time.

In last five years, even the supply system of drinking water has improved. Kampongs do have reliable system of water supply, now.

A large number of kampong people say they have a tap in their homes for the first time in their family history.

Again, there are problems in many areas. In some place the water supplied by government is not of good quality and at many places water is stored in tanks. But, there is perceptible improvement in the entire drinking water system.

# One of the most corrupt sectors of any state government is always the public works department. Sabah is no different, but in the last nine years after Musa Aman took charge of the state, a lot of work has been done and things move much faster now as many corrupted officials have been removed.

The quality of new roads in the interiors and kampongs have improved.

Musa is obviously not bluffing when he says, “I am not corrupt, I don’t allow corruption”.

Barisan National is visibly cash-rich.

Money plays an important role in the hype through mass-communication and in the craft of building of political perceptions for use of the media. But, still, the fact is that people are in a mood to believe that Musa Aman is not corrupt. In this election, his clean image will give him many marks.

# There are several reasons why Barisan National will do well in Sabah again this coming 13th General Elections although Musa’s government had reached its peak of getting 59 out of the 60 state seats in the 2008 elections.

Musa Aman without any doubt is pro-reforms and a moderate ruler. He has continued helping the under privileged and poor. He has even helped single mothers and has asked his administration to give them training. Now, trained widows are getting work and even getting pension.

There are many such situations where Musa has created new programs and projects for the poor and the underprivileged.

His penchant to give permission to new education institutes is appreciated, he gives permission to self-finance education bodies and schools which plan to run on government grants.

As a result the indigenous people don’t have to pay for uniforms shoes and text books for their school going children. Even milk and free food are supplied to these indigenous children in the interiors.

So the overall thrust  is such that Musa will score points.

The hidden social fight of upper/middle class versus the poor people is taking a new direction in Sabah. Musa is benefiting out of it.

He has successfully created hype over his social schemes.

The re-gazette of 183,000 hectares of Class 2 Commercial Forests into Class 1 Protection Forests to expand the expanse of totally protected forests in the state is another issue largely going in his favour.

The craving for forest protection in the state is so intense by Musa Aman that the story about him cutting all the timber and corruption is not getting people’s attention because they know its all lies to discredit him.

The e-government is a pet subject of Musa and its help in systemising land records does make an impact on the people. The Communal Titles a brainchild of Musa Aman, a move to issue communal land titles to resolve ownership woes among the indigenous people has paid off.  It has ensured that indigenous people receive the land they had cultivated or lived in for generations. It is also a way to ensure that land owned by the natives could not be sold off.

To repeat on a broader level, Musa is selling dreams in kampongs and towns where his development has reached and where his economic thinking is helping indigenous people to improve their lives.

The opposition has countered his attempt to sell starry ideas, but his charisma and the massive development seen taking place all over the state attempts to control the damage of robust opposition in many places.

While in urban areas Musa’s offer to have a “Developed Sabah” is clicking with people who love the multi-fold appreciation of their stock, homes and land prices.

If you look at the emotional connection between Musa and his audience in his statewide meet the people sessions, it is easy to predict that Musa is all set to win again.

Even Premier Najib recently in Bongawan was impressed by Musa’s performance, both as Umno head and chief minister and he complimented, “Musa is doing an excellent job leading the party and the state government.”