Archive for the ‘Yong Teck Lee’ Category


Do you remember when Yong Teck Lee, Shafie Apdal and Joseph Ambrose Lee were partners in crime, trying to take over the RM30-billion timber wealth of Yayasan Sabah through share-swap, when Yong Teck Lee himself was Sabah chief Minister and Shafie Apdal was Director of Yayasan Sabah?

Well, I do.

The year was 1996, and it was called The ICBS-NBT controversy. It began when North Borneo Timber Berhad (NBT) was said to have attempted to gain control over Sabah Softwoods Sdn Bhd (SSSB) and Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd (RBSB) involving the selling of 60 per cent equities of Innoprise Corporation Sdn Bhd (ICSB), a subsidiary of the Sabah Foundation. The proposed control over SSSB and RBSB would mean giving away 150,000 acres of Sabah Foundation lands to certain individuals while the taking over of RBSB would mean surrendering 247,000 acres of its timber concession to NBT. NBT had offered below market price for the Sabah Foundation subsidiaries. SSSB was offered RM200 million although 60 per cent of its interest proposed for takeover by NBT was RM765 million. RBSB’s 104,000 hectares of concessions was valued at RM2.5 billion but was only offered RM100 million by NBT. Shafie, who was then Chairman of North Borneo Timber Berhad (NBT) and Sabah Umno Youth Chief, had attempted to place the shares and equities of Innoprise Corporation Sdn Bhd (ICSB), a subsidiary of Sabah Foundation, in a public listed company.

Like it or not, it was Musa Aman, the then state finance minister, who rejected this share-swap deal, saving Yayasan Sabah from a pending doom.

Obviously for a very long time Shafie Apdal has had ideas of grandeur of being the top dog, for sure, and I see it as envy forming due to Musa’s many achievements which has catapulted Sabah to the top position among the States in Malaysia.

It is wrong to say that Sabah has registered improvement in one or two areas. In fact there is no area in which Sabah has not progressed. Education, law and order, good environmental practices, forest protection, clean water supply, electricity, agriculture, industrial progress, urban development, rural development, exports, tourism, RCI on Sabah’s illegal immigrant problem, increase for oil royalty, revision of State Rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, the list goes on – however you look at it, Sabah attracts keen attention in every area, registering surpluses throughout. But Sabah is not satisfied with these achievements . It is not resting on its laurels but is focusing on earning more surpluses. The reason for this attitude is that Sabah does not think only about itself. It thinks for the whole of Malaysia. Sabah is the locomotive engine of Malaysia and continuously contributes to Malaysia’s growth.

When Sabah attained independence in 1963, Malaysia was born. Right from independence in 1963 to 1985, Alliance- Barisan National ruled Sabah. After 1985, Datuk Harris Salleh was defeated, Pairin Kitingan from Party Bersatu Sabah became the Chief Minister. But even at that time Sabah was ruled by the Barisan National until 1986 when PBS pulled out from BN. In 1994, BN wrested control of the power from PBS when Lajim defected from Parti Bersatu Sabah which won the Sabah election, and his action opened a floodgate of defections from PBS and saw the collapse of Pairin’s PBS government. Sakaran Dandai became the first Umno Chief Minister in Sabah in 1994.

In 2003, Musa Aman was appointed chief minister and faced crisis after crisis upon assuming office. First the state treasury was nearly negative, Yayasan Sabah was on the verge of going bust, state agency were negative and the financial situation of the state was in shambles. But Musa Aman had to prudently turned around the mess he inherited. In 2004, he faced assembly elections and captured more seats than in 1999 and became the Chief Minister again. Once more in 2008, he soared with a thumping victory, winning 59 out of the 60 state seats. And for the 2013 elections, Musa rose to the top with a two-thirds majority in the state assembly, thus the title as the longest serving Chief Minister of Sabah. Musa Aman is facing elections again which is expected within the next nine months.

Sabah registered remarkable progress in the last fourteen years of Musa Aman’s rule. Nobody including his opponents can deny this.

Under him, a special report by the state government on the restoration of state rights and devolution of powers under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 has been given to Putrajaya. The state cabinet had put forward its claims for a review of the special federal monetary grants, mandatory every five years under Article 112D of the Federal Constitution. Musa is pushing hard for the restoration of state rights and devolution of powers particularly Sabah’s revenue rights, Sabah’s rights in the Federal Constitution, Malaysia Act and Malaysia Agreement 1963, as well as the Intergovernmental Committee Report.

And in the Auditor-General’s Report for 2016, the financial management of 31 Sabah state ministries, departments and agencies had received an overall “Very Good” rating based on the accountability index. Sabah has even earned praises from Auditor-General for demonstrating sound financial management and for maintaining its record and prudent handling of its finances over the last 12 years. One hundred and six departments and agencies were audited last year and each showed that its financial management was at a very good level. This places Sabah among the best states in Malaysia in terms of accountability and financial management efficiency. This has given Sabah a positive image as it proves that the state has succeeded in managing its resources well, efficiently and in an orderly manner. The auditor-general’s positive assessment should erase the allegations from certain quarters, who always question the state government’s capability and efficiency in managing its finances. In fact, the auditor-general was so impressed with Sabah’s financial management that she wants it to be a role model for other states.

Even Moody International, has certified the Sabah government for efficient and proper budget management for three years running and has given it a triple-A rating for its finances.

Sabah had suffered many a human crises in the past and the lack of good and safe drinking water would be an example of such an issue. Due to this, dry taps were a norm often in the past. In the kampungs especially, women and children had to walk very far to fetch drinking water to their homes. There was also a scarcity of electricity and even the quality of electricity supplied was not up to the mark. Road facilities were not adequate and their quality was also not sound. But under Musa Aman, all these defects faded away in the last ten years. Now there are separate facilities for ground water and drinking water, keeping many a deadly diseases at bay.

Power shortages still happens occasionally throughout Sabah but it has improved tremendously from the past changing the way Sabahans live. Now in most towns electricity is supplied for 24 hours a day. Electricity is supplied for agriculture through a separate feeder. What is even more praiseworthy is that the electricity is available with good quality. No longer do Sabahans purchase stabilizers along with their television or refrigerators.

Sabah has registered remarkable progress in education as well. Native children and girls are attending school and receiving proper education at an increasing number. Sabah’s poverty rate stood at 4.1% as of 2014, down from 23.4% in 2004. For this year alone, the state has allocated RM394.93 million for poverty eradication programmes in its budget and set itself a target of achieving 1% poverty rate by 2020, at the end of the five-year 11th Malaysia Plan.

Even tourism is booming. 2016 was best year for Sabah tourism. Tourists arrival was all time high at 3,427,908 and tourism receipts was a whopping RM7.25billion.

Now you ask: How were all these feats achieved? It is simply Musa Aman’s focus and dedication. After reading the above facts, I think one can understand the reason for Shafie Apdal’s jealousy. Even though Shafie Apdal was MP for Semporna for 4 full terms since 1995, he has done hardly anything to improve the livelihood of the Semporna folks despite receiving a huge budget from his Rural Ministry. His achievements pale into insignificance compared to that of Musa Aman’s.

There are over 3 million people living in Sabah, forming 10% of Malaysian population. Sabah has an area of 73620 sq km. This is 60% of total land surface of Peninsular Malaysia. In oil palm production alone, Sabah’s share is 40%, and Sabah contributes in addition to that 25% in cocoa production, 27% in rubber production, 40% in natural gas, 55% in petroleum, 70% in tiger prawns production about 9000 metric tons, 60% in ginger production and 35% in cabbage production.

Even the Totally Protected Forest (TPAs) – 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% TPAs by 2025 or 2030 at the latest or over 2.2. million hectares of Sabah. Which state in Malaysia has set aside 22% of TPAs including rich agricultural lands and virgin forests at high opportunity costs? Only Sabah under Musa Aman!

The child-like rants and casual ridicule by the opposition Parti Warisan Sabah — Musa a failed leader, and so on — has only portrayed lack of imagination and vision of the Opposition. Occasional murmurs of a ‘united opposition’ to take on Musa in 2018 does little to challenge his rising stature and appeal, which shows no sign of abating.

I guess now the question ‘What Musa Aman did for Sabah?’ stands well answered. Quite contrary to the skeptics who are of the opinion that, it is Aladdin with his Magic Lamp who is responsible for the Sabah of the present day, the fact remains that the man behind the success story of Sabah is Musa Aman. Musa’s return to power thrice, marked by landslide victories proves beyond doubt the contribution of Musa in creating the exemplary Sabah of today and also underlines the unshakeable faith that the population of Sabah has in Musa Aman.

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(This photo, taken from the internet, is believed to be the 3Towers project in Ampang Hilir, in which the Sabah State government has a stake in)

A commercial mixed development project in Ampang Hilir, Kuala Lumpur is the result of a land privatisation agreement between the Sabah state government and a developer which started in 1997 when Yong Teck Lee was Chief Minister of Sabah.

According to Sabah State Secretary Tan Sri Sukarti Wakiman, the state Chief Minister is the trustee of the land in which the project was supposed to take place.

However, the project never took off and was delayed for many years until 2009, when the developer was called in to give a comprehensive briefing on the status of the project.

“After much study, the state government was of the opinion that instead leaving the project to be delayed indefinitely, it should be revived, but with better terms and conditions.

“Hence, the State Government through the State Economic Planning Unit (EPU) renegotiated for better terms and conditions especially in terms of getting more attractive returns for the State,” said Sukarti in a statement here today.

According to him, the proposal was then presented and approved by the state Cabinet.

Nothing dubious in this project but yesterday, Shafie Apdal’s Parti Warisan Sabah had questioned the chief minister’s involvement of a high-rise 3 Towers project in Ampang Hilir, near KLCC which listed him as landowner.

The vice-president of Parti Warisan Sabah Junz Wong and youth chief Datuk Aziz Jamman said that it was confusing as the name listed the “Ketua Menteri Sabah” and even if was a state government project, Sabahans had no idea of the project’s existence using public funds and how it benefitted the people.

The signboard and a search on the internet showed the project by developers Sri Donglai Sdn Bhd is called 3 Towers and is a mixed development project along Jalan Ampang. It comprises office suites, hotel and SoHo that are spread over three blocks of towers.

Full Statement by Sabah State Secretary, YB Tan Sri Sukarti Haji Wakiman.

The land privatization agreement to develop a state land for a mix development project in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, was executed in 1997.

However, the project never took off and was delayed for many years.

In 2009, the State Government called for the developer to give a comprehensive briefing on the nature and status of the project.

After much study, the State Government was of the opinion that instead leaving the project to be delayed indefinitely, it should be revived but with better terms and conditions.

Hence, the State Government through the State Economic Planning Unit (EPU) renegotiated for better terms & conditions especially in terms of getting more attractive returns for the State.

The proposal was then presented and approved by the State Cabinet.

Regarding the issue of the signage which indicates that the land ownership belonging to Ketua Menteri Sabah, Jabatan Ketua Menteri Sabah(Sabah Chief Minister, Chief Minister Department), common sense should prevail that this ownership belongs to a post, and not an individual.

Hence, the Chief Minister as the head of the State Government is the trustee of the land in question.

Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) requires that ownership of land on signages for such development reflects the ownership stated on the land title.

Hence, there is nothing dubious about this project as it was done above board with the approval of the State Cabinet.


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

by Joe Fernandez

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

Siapa yang makan cili akan rasa pedasnya!

If the cap fits, wear it!

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

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

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

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

Yong brings up four issues for Debate, Harris only one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mustapha failed to persuade Court on early bird theory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parliament Supreme and can do anything on 20P/MA63

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harris wants to take on Jeffrey Kitingan on colonisation

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

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

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

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

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

“No one” held under ISA for opposing Labuan handover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parliament Supreme and can do anything on 20P/MA63

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

This win signifies 6 things for Musa and Sabah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no question Musa Aman is a master strategist.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this road is not without potholes.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


Shafie Apdal, the Minister of Rural Development is very much jealous of his counterpart in Sabah, Musa aman and is repeatedly attacking Musa and opposing his candidature for the continuation as Chief Minister. Shafie was responsible for undermining Musa Aman’s leadership by instigating Lajim Okim to call for the removal of Musa as chief minister by appeasing Lajim with a RM150 million road project from his Rural Ministry. Shafie also helped form KDM Malaysia to divide the Kadazan Dusun Murut (KDM) community, politically weakening Pairin Kitingan and PBS, hence forming a wedge between Pairin and Musa. Now, Shafie Apdal is masterminding the return of Yong Teck Lee (SAPP) into the BN fold and claiming he has the tacit approval of Najib Tun Razak to negotiate the return, despite word of the Sabah BN components distrusting Yong. Yong Teck Lee, Shafie Apdal and Joseph Ambrose Lee were partners in crime, taking over the RM30-billion timber wealth of Yayasan Sabah through share-swap, in a time when Yong Teck Lee was Sabah chief Minister and Shafie Apdal was Directer of Yayasan Sabah.

Like it or not, it was Musa Aman who was the then state finance minister who rejected this share-swap deal, saving Yayasan Sabah from a pending doom. Shafie Apdal’s intention of bringing Yong Teck Lee back into BN will weaken Musa Aman’s leadership among BN followers in Sabah due to Musa and Yong’s bitter relationship. At this moment of time Musa Aman and all the other BN component parties have got a fantastic working relationship.

SO the big question is: Why is Shafie so jealous of Musa Aman?

Obviously Shafie dreams of being the top dog, for sure, but I firmly see it envy forming due to Musa’s many achievements which has catapulted Sabah to the top position among the States in Malaysia.

It is wrong to say that Sabah has registered improvement in one or two areas. In fact there is no area in which Sabah has not progressed. Education, law and order, good environmental practices, forest protection, clean water supply, electricity, agriculture, industrial progress, urban development, rural development, exports, solution to Sabah’s illegal immigrant problem, increase for oil royalty – in whatever angle you look at, Sabah attracts deeper attention in every area, registering a surplus in many areas. But Sabah is not satisfied with this achievement. It is not resting on its laurels but is focusing on earning more surpluses. The reason for this attitude is that Sabah does not think only about itself. It thinks for the whole of Malaysia. Sabah is the locomotive engine of Malaysia and is keen to contribute more for Malaysia’s growth.

When Sabah attained independence in 1963, Malaysia was born. Right from independence in 1963 to 1985, Alliance- Barisan National ruled Sabah. After 1985, Datuk Harris Salleh was defeated, Pairin Kitingan from Party Bersatu Sabah became the Chief Minister. But even at that time Sabah was ruled by the Barisan National until 1986 when PBS pulled out from BN. In 1994, BN wrested control of the power from PBS when Lajim defected from Parti Bersatu Sabah which won the Sabah election, and his action opened a floodgate of defections from PBS and saw the collapse of Pairin’s PBS government. Sakaran Dandai became the first Umno Chief Minister in Sabah in 1994.

In 2003, Musa Aman was appointed chief minister. Musa Aman faced crisis after crisis immediately on assuming office. First the state treasury was nearly negative, Yayasan Sabah was on the verge of going bust, state agency were negative and the financial situation of the state was in shambles. Musa Aman had to prudently turn around the mess he inherited. In 2004, Musa Aman faced assembly elections and captured more seats than in 1999 and became the Chief Minister again. He won again in 2008 with a thumping victory winning 59 out of the 60 state seats. Musa Aman has earned the title as the longest serving Chief Minister of Sabah. Musa Aman is facing elections again expected within the next six months.

Sabah registered remarkable progress in the last ten years of Musa Aman’s rule. Nobody including his opponents can deny this.

This year Musa Aman unveiled a RM4.09bil budget the largest in the history of Sabah which is a RM40mil increase over last year’s budget of some RM4.05bil. Of this RM2.07bil would go towards the economic sector, RM988.23mil for public utilities, including water supply, rural electrification and sewerage projects, RM764mil would be spent on infrastructure including the construction of roads and bridges as well as ports and harbours and the upgrading of Borneo’s only rail service, Sabah Railways. Musa also announced a special RM1mil allocation and the RM500,000 sentuhan kasih (touch of compassion) funding for each state constituency be continued next year. So we see the expenditure is aimed at eradicating poverty and improving the quality of life of the people by improving basic infrastructure and public amenities while at the same time developing high quality youth and human capital and not ignoring to strengthen Sabah’s financial position.

Under Musa Aman, Sabah has even earned praise from Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang for demonstrating sound financial management and for maintaining its record of efficient and prudent handling of its finances over the last 12 years. One hundred and six departments and agencies were audited last year and each showed that its financial management was at a very good level. This places Sabah among the best states in Malaysia in terms of accountability and financial management efficiency. This has given Sabah a positive image as it proves that the state has succeeded in managing its resources well, efficiently and in an orderly manner. The auditor-general’s positive assessment should erase the allegations from certain quarters, who always question the state government’s capability and efficiency in managing its finances. In fact, the auditor-general was so impressed with Sabah’s financial management that he wants it to be a role model for other states.

Even Moody International has certified the Sabah government for efficient and proper budget management for three years running and RAM has given it a triple-A rating for its finances.

Sure there were problems in the past. Sabah’s problem of good drinking water would be an example of such an issue. Due to this, dry taps were a norm often in the past. In the kampongs, women and children had to walk far to fetch drinking water to their homes. There was scarcity of electricity and even the quality of electricity supplied was not up to the mark. Sabah lagged behind in girls’ education. Road facilities were not adequate and their quality was also not sound. But under Musa Aman, all these defects faded away in the last ten years. Now there are separate facilities for ground water and drinking water.

There is still some shortage of electricity in Sabah but has improved tremendously from the past where power failures and power cuts were a common thing. Now in most towns electricity is supplied for 24 hours a day. Electricity is supplied for agriculture through a separate feeder. What is even more praiseworthy is that the electricity is available with good quality. No Sabahans purchases stabilizers along with television or refrigerators. Sabah has registered remarkable progress in education as well. Native children and girls are attending school and receiving proper education at an increasing number.

Now you ask: How were all these feats achieved? It is simply Musa Aman’s focus and dedication. After reading the above facts, I think one can understand the reason for Shafie Apdal’s jealousy. Even though Shafie Apdal was MP for Semporna for 4 terms since 1995, he has done nothing much to improve the livelihood of the Semporna folks although he has got a huge budget at his disposal now from his Rural Ministry, his achievements pale into insignificance compared to that of Musa Aman’s.

To add to this, word on the street is that Musa Aman is set on becoming the Finance Minister of Malaysia in 2017.

There are over 3 million people living in Sabah. This forms 10% of Malaysian population. Sabah has an area of 73620 sq km. This is 60% of total land surface of Peninsular Malaysia. In oil palm production, Sabah’s share is 40%, Sabah contributes 25% in cocoa production, 27% in rubber production, 40% in natural gas, 55% in petroleum, 70% in tiger prawns production about 9000 metric tons, 60% in ginger production and 35% in cabbage production. If Musa Aman remains in power for another ten years uninterrupted, Sabah will be the most prosperous and peaceful place in the whole world. But unfortunately for the Sabahans, Musa Aman will be the Chief Minister only for the next five years. He is likely to be elevated as the Finance Minister of Malaysia. But Sabah’s loss is the rest of Malaysia’s gain. This is because Musa Aman will ensure Malaysia’s prosperity with his rich administrative experience, involvement, focus, dedication, concentration, sincerity and sense of purpose.

Footnote:
I know that all kinds of epithets will be hurled at me for praising Musa Aman and Sabah. I do not care about criticism. A journalist should speak the truth and nothing else. I have done my duty in reporting the truth about Sabah and Musa Aman. This satisfaction is enough for me as a writer.


Musa Aman has the distinction of being the longest serving Chief Minister of the state of Sabah. He firstly assumed this responsibility in March 27th 2003. Thereafter, he has had sweeping victories in two successive Assembly Elections held in 2004 and March 2008. He has also won successive byelections for Barisan National, example, the Batu Sapi Parliamentary elections where Taiko Yong Teck Lee the President of SAPP was trashed badly and so was PKR’s Ansari Abdullah. The victory of 2008 12th General Elections where he won 59 seats out of the total 60 seats is a reaffirmation of the people’s faith in his leadership, statesmanship and governance which he displayed as Chief Minister from 2003.

Widely regarded as a youthful and energetic, innovative and a determined leader, he has successfully communicated his vision to 3 million people of Sabah and has been able to instill a sense of confidence in what they have and a hope for a golden tomorrow. An astute politician, a skilled orator and a deft negotiator, Musa Aman has earned the love and affection of the people from kampongs, towns and city alike which makes him a rare leader of the masses. When he became the Chief Minister of Sabah for the first time in March 27th 2003, he already had experience in banking and business earlier, besides, he was Minister of Finance since March 27, 2001 in Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat’s cabinet. His utmost commitment and dedication have rendered him as an outstanding administrator and after being elected for the 2nd term, in March 2008, as chief minister, the Sabah Chinese Chamber of Commerce had a lot of good words to say about Musa Aman and the prudent ways he handle the state’s finance, a rare comment from Chinese business community.

When the Musa government was sworn-in in 2003, the economy of Sabah was reeling under several adverse trends. The growth in various sectors was stagnant, major parts of the state were facing water scarcity and power shortage, infrastructure was in shambles and investments had slowed down. Moreover, the mood of the people was despondent. The biggest challenge was to resurrect the spirits and the economy, revive the livelihoods and to construct the infrastructure. However Musa Aman, a master strategist enriched by national and international exposure and experience, decided to take the bull by its horns and turned an adversity into an opportunity. He re-oriented and re-organized government’s administrative structure, embarked upon a massive exercise for construction of infrastructure, recreation of the business environment and rejuvenation of the traditional entrepreneurial spirit of Sabah, putting Sabah back on the road to progress and prosperity.

Even when the construction of infrastructure was going on, Musa Aman did not lose sight of the bigger picture. He emphasized on all-inclusive and uniform development of all communities and districts. In the very first year of his tenure, he came out with an integrated strategy for overall development of the State which I call the EIGHT PILLARS:

1) Rural Development and Poverty Eradication

2) Quality and coverage in Education

3) Development of Human Resources

4) Power of energy Resources

5) Good Forest and Environmental Governance

6) Sustainable Development

7) Good Governance

8) Security and well being of people.

Sabah has registered a GDP growth of over 7% over past five years which is one of the highest growth rate among all the states in Malaysia. The efforts of Musa’s government have resulted into metamorphosis of a revenue deficit state into a revenue surplus state with reserves of 2.32 billion ringgit . Last year alone, the state’s export value stood at RM49.4 billion with trade surplus of RM16.6 billion.

Musa Aman mooted a model of development through people’s participation. USP of his development model has been a quantum leap (think big) and change right from the roots (no cosmetic changes). Sabah recorded the biggest gross output in agriculture compared to other states in the country. Agriculture production including short term and long term crops have quadrupled. Sabah produced RM13.21 billion or 24.7 per cent of the total of RM53.45 billion agricultural output in Malaysia last year. Sabah leads in energy production. Sabah has been able to supply uninterrupted three phase round the clock electricity to most of the kampongs in the state. The rural economy is now vibrant owing to this and some kampongs have turned into centers of production.

Working in harmony with the Federal Ministries, Musa’s Government has brought qualitative change in health services and health infrastructure to ensure a healthy mother and child in the very remote areas of Sabah. Focus on cent per cent enrollment of children through campaigns and resultant drooping drop out rates have been able to reverse the trend of high illiteracy rate from Sabah. The focus is putting Sabah at par with the developed regions in Human Development Index and work towards the achieving Millenium Development Goals declared by the UN. To ensure all round, all inclusive and uniform development, comprehensive and well conceived packages like indigenous people welfare in remote areas, development of coastal dwellers, upliftment of urban poor are under implementation.

Musa believes in the fact that good infrastructure is the driver of economic development. He therefore, paid utmost attention on physical and social infrastructure and involved private sector in their development. The rapid and qualitative development of ports, roads, bridges, LNG terminals, water distribution networks and other infrastructure facilities are being implemented in a big scale. Setting up of Kimanis RM1.5bil gas-fired plant a 300MW power plant to address the power supply issue in the state and water grid are exemplary achievements in infrastructure. Musa Aman has also created excellent infrastructure at tourist places. Urban sector has been enlivened by up gradation of civic amenities, state of art sports complexs, parks i.e the Perdana Park in Tanjung Aru and emphasis on cleanliness and greening. The well conceived, meticulously planned and professionally organized Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA) the one stop authority to drive Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) have put Sabah as a preferred investment destination among global investors. SDC has managed to secure a planned investment of RM112 billion as at the end of June 2012. SDC have not only attracted investments worth billions of USD but also created huge employment opportunities in the state. Its logical fall out is skill development for various class of people on a massive scale.

Even in the forest sector Musa has done a wonderful job as he has been pursuing for good forest and environmental governance in the interest of future generations to come. Recently, The Sabah Forestry Department had decided to re-gazette 183,000 hectares of Class 2 Commercial Forests into Class 1 Protection Forests to expand the expanse of totally protected forests in the state. This “bold” upward reclassification exercise involves principally lowland forest ecosystem in Ulu Segama and Gunung Rara Forest Reserves, in pursuance of Musa’s decision. This exercise shall mean that Danum Valley on its eastern fringes will be buffered by totally protected forests and in particular, the biologically rich Ulu Segama Forest Reserve (127,890 hectares) can no longer be logged now or in the future because of legislative protection.

At the same time, Northern Gunung Rara (55,000 hectares), which forms a vital wildlife buffer from Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon to Danum Valley, will also be accorded full protection. Both areas, although logged over, are important wildlife habitats and are homes to iconic species such as orang-utan, pygmy elephants and the Bornean clouded leopard. Class 1 Protection Forests are given strict protection primarily for safeguarding water sheds, maintenance of stability of essential climatic and environmental factors, in addition to biodiversity conservation. Under the Forest Enactment 1968 (Sabah), the law forbids any form of conversion such as conversion into oil palm plantations or timber exploitation in a Class 1 Forest. After the gazettement of the Protection Forest Reserves in 1984, a total of 44 were gazetted as class 1 Forests, including the controversial Kukusan Hill Forest Reserve, Tawau, which was declassified to Class 2 in 2003. The last Class 1 gazettement was Maliau Basin Forest Reserve in 1997.

The latest decision by Musa will increase the area under total protection to about 1,300,000 hectares or some 17.5 per cent of Sabah’s total land area, exceeding the IUCN standard of 10 percent. Musa’s model of good governance is being applauded within the country and beyond. The way he has won the hearts of people of Sabah and his popularity at the national level shows that ‘Good governance is also good politics’.