Posts Tagged ‘barisan national’


The Daily Express, Sabah’s largest daily newspaper has not often taken political sides. Indeed, Sabah journalism has not had the western tradition of the media declaring its political preferences. The 14th General Elections of Malaysia (GE14) could be held by next year as indicted by Premier Najib Tun Razak recently after the landslide victories for Barisan National in Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar twin by-elections, plus the impressive win in the recent 11th Sarawak State Elections, however, the choice is clear and preferences should be stated. Sabah’s voters have to choose between five more years of a government led by Musa Aman, or five years or less of confusion created by an uncertain and split verdict, or five years of some nameless politician serving his tenure in Kota Kinabalu at Putrajaya’s beck and call.

There are many reasons why Sabah deserves Musa Aman. First, he is a decent chap. In the rough and tumble of Malaysian politics it is not easy to come across men and women of basic and simple decency. That in itself should be a good reason for his remaining at the forefront of Sabahan politics. Second, he has done an impressive job. While the state opposition parties has every right to criticise his government and question his record, the fact remains that Musa Aman has done more for Sabah than any other chief minister of this state in the past five decades. Consider some simple numbers.

According to the state’s economic survey published earlier this year, Sabah’s economy registered an annual growth rate of more than 6 percent, covering most of the term of Musa Aman. It was less than 2 per cent when he first took over as Chief Minister in 2003. This should rule out the idea of returning to a opposition regime. Sabah’s per capita income rose to RM 19,672 per year in 2014, compared to less than RM 7,443 in 2002. Even the Prime Minister recently said the number of hardcore poor in the state had at one time stood at 30,000 families and this had been reduced to about 7,000 families.This impressive growth comes from an across the board improvement in the state’s performance, barring the industrial sector.

Through the well-diversified economy, Sabah under Musa Aman has been able to raise our real gross domestic product (GDP) by 110 times — from RM527 million in 1963 to RM58 billion in 2014. Similarly, GDP per capita has also increased almost 67 times from RM688 to RM46,000 per capita over the same period.

Sabah’s agriculture sector, tourism, construction, education, health and services sectors have all witnessed impressive growth

Sabah has recorded a surplus in the balance of payments between 2002 and 2015. What this means is that the state’s exports have exceeded imports for 13 consecutive years.Sabah’s exports for 2015 were valued at RM15,582million or 70% of the state’s gross national product (GNP). Hence, the export market remains a key economic generator for Sabah. Sabah’s main exports are raw petroleum (38.8%), crude and processed palm oil (35%), and fresh farm produce and fisheries (15.4%), palm oil kernels (3.8%), methanol (3.2%) and plywood (2.1%).

However, if Sabah has to have a chance, if it has to finally catch up with Malaysia’s more developed regions, it needs another five years of the kind of development-oriented administration that Musa Aman gave the state. If Sabah can move closer to the national average in terms of the various indicators of development, that national average will itself rise significantly. Malaysia cannot sustain growth rates of over 8 and 9 per cent, not to mention 10, if large states like Sabah and Sarawak remain stuck in the morass of backwardness, both economically and socially. Musa Aman has remained focussed on development, he is a model chief minister that other Malaysian states should also aspire for. My vote goes out to Musa Aman.


And so it begins. The very first has just been presented by the new Sabah Government after being re-elected in May 2013, and after hours of back and forth (cursing and paper tearing included), the new budget shows that the Sabah Government is committed to progress and is also as determined to increase the pace of development in the state.

Musa Aman says the bulk of the Sabah budget is earmarked for development. The RM4.622 billion of the Sabah budget for the financial year of 2013-2014 proposed by Chief Minister-cum-State Finance Minister Musa Aman in the state assembly Friday sought to tell the Sabah growth story vis-a-vis Malaysia’s and achieve the five-year dream in the first year itself. The release states “The new budget for 2013-14 would build new confidence among people and showcase state’s potentialities before the world”. “Ensuring Continuity of People’s Well being”, it was announced that new missions and schemes, referring to State Barisan National’s Government is very committed to the development of not only in the urban but also rural areas in Sabah and at the same time ensuring nobody is sidelined in the budget.

A press statement continued by saying that “The State 2014 Budget is higher by nearly 80-fold than Sabah’s first State Budget 50 years ago where the revenue estimate was only RM61.5 million while the expenditure estimate was RM61 million. In 1974, the estimated revenue rose to RM207 million and the estimated expenditure increased to RM239 million. Ten years later in 1984, the estimated revenue reached RM1.22 billion while State revenue rose to RM1.38 billion. 2014, has set the highest ever State revenue target which is RM4.58 billion, marking an increase of 20 per cent from 2013’s original estimate of RM3.83 billion.”

Even as the Federal government earmarks just 35 per cent of the Federal Budget for development work, the Sabah government spends as much as 65 per cent of the state Budget on development work. Talking about Sabah’s contributing a lion’s share in the nation’s development, Musa said, “Although the state government was elected for a five-year term, it resolves to fulfill the people’s aspirations from the very first year itself.”

While Musa’s budget speech said the state economy has grown by leaps and bounds in the past five decades since independence, he added that “I am confident that people from all walks of live regardless of religion, race, gender, rich, poor, old or young, physically challenged, wherever they may be ( whether on land or sea); people’s well-being and States prosperity are our main agendas for us to always strive for, which are certainly achievable.”

So there is the mission for which the government has allocated RM 1.58 billion “for improving infrastructure and public amenities”. This is besides RM627.92 million allocate to upgrade water supply. Musa claims that to achieve zero hardcore poor target and reduce relative poor in Sabah, the government has allocated RM178.14 million to implement various programmes. The reduction of poverty from 19.7% in 2009 to 8.1% in 2012 proved that the governments efforts in this has borne fruits.

The budget, claiming to be for inclusive development, seeks to strike balance for growth in both agricultural and industry, enhance quality of life in rural and urban by focusing on housing and infrastructure. To empower the youths the Y Generation so that they will be more valuable, creative, innovative and productive through education, training, skill programmmes, sports and community activities the budget has set aside RM229.86. The budget also proposes The Enhancement of Knowledgeable Livestock Entrepreneur (K-Entrepreneur) Programme which will be continued.

To spur growth in the State tourism sector, particularly on investment in providing tourism facilities, the State Government has approved the Tourism Master Plan covering the coastal areas of Tuaran to Kota Belud and RM233.99 million has been set aside for next year. The State tourism sector targets 3.4 million tourist arrivals and an estimated tourism receipts of RM6.277 billion although while writing this, a Taiwanese tourist got killed and his wife got kidnapped in Pom Pom Island in Semporna by Abu Sayyaf bandits. Perhaps in this instance, it is best if the state tourism sector uses the money to ensure maximum security before handing out pamphlets about exotic resorts in the East Coast of Sabah.

For a fair and unbiased understanding of the ‘Sabah Story’ we should read it with an open mind and look at the State’s performance against the backdrop of the low socio-economic base from where it started its journey to rapid growth and spectacular development. The ‘Sabah Story’ is a story in the making, much like the Thousand-and-One Arabian Nights, it is not a story that concludes here and today and perhaps never will. Sabah inherited low levels of social indicators (at independence) and it is the change in these indicators where Sabah shows impressive progress. The literacy rate has risen from 22 per cent in 1960 to 69 per cent in 2001 and 80 per cent in 2011. Even the infant mortality rate per thousand has fallen from 144 in 1971 to 60 in 2001 and 21 in 2011.”

Anybody reading the ‘Sabah Story’ with an open mind would see it is a story of immense success that inspires hope and determination to achieve greater success. But an open mind is something that is alien to our liberal media and the intellectually bankrupt commentariat that controls publications which lay greater stress on fiction over fact.


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.


If you have read my articles more than once, you would know that I detest demagogues. Not for personal or aesthetic reasons, but because in the twenty five years that I have covered Sabah politics, I have observed that the political culture demagoguery breeds is to blame for most of our economic and political problems. It has been my humble observation that whenever Sabah was ruled by a supposedly charismatic leader, skilled in the arts of demagoguery, Sabah suffered while the leader continued to look good. This is because demagogues rarely bother to deliver on their grandiose promises to remove poverty and bring development since they are confident that their ‘charisma’ is what brings in the votes and not their work. It is sadly true that they have far too often been proved right by voters.

So, when I saw demagoguery resoundingly trashed in the recent GE13 in Sabah, it lit a small flicker of hope in my cynical old heart. In Sabah, voters had a choice between an array of demagogues and a quiet, little man who allowed the work he had done in the past ten years to speak for him. Well done Sabah for voting for Musa Aman instead of the demagogues and poseurs who came to defeat him with their charisma and their party tricks.

Musa Aman’s main rival was a very skilled demagogue called Lajim Ukin. So skilled that he has shown himself to be undefeatable despite allegations that he made millions from lopsided agreements that the Sabah Local Government had signed away to his cronies when he was Minister of Local Government and Housing, and while he was busy with his slot machines. The local government he was heading went to pieces but Lajim thrived. After moving to a parliamentary seat, he came to Putajaya to become a celebrated federal deputy cabinet minister despite doing as little for the housing as he did for Sabah. He got away with his lack of administrative abilities by being such a brilliant demagogue. His demagoguery even served to conceal the utter lack of any sort of ability that he showed as minister.

The voters of Sabah did well by making sure he failed to defend his incumbency in his Beaufort Parlimentary seat, and in his state seat of Klias Lajim won by a slim majority of 342 votes after obtaining a total of 6,324 votes. They did even better to reject the advances of a another demagogue Anwar Ibrahim. He warned Sabahan voters that they would be making a big mistake if they voted for Musa Aman because he was a chief minister who had squandered the state and allowed centralisation of power.

Musa Aman chose not to respond to the charges flung at him and instead talked of how Sabah had improved in the past ten years and brought more development to Sabah and fought for more de-centralisation and delegation of power back to the state government. At an annual economic growth of 8 per cent in the past five years (compared to 2.5 per cent before), there are visible differences in Sabah that were excellently reported by the Daily Express newspaper’s editor in two articles last month.

From our weakness for demagogues have come the political dynasties that now control most political parties in Malaysia. Whenever this happens, a political party stops being a political party and becomes a family firm whose main purpose is to serve the interests of the family who controls it. Remember Shahrizat’s “lembu” episode? Yes, from this comes the tendency to see politics as business and then inevitably we have one or other member of the family who is projected as a commercial genius who mysteriously makes a lot of money very quickly while his wife or brother or sister goes into politics.

Malaysia has suffered enough from demagogues and dynasties. What we need are many, many more chief ministers like Musa Aman who show that they can win elections by working hard for the people who vote them to power. The voters of Sabah can truly be proud of the results they gave us on May 5th 2013. If this can happen in Sabah, then there really is hope of Malaysia becoming a fully developed country in 2020. But, voters must continue to tell the difference between demagogues and real leaders.


Newton’s third law of motion states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. This is one law that has found many practical uses in science, but in politics, Taib Mahmud has mastered it like no one else has. Taib Mahmud has used this before and in the last GE13, we saw it being used once again.

Taib Mahmud’s interpretation of Newton’s 3rd law should be seen in the context of his political strategy. Incite the Sarawakians somehow, so that they vote for him en-masse. No where else in the country is the Sarawakian Bumiputra so united and committed behind the Barisan National Sarawak as he/she is in Sarawak. None of the “kedaerahan” politics that pervades much of Borneo states even seems to make a beginning in Sarawak. In fact, the Sarawakian voter has conferred Taib with the title of “Peh Moh”or White hair just like White Rajah Brooke – something that no other politician has managed to earn.

Trust me, this is not just paranoia. I have observed Taib for many years and I can say this with confidence that his every recent statement and action indicates the launch of one more edition of his proven mantra. Do something that unites the Sarawakian Native vote. But how? Here’s where Newton’s 3rd law comes in: Say something that targets the Malayans or Putrajaya; get media to hyper-react and come to their defense. Gain advantage with the state’s Sarawakians. In short: “Push out the Malayans. Pull in the Sarawakians”. Some would say “very smart”. So what if it is “divisive”. Politics in Sarawak never bothered about things like that!

Let’s look at what all Taib Mahmud has been busy with recently.

Taib’s various interviews with the media is interpreted by naive political observers as being an attempt at reaching out to the natives in Sarawak. This bunch of naive political observers thought this was Taib’s steps towards remaining as chief minister for Sarawak forever and to make sure UMNO never enters Sarawak. But Taib has already figured out that UMNO and Barisan National has become too weak in Malaya and depend too much on Sarawak to remain in power in Putrajaya. This is the time for re-asserting power in his home state by winning handsomely. His focus is only on Sarawak right now. He has enough trouble in his home state. The economy is slowing down (yes yes…..read unbiased articles to understand this fact) and he is getting panned for his state’s Human Development Index figures and corruption. If he now loses Sarawak, he loses all chances to remain as chief minister and UMNO will step foot in Sarawak and hence create another Sabah senario, every Sarawakian knows this. On the other hand, if he wins Sarawak again in the coming Sarawak state election which is expected within the next 2 years, he is without doubt going to be the foremost chief minister who kept the Malayan colonist out from Sarawak, notwithstanding what Taib Mahmud or others feel.

Let’s analyze what Taib told the press recently. Taib Mahmud charged that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) does not “deserve” his cooperation in potential graft investigations as they have not been upfront with him. Taib said he was not afraid of being investigated by MACC as long as he was being treated fairly. “Up to you. They want to victimise me, let them. As long as they are fair I am not scared”. “They don’t deserve my cooperation because they have been quite naughty.” The interview provided Taib the platform to announce that he wouldn’t apologize to the Putrajaya control MACC because he hadn’t done anything wrong. Sounds strange assuming he was trying to appease the Feds? Imagine this. Taib talking to the Feds in their language and telling them on their faces that he wasn’t going to cooperate? What were the Feds expected to do? Howl with anger and pass judgments that Taib was guilty! What is the media expected to do? Scream untouchable Taib. That’s what it did! And what about the opposition? Of course, they all showed how untouchable Taib was. This is exactly what Taib wanted! All this has panned out so beautifully for him. Why? Because what will Sarawakian do when they hear so much media, opposition and criticism of Taib? They will react like Newton said they would. They will ring fence Taib. They will swear to themselves and to each other that they will get their “protector” elected. Brilliant, Taib Mahmud!

Consider also the Malay-language Bible “Alkitab” row. Malaysiakini reported Taib as saying “It was I who talked to the prime minister. I said to him that it was a stupid idea to stamp serial numbers. I told him it should be stopped and he said ‘yes I agree and I’ll put a stop to it’. So he went and stopped the serial numbers. Now there’s no more of this nonsense.” Again, naive observers may have wondered why Taib wasn’t seizing the opportunity to curry favor with the Muslims. But no, Taib’s objective was the same. He was interested in making a statement to the Christian Bumiputras. Again….push the Malayan fanatics….maybe even become a hate figure amongst them…..and earn the votes of the Christian Bumiputras! Brilliant, no? The hearts of Taib’s Sarawak Christians would have swelled with pride. Now that’s our leader!

Taib is said to be fantastic with PR. I agree. He will use every bit of available opportunity to further gain from Newton’s law. The recent Lahad Datu Intrusion is and example where he said the setting up of Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate Lahad Datu intrusion in Sabah is a good move to find out the truth about what happened to avoid the government from being accused of creating the conflict. Taib cannot publicly use this issue to whip up support for himself, but in secret ceramah’s in Sarawak, Taib must be telling the Sarwakians – see what happens if we surrender our rights to the Malayans, let me handle this, only I can stop Putrajaya from stealing our rights! Give me your vote and I will make sure Sarawak is safe from Putrajaya!

The real truth is that all fair’s in love and war and politics. And no one can grudge Taib his political strategy. But it would help to know what one is getting into. No one expects Taib not to rely on his Dayak vote bank. There is nothing wrong in that. But one must recognize the downside of such a strategy. For the country and for his own party. Taib may want to ask why UMNO is dying to step foot in Sarawak and why Putrajaya wants him to retire as chief minister….the answer to that may make him wiser. Wiser than merely knowing Newton’s laws….


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.



No Prime Minister in Malaysia’s history has ever expressed helplessness in facing challenges that have come up during his tenure. No Prime Minister has ever sought refuge in compulsions in dealing with crucial national matters. No Prime Minister has admitted to the failings of his Cabinet colleagues while trying to absolve himself. No Prime Minister has ever tried to correct his image at the expense of his party or his coalition partners. The reason is simple: the buck stops at the Prime Minister’s office.

Over the weekend, rumors were rife that Najib had fallen ill with mild stroke. According to friends from Putrajaya, doctors have been on standby in Pekan where Najib is said to be recuperating. Najib and his wife Rosmah has been under tremendous pressure because of his corruption scandals expecially in connection to the Scorpene submarines and the Altantuya Shaariibuu C4 murder. To make matters worst his Deputy Muhyideen has ganged-up with former Premier Mahathir to oust him as UMNO President and Prime Minister before the 13th GE is held and this is an open secret.

What is his helplessness all about even if he considers it is due to Mahathir’s interference? If Najib is the Prime Minister today is because Najib took over as UMNO President and the country’s 6th Prime Minister after helping Mahathir and Muhyiddin to oust Abdullah Badawi who was blamed for the UMNO-BN’s weak performance in the 2008 elections. Had the Barisan National got a two-third majority in 2008, he would not have been the chosen one. But being Prime Minister is not a license for corruption or inefficiency. If anyone feels as strongly about the evils of interference by the “puppet master”, there is no compulsion of being associated with such politics or the offices it brings along with it.

When the Prime Minister shows he is helpless, is he not letting down the rakyat? Is he showing that he is helpless in serving the poor, who elected his government and have great expectations? The poor would have wanted prices to be in check, corruption within his ministers curbed and the influence of corporate giants contained.

Najib must realize that he is occupying a seat that was once occupied by a great visionary and statesman: Tun Abdul Razak his father, the man who faced many challenges in his life. But he never said he was helpless. The same office was held by humble but strong willed Tun Hussein Onn, acclaimed for his discipline and against all corruption. He was never helpless.

Neither was Tengku Abdul Rahman, a leader whose mass base was astounding and who came to power after getting independence. He was faced with confrontation with Sukarno’s Indonesia, he was faced with political crisis with Lee Kuan Yew and even within Umno he had to face people like Mahathir who was undermining him from inside,including racial riots and the separation of Singapore but did not yield to the pressure of the syndicate. He dug his heels and abolished privy purses. He was never helpless when he even fought the Singapore leaders with all chips down.

Even Abdulah Badawi never displayed helplessness. When his time was up, he just went but did not blame political situations, colleagues and circumstances. But perhaps all these leaders were from the political class and were not there after their tenures in other fields had ended. Perhaps they were made of sterner stuff. But they all realized and respected the fact that Prime Ministers can never show helplessness. If they were then what would happen to the country? If they lose relevance, they go.

Before going public with his limitations, Najib should have stated his piece before Malaysians, who elected Barisan National as its leader and subsequently the Yang Dipertuan Agong endorsed his elevation to the position of the Prime Minister. He must learn from his predecessors and dig in his heels to fight corruption and inefficiency. He must always remember that the buck stops at his doorstep.


Malaysia comprises of 13 states and 3 federal territories but only 4 states have chief ministers.

Elections to 3 state assemblies in Penang, Malacca and Sabah will be turned into a sort of referendum on the performance of the chief ministers. Whereas Sarawak had its state assembly elections in 2011, meaning Taib Mahmud would still be around past GE13 despite Premier Najib Tun Razak having told the people of Sarawak that he would ensureTaib steps down after the 2011 state election. Taib is unlikely to retire anytime soon as his Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) won all the 35 seats it contested in 2011. Besides, Sarawak has 31 parliamentary seats and Taib controls at least 25 of them.

In all these states, the incumbent chief ministers are very popular and, as a result, the election campaigns will be strongly focused on their performance. As a result, national leaders of both the Barisan National and the Pakatan Rakyat have begun to realize that they actually have little role to play in these elections. Penang’s one-term chief minister Lim Guan Eng​, Sabah’s two-termed chief minister Musa Aman and Sarawak’s four-termed chief minister Taib Mahmud alongside relatively the low-profile three-termed chief minister of Malacca Mohd ​Ali Rustam, respectively, have all acquired a larger-than-life image in their states, making it difficult for opposition parties to easily dislodge them.

This has then given respective ruling parties in all these states an incumbency advantage. Whether all these chief ministers will succeed in their re-election bid will depend on whether they can overcome issues at the constituency level, especially in terms of candidates who don’t have strong track records. But it is increasingly clear to me that the chief ministers have put their parties in a strong position.

Many Malaysian voters have begun choosing governments not on the basis of party ideology and long-prevailing preferences but on specific party leaders. This trend has become more obvious with an increasing number of young people emerging as a major voting bloc. That’s because, in general, party loyalty and party identification among the youth is weaker compared with older Malaysian voters. Perhaps the youth have realized that it is better to focus on leaders rather than parties as there are good and bad leaders in all parties.

People are craving for leaders who are honest, easily accessible and have a strong, pro-rural and pro-people orientation. Incumbent chief ministers of the latest poll-bound states don’t necessarily have all these qualities. Yet, overall, they have performed remarkably well on these attributes; this is what makes it difficult for their challengers. I am not suggesting that these leaders could win without the backing and cadre of their parties. But they have added an extra element of strength and give an edge to their parties. Elections in Malaysia are increasingly focused on a specific leader is clear from recent electoral victories of Taib Mahmud in Sarawak, contributed hugely to his party’s victory.

In the case of Malacca, Mohd Ali Rustam, was barred from contesting in the UMNO elections, the UMNO Disclipinary Board found Mohd Ali guilty of violating party ethics for indulging in money politics and hence was prohibited from contesting the post of UMNO deputy president. But he still remains as the Malacca Chief Minister. In the past, it was only national leaders such as Dr Mahathir​ and Anwar Ibrahim​, and some regional icons such as Musa Aman, Pairin Kitingan and Taib Mahmud​, who had the magnetism to win on their sheer personal strength. Today, a number of chief ministers, such as Musa Aman and Lim Guan Eng, in these poll-bound states, have acquired this larger-than-party persona.

What is interesting is that all these chief ministers have emerged mainly due to their pro-development agenda. Most of them have implemented welfare-oriented and populist programmes to woo the electorate. Financial assistance schemes targeting the poor as well as rapid strides in basic infrastructure such as roads and bridges especially in Sabah have all been priorities for the respective chief ministers. These smart chief ministers have found a way of potentially overcoming the dreaded anti-incumbency factor so prevalent in Malaysian elections.

What this suggests is that parties ought to announce leaders in every state, especially those in the opposition, and let these leaders build up a profile. UMNO is benefiting in Sabah due to the image of Musa Aman as an urbane, decent and efficient chief minister. The recent 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 and even the visit by Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife Cathrine, all confirms that Musa has done a fantastic job in Sabah. Its a fact Sabah is the most successful state in Malaysia in attracting private investments. For the first quarter of 2012, Sabah under Musa Aman managed to attract private investments in the amount of RM10 billion, way ahead of other states. Among the reasons is having a stable, business friendly and a prudent government besides the environment in Sabah is well protected because of Sabah’s stringent forestry laws and strong conservation programme. Yet, the party’s’ dogged refusal to announce its chief ministerial candidates in other states, even where popular leaders are available and willing, is going against the voters’ tendency to choose leaders over parties.

Given the voter fixation with state issues and chief ministers, national issues have become rather irrelevant in these elections. Altantuya, Scorpene submarines, Sharizat’s 250million “Lembu” episode and price rise on food items, which the Pakatan hoped to raise in these elections in a big way, appear to have failed to take off as these elections have become virtual referenda on the performance of the chief ministers. If the UMNO/Barisan National fares poorly in Penang in this coming GE13, it will be mainly due to its inability to challenge the DAP’s popular chief minister Lim Guan Eng and not necessarily to the Barisan National government’s failures in managing the economy or maintaining internal security. So, even if it fails to win in the Pakatan-ruled states, this is a message that may bring solace to the Barisan National leadership and hopes in national elections to the Parliament that are due in March/April 2013.