Posts Tagged ‘democracy’


“One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are” – Cal Thomas

This is one subject that could take an encyclopedia to wrap up but lets try and figure it out within the scope of this space.

Malaysian politics is often described as being feisty, vibrant, colourful, controversial, debatable, provocative, all of that and more. It all depends on which side of the spectrum you stand and there is a perspective, always. Ask a million people what is wrong with Malaysian politics and you will get a million perspectives. That, in itself tells a story. People are aware, concerned and involved, good or bad, it shows the vibrancy of politics in Malaysia.

People confuse politics with governance. That’s not true. Politics is the means to effect change. All countries and societies effect change all the time; politics is the means to bring about that change. The kind of politics practiced can vary and remain a subject of debate. However, it is at the core of people’s participation in deciding who governs them and how.

Governance is for administrators and bureaucracy, politics is for people’s representatives. People don’t really indulge in politics, they indulge in making political choices and gather groups that agree with them, to elect the leader of their choice. Politics is what the leaders indulge in before and after being elected.

The art of politics lies in being successful in gathering consensus through discussion, debate and persuasion and then pushing that consensus into legislation that results in action and implementation.

What’s Right With Malaysian Politics?

So when we ask what is wrong with Malaysian politics, you have to first acknowledge what is right about it. After all, after 55 years since formation of Malaysia in 1963, Malaysian politics and democracy is alive and vibrant. It becomes even more relevant when we take into account the sheer geographical size of the country and diversity of its people, culture, religion and lifestyle. To get all of that to come together and give people the freedom to choose their voice, can only evoke admiration. This is perhaps Malaysia’s single biggest achievement, since formation and one, it can be proud of.

Sure, it has its flaws, but then what system doesn’t. It’s all about evolving and bringing about change, for the better, through people consensus. That’s politics and it has worked for Malaysia. So before we pull out the knives on Malaysian politics, bear in mind what we have achieved, thus far. It may not be without flaws but it is still the best option. This is our brand of politics and it has worked, for us.

So What’s Wrong With it?

Plenty. We shout over roof tops that we are a democracy and assume that it is also the best. Well, look again. Is the system truly representative? At the time of voting, people make choices based on their belief and understanding of the leader they choose and that leader, post being elected, represents the people, as their voice. That’s idealistic but is that really true? Does the elected leader really reflect what the people want or is it mostly about what that leader wants, often for his own reasons?

Look at the fact on the ground. Majority of Malaysians still live in rural areas and in poverty and poor living conditions especially Sabah and Sarawak and Kelantan and Terengganu and Kedah and Pahang, and with little education or awareness of matters outside their areas of residence. Yet, 98% of the people who would fall in this category are responsible for choosing a government which will legislate over the future of the country.

Too Many Questions….

It is one man – one vote and that is all that matters. Well is it? Is the vast majority really capable of understanding and judging the leaders they choose? The lack of education and awareness, coupled with poverty, often forces the voters to elect leaders who seem to offer them solutions for a better life but instead end up buying or coercing them to vote. So do they really represent the people?

Isn’t it common to see votes being bought and sold in its crudest form? Don’t we see vote bank politics being practiced in its worst form, or votes being garnered on the basis of race or religion? What about votes garnered through threat? It all happens and is part of Malaysian politics.

So can anyone stand up and claim the virtues of Malaysian democracy as being truly fair and truly representative? Should we really beat our chests with pride while proudly claiming to be a democracy?

Free and Fair…. Really?

The ground reality is that politics played at the grass root level can be nasty, coercive and corrupt. Electing representatives is often based on clan and kinship. And most times, its money that buys a position. After all, at the village level, it’s the Ketua Kampung, JKKK, Kapitan Cina, Temenggong, Pemanca or Penghulu that determines the level of respect and influence that an individual commands. That’s the reality and plays a part in the election process.

So can one really say that Malaysian politics be it Sabah or Sarawak or Malaya, at all levels, is truly free and fair? The voting process may be free and fair, at least in most cases, but the process of politics that goes into the run up to elections, and thereafter, is what is questionable. And that’s what is wrong with Malaysian politics.

Let’s take a look at another example. Sabah has always been in the forefront of entertaining politics. But after elections when the courts have to decide who is the rightful Sabah Chief Minister and not wait for a vote of no confidence in the state assembly, it is time to sit up and question the ‘quality’ of politics that we practice. GE14, Musa Aman was first sworn in as Chief Minister at 11.10pm Thursday (May 10) before the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin at Istana Negeri. In less than 48 hours, Warisan’s Shafie Apdal was sworn in as Chief Minister at 9.30pm Saturday (May 12) by Juhar at the Istana Negeri also. The general election saw a hung assembly when both Sabah Barisan and the coalition of Warisan-PKR-DAP had won 29 seats each in the 60-seat state assembly. And then Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s Sabah Star party, which had two seats, became the “kingmaker”. Sabah Star supported Sabah Barisan to give a simple majority of 31 seats, thus allowing Musa to be sworn in as Chief Minister. But by the next day, six Barisan assemblymen – four from Umno and two from Upko – had declared their support for Warisan and its partners PKR-DAP. With the majority support of 35 (out of 60) assemblymen, this allowed Shafie to be sworn in.This matter is still not settled yet, The Court of Appeal will soon decide who is the rightful chief Minister, till then we have to wait and there is still a cloud of uncertainty, its more than 8 months since GE14.

The list of misuse in politics is endless and the ‘quality’ of politics practiced, questionable. The intelligentsia and civil society is aware of the failings, as you and I are too, but the big question before us is – what are we doing about it?

Intolerance to Dissent is a Big Threat

Question, dissent and debate are an essential part of politics and democracy. The ‘quality’ of democracy and politics is judged by the level of debate and dissent allowed, within the party and outside of it. Malaysia is witnessing increasing levels of intolerance to the above and that is very visible in state and national politics. Older parties like the UMNO and PAS have shown signs of intolerance, as have new age parties like Bersatu, Amanah and Warisan. All parties are guilty of quashing dissent in any form. What is a worrying trend is that several parties are resorting to violent means whenever questioned by the people or members of their own parties. Even the media, which serves as a watchdog for the people, has not been spared.

Another problem with Malaysian politics is increasing rowdyism in parliament and state assemblies. On paper, it’s a forum for free and fair debate but in practice, only those with high decibel shouting and aggressive behaviour get heard. What chance does a Dr Jeffrey Kitingan have against a loud and aggressive politician from another party? Yet, on a daily basis we have incessant shouting that passes off as debate. So is this fair on those who do not possess the requisite shouting ability? Is that supposed to be a pre-qualification? The voice of each representative in Parliament must have equal and fair weight and must be given equal opportunity to express his or her viewpoint. That’s easier said, as in practice, it is almost always to the contrary.

And now for the biggest problem of them all, influence and impact of money on Malaysian politics. Politics has degenerated into a business which has a lot of money, some legal but mostly unaccounted, being plowed into it by vested interests. It’s a global phenomenon but a big problem nevertheless. As long as unaccounted money makes its way into politics, it will never be free or fair. And we, as a nation, have to come together to try and figure out how to address this, if Malaysian democracy has to prosper on the bed of fair politics.

It is time for the people to raise their voice and question their leaders and political parties, and force them to change for the better. For we have one non-negotiable weapon, our vote. Isn’t that what democracy is all about?


The ascendance of separatists is a crisis not only for the Hong Kong government and Beijing, which already faces independence movements in Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. It also threatens the political power of aging leaders of Hong Kong’s democratic camp, who have been advocating political reform for decades and now find themselves outflanked by young radicals with little patience for Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian ways.

The New York Times says it all…..

HONG KONG — Two years after China’s leadership slammed the door on political reform for Hong Kong, six young candidates running on separatist platforms won seats in the Sept. 4 election for the territory’s legislature. The rapid rise of a youthful political movement intent on gaining more independence for Hong Kong is a direct result of Beijing’s tightening grip on this former British colony.

The ascendance of separatists is a crisis not only for the Hong Kong government and Beijing, which already faces independence movements in Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. It also threatens the political power of aging leaders of Hong Kong’s democratic camp, who have been advocating political reform for decades and now find themselves outflanked by young radicals with little patience for Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian ways.

The six new separatist legislators, all under the age of 40, were inspired by the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the 79-day mass sit-in protesting Beijing’s refusal to allow democratic reforms in Hong Kong.

The Legislative Council has restricted powers, but it can block government initiatives. Thirty of the 70 LegCo seats are heavily stacked in favor of Beijing and picked by interest groups, while 40 are chosen by the general public from designated districts.

A gain of six seats by separatists, who didn’t run in every district, is remarkable in such a controlled election, considering that two years ago few Hong Kongers publicly advocated breaking from the mainland. The separatists have become a potent third force in the city’s political landscape, where the battles have long been fought between pan-democratic parties and the pro-Beijing government.

For all of their consistent calls for political reform, the territory’s older generation of democrats have been patriotic and willing to work with the mainland, an approach that is not popular among younger Hong Kongers. The youth, frustrated with Beijing and the failure of the Umbrella Movement, are pessimistic about the city’s long-term prospects and Beijing’s creeping influence. They look to the future with trepidation, despair and anger.

When the British handed Hong Kong over to the Chinese in 1997, China committed to 50 years of a “high-degree of autonomy” for the territory, where free speech and a vibrant civic culture have flourished until recently. No one knows what Beijing will do in 2047, but the fear is that Hong Kong will be completely absorbed into China.

Although the separatists are divided into distinct groups with different goals — among them, making Hong Kong a completely autonomous city-state or outright independence — they all want the post-2047 political arrangement put up for public debate. Most of them are aiming to build enough popular support to force Beijing to allow Hong Kongers to vote on a binding referendum on the city’s post-2047 future.

By contrast, the older pan-democratic parties have had little new to offer. The Democratic Party’s political centerpiece in the recent election amounted to asking Beijing to reopen the door to electoral reform. The pan-democratic leaders, in sticking to what is widely viewed by the youth as a depleted strategy, have lost the trust and respect of younger people.

China’s leaders appear to think that taking a hard line against the separatist movement can contain it. A stern postelection statement from Beijing said the Hong Kong government should punish independence activists.

This strategy will backfire. It was the heavy-handed behavior of Leung Chun-ying, the pro-Beijing Hong Kong chief executive, that has fueled the separatist movement’s growth in the last two years. Mr. Leung singled out a separatist publication for public reprimand last year, angering Hong Kongers with what they saw as an implicit threat to free speech. He banned a student leader who supported independence from attending his university’s council meetings.

Direct interference from Beijing in local affairs has made matters worse. Last year, five workers at a Hong Kong publisher of provocative political books were kidnapped and brought to the mainland where they were detained.

It may be too late for China to convince the hard-core separatists to back down, but there are steps the leadership could take to stem the growth of the movement.

Beijing should remove its central government staff from Hong Kong. The Central Liaison Office has been blamed for many of Beijing’s illegal interventions in Hong Kong affairs. Pro-Beijing politicians are regularly seen visiting the office, giving the impression they take orders directly from the mainland. Shuttering it is an easy gesture that would remove a source of conflict.

The process of appointing top officials to the city’s anticorruption commission and to university governing bodies should be reformed. The power to appoint these officials now lies with the chief executive, but Mr. Leung has shown that he lets his personal interests influence his choices. A deputy head of the office of the Independent Commission Against Corruption appeared to be forced to resign this year after she allegedly insisted on investigating financial irregularities involving Mr. Leung.

All mainland funding of politicians and unfair efforts to gain votes should be stopped. In recent elections, busloads of elderly people were brought to voting booths by pro-government supporters with the names of their preferred candidates written on their palms. After voting, they were often bused to restaurants.

But even if China’s leaders choose a policy of détente with the people of Hong Kong, Mr. Leung is not the right person to carry it out. His positions have been too overtly pro-Beijing, rankling much of the population. Replacing Mr. Leung when his term ends in March would help mend ties between Beijing and the separatists.

Without a change of the chief executive, we can expect the separatists to make more gains in the next election four years from now.


By Azmi Sharom, The Star

Things are being blown out of proportion over the issue with some viewing it through race-tinted glasses. Are they blind to the fact that the people who are annoyed at the kangkung remark are from all ethnic groups?

I DON’T like water morning glory a.k.a water spinach a.k.a kangkung. There’s a metallic tang to it that I find displeasing.

I much prefer kailan or bayam – the former fried with salted fish and the latter in a watery soup.

What has my taste in vegetables got to do with anything? Nothing really.

Just as the recent, rather humorous, jabs at the Prime Minister have nothing to do with his ethnicity.

It has plenty to do with his alleged insensitivity to the price hikes in the country (which affect every single Tan, Din and Harvin) and it has plenty to do with the fact that kangkung is funny (even its very name makes me giggle); but I can’t see where the Prime Minister’s ethnicity comes into play.

So, how is it racist?

I guess some people view the world through race-tinted glasses.

These are the people who are calling for a demonstration to defend the Prime Minister.

I must say their poster calling for participants in this demonstration looks very exciting.

It has a very macho-looking chap carrying not one but two parang and an equally macho call for all Malays to come out and defend their race, their king, their religion and who knows what else.

I am of course in favour of demonstrations and public protests; it is after all a fundamental right as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Constitution. But Article 10 also says, and rightly so, that any assembly must be peaceful and without arms.

This “Defend the PM” demonstration uses a poster with a chap carrying machetes. Aren’t machetes weapons? Are they asking people to bring their parang? Or is it just for dramatic artistic effect?

I am sure they will have a good explanation and surely the police should ask for it.

The Government has shown itself to be very sensitive to any symbols of violence. After all, the Registrar of Societies made a huge hue and cry about the fact that Parti Sosialis Malaysia used a closed fist for its party symbol.

A closed fist is violent, apparently. It conjures up images of pugilism, I guess.

But if a closed fist is violent, then isn’t a parang even more violent? Thus, I would be most surprised if the police do not swoop down on these organisers with the same vigour and energy that they use when swooping down on the organisers of other demonstrations.

For example, the anti-price-hike demo on New Year’s Eve was scrutinised and demonised by the cops because it was thought to be potentially dangerous.

The police even feared that there were going to be grenades in Merdeka Square.

The organisers did not say “bring grenades” and their posters did not have grenades on them but the cops wanted to be safe rather than sorry I suppose.

Therefore, I would expect nothing less from our men and women in blue than a complete and thorough investigation of people who actually have a weapon-wielding man on their invitation to a demo.

Especially in the light of several folks (again wearing those special spectacles) saying that this kangkung issue could lead to race riots.

Race riots? Because people are angry at price rises?

Are these people blind to the fact that the people who are annoyed at the kangkung remark are from all ethnic groups?

There is no racial issue here. The only racial issues are the ones being made up by the desperate people whose only pathetic claim to relevance depends on them making everything into a racial issue.

I don’t believe that Malaysians are going to fall for this idiocy. But having said that, a few may not care about reason and logic and all it takes is a handful to create trouble.

Surely a government maintaining the peace would seek these true trouble-makers out. Or do different rules apply? We’ll just have to wait and see.

> Azmi Sharom (azmisharom@yahoo.co.uk) is a law teacher. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.


For many years now, MANY in Malaysia have had an uneasy feeling that democracy, as generally understood, sits uneasily among the people of this country. Malaysia has large and sometimes articulate political parties and it has had leaders totally committed to the concept of democracy, which is also true. There was Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Tun Dr Ismail, Tun Hussein Onn, John Aloysius Thivy, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Stephen Kalong Ningkan, Tun Fuad Donald Stephens, Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, Peter Mojuntin, Tun Mustapha, O K K Sedomon, Ahmad Boestaman,  and others who believed in the concept of democracy as the only one that would keep Malaysia together and take it forward.

Like true democrats they believed that dissent was an essential part of democracy, and that the country would only be enriched by debate and discussion, even by agitation if that became necessary. Their belief was complemented by their direct contact with the people; the trust that people had in them made it possible for them to persuade them to accept, enthusiastically, the beliefs and ideas they gave them.

But when such leaders and people are not there any more, what happens to the parties and institutions they have built and nurtured? One facile answer is that political argument gets stronger and power shifts from one group to another when elections are held. In other words, the people decide who will have the responsibility to manage the state, removing those whom they consider incapable and bringing in those they think can do the job. This is very convenient and comforting. It is also totally fictitious.

It is true that political argument does get stronger, more so because of the increasingly watchful media both print and electronic, of which most political groups have become wary, even fearful, and not without reason. The fiction lies in the belief that the “people” remove those who do not perform and bring in those who they think can perform.

First, the concept of “people” is simplistic; the vast numbers of individuals in the state are an infinitely complex entity consisting of a vast number of groups and sub-groups. This enormous mass of individuals does not come together and decide anything; that is not what happens, not at all. What happens is that a strategy aimed at finding acceptance with groups of individuals, in some cases possibly fortuitously, works or works better than the strategy of another group.

In the 2008 general elections, the strategy of what was called the Third Front did not work; most individuals did not trust it. In a muddle of strategies, five states fell to the opposition Pakatan Rakyat but not because it had planned to do so. It had, of course, tried to win the Federal Government, but its plans were wide off the mark. When it won 5 states and 82 parliamentary seats it must have been as surprised as anyone else.

On the other hand, Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman had a strategy that he had worked on for years since 2003 – to give people the kind of development and security they had been yearning for – and his many victories till 2013 May 5th was no surprise, except perhaps to his opponents, and their surprise was more at the magnitude of his success than at the victory itself. It made their strategies and plans look comic in comparison. Musa Aman is an exception, and a phenomenon confined to Sabah.

At the national level, and in most other States, the structure of democracy is being subjected to forces that may well change it completely over time. To understand that one has, perhaps, to take a step back and look at what the process is about today.  It is not about representing the “people’s” will. It is about control and power.

Our so-called democracy is defined not by the existence of dissent and opposition activity but by the nature of the power wielded. It is monarchical and meant to secure the interests, political and economic, of the ruling group, whichever it is. And this is done by ensuring that power remains with an elite group – preferably the family, but also those who are close to it and share the same backgrounds.

One can see it today in what many refer to as the First Family in the Umno Baru; Dr Mahathir Mohamad is clearly grooming his son, Mukhriz, to be the next Prime Minister. But they are not by any means the only family. Look at the number of sons and daughters and son-in-law now who are inducted into the corridors of power:  Najib Tun Razak, Hishammuddin Tun Hussein Onn, Khairy Jamaluddin, even Mukhriz Mahathir in Kedah who is what he is because he is Dr Mahathir’s son, and a whole host of others whom media naively call the Young Turks. The original Young Turks were not just young; they had come to prominence because of their abilities, not because of who their father or mother or father-in-law was. A number of sons and daughters whom the media naively call Young Turks have been inducted into the corridors of power.

Inevitably, the elements of power are being chivied towards specific families, which will then determine who will stand for elections for their parties, and thus consolidate their own position, securing it for their generation and the generations to follow. Increasingly, their contact with the people has become more and more distant; the people get to be called the “rakyat” who have to be maneuvered by race, religion, money and promises. But this is not a phenomenon confined to the Umno party; it is as much in evidence in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat parties such as the DAP, PKR and PAS. Look at Lim Guan Eng, Nurul Izzah, Karpal’s sons, Ustaz Din Tok Guru the son-in-law of PAS President Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang, so many more.

And where the factor of unease comes in is in what appears to be an inevitable slide towards oligarchy, where an elite takes over power – political and economic. It is economic, too, of course. All the big corporate giants are busy grooming their sons and daughters to take their place among the power elite; Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary is only one instance of this. Even the much-revered Al Bukhary group is reportedly looking for a Syed to head it once Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary leaves; Vincent Tan has already inducted his son into his Berjaya empire, so has Kuok Brothers, so has Ananda Krishnan.

One can only hope that this is not what we have in store for us, that we do produce some leaders from outside the elite families who, like Musa Aman in Sabah, will lead with clear concepts of development.


I remember Musa Aman once told me that he bought a property in Cairo on behalf of the Sabah State Government for accommodation for Sabahan students studying there. Years later he bought another property in Alexandria also for the same purpose. While traveling from Cairo to Alexandria by road, Musa said he saw only arid land all the way. 5 years ago before Mubarak was ousted Musa made another trip by road from Cairo to Alexandria and was totally surprise that the the arid land he saw earlier had been transformed into green fields producing all kinds of vegetables, including tomatoes, cabbages and potatoes. Today its a different picture all together.

The carnage and discontent in Egypt is a sad example of what a civilised society has come to mean today. While the Arab Spring did in fact raise hopes of a democratic construct, all efforts towards such an event seem to have been forgotten.

Mohamed Morsi’s government was no doubt elected through the ballot. But does it make it truly democratic? How can an Islamic government, of the Islamic Brotherhood, be fully democratic guaranteeing the fundamental rights of individuals as generally understood? Even the Soviet bloc countries called themselves democracies or socialist democracies. May be the army in Egypt (and its western supporters) fear with reason that a Morsi dispensation would lead to a slide back, from the modernity gained so far, to eventual religious fundamentalism.

People’s protests too could be very reckless and violent when motivated by passions of a religious origin and combined with the Army’s usual brutal methods of suppression. Therefore, it is not surprising that there continues to be a heavy loss of civilian lives.

The persistent silence and reticence of the U.S. and the western block are rather intriguing in that the U.S., in particular, has chosen not to call the obvious coup a coup and is overlooking this development as if nothing has taken place at all; only to pre-empt the automatic stoppage of the aid to Egypt’s new regime. Even though the U.S. overtly proclaims to champion the cause of democracy and do business only with such countries, it has not hesitated to dilute that policy any number of times to advance its interests. It is unlikely that the U.S. will be in a hurry to bring about a truce.

If the Egyptian Army is the cause of the present situation by its direct military action, the Muslim Brotherhood too is equally responsible for fostering violence for political purposes. The Brotherhood is alleged to have terrorised numerous minorities, revealing its true face. In the past year, it has paid scant respect to human rights.

A bloodbath is never a solution to political struggle. The situation there calls for effective intervention by the United Nations and other nations. But sad, cannot see a Malaysian opinion, Malaysia have become a nation without a stand!


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.


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….



HAVING witnessed democracy in action in the form of state assembly elections in Sarawak recently, it is worthwhile looking at what the Sarawak elections had exposed. Political analysts have already made pronouncements about identity politics, that is, the politics of race and community, being pushed to the side by new demands for development. They have pronounced on the virtues of being “with the people” in the manner of Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, as opposed to the “parachute politics” of Anwar Ibrahim.

Corruption has been mentioned, but in terms that are not very clear, at least to lay people like myself. Has this exercise in democracy proved that there is widespread anger at the corruption that exists in almost all parts of society, in public bodies and authorities as well as in private entities? From what one can comprehend, the answer is the familiar “yes-and-no” that analysts take shelter behind when faced with a phenomenon they cannot really understand.

The verdict cannot be against corruption in, for example, Sarawak, where the reputation of the ruling Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and the other Sarawak BN component parties combine is not of its being a group of saints, to put it mildly. For the record, the perception about the party that lost badly, the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) which lost 13 of 19 seats it contested and its President Dr. George Chan Hong Nam, Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, humiliating defeat in the hands of the DAP, is no better.

In Sarawak, no one will take you seriously if you claim that the Barisan National Sarawak is pure as driven snow; that the losing SUPP was seen as utterly corrupt, which is why it lost; and that the Sarawak BN and Taib Mahmud is responsible for the chopping down of most of Sarawak’s rainforests at the expense of the indigenous communities; and Taib Mahmud was also seen as corrupt and the protector of corrupt allies. The fact is that all of them are seen as corrupt.

Without making any solemn pronouncements on why a party won or lost, or the role played by rebel candidates of all parties in splitting vote banks, one can say with a degree of certainty that a rejection of corruption was not really the main issue in the election. And that is the truly worrying factor in this round of exercise of democracy.

Equally worrying is the sense one gets that the major political parties know this and are not really bothered. They also know, from the look of things, that the public protestation of corruption will never ever amount to anything as far as political power in our system is concerned. The parties strategise their moves and countermoves on the basis of other considerations, which they think to be more effective and relevant. So we can continue to bark corruption, coruption, coruption but nothing is gonna happen and nothing is gonna change, it has not change for the last 50 years.

An article that appeared not so long ago in The Nation cited a study by a group of scholars in the London School of Economics, which said that the comparisons made by various writers and experts between Malaysia and Singapore as emerging economic powers were erroneous; that Malaysia could never hope to be a rival to the economic powerhouse that Singapore already is. One reason given for this is the all-pervasive corruption in Malaysia.

This trend of thinking will in all likelihood catch on, despite brave words from leaders of Barisan National. One can sense it in the way the Malaysian stock market has behaved; in the way the ringgit has got weaker by the day; and in the general gloom among bankers, which they will not admit to publicly but will talk about mainly among themselves. It is not gloom about the immediate future – it is about Malaysia in the long term. It is, finally, about the nature of Malaysian democracy.

There are those who increasingly see signs of fatal flaws in Malaysian democracy because of the way it has developed. Political parties in power, from regional parties to so-called national parties, depend on corruption from the top down to survive, and survival is all that matters. An even more dangerous trend was the failure to improve the education standards.

Malaysia’s failure to provide quality education means that eventually our young men and women will lack the intellectual capabilities, leading to a falling off of quality of work, of skill levels and so on, with its inevitable ill effects on the economy as a whole. But are our politicians who are engaged in the task of survival, interested or concerned?

Eventually, one has to conclude that Malaysian-style democracy and the ills afflicting our economy, our industry, our infrastructure, our health services and our education system will ensure that Malaysia does not become an economic superpower, emerging or otherwise, and that it will have to depend on aid to keep itself going after all the natural resources have depleted. Then, multinational corporations will start to invest in other more lucrative ASEAN countries. Remember, Malaysia’s debts is now a whopping RM0.5 TRILLION.

Now, a lot depends on what young leaders such as Nurul Izzah and others such as Chief Ministers Musa Aman of Sabah and Lim Guan Eng of Penang do. There is little to be gained by looking at any other leader; those who are indeed leaders are either erratic and whimsical, or interested only in lining their pockets. Some like Taib Mahmud although in his twilight may well take Sarawak towards development, but he has to provide proof of that, as Musa Aman has done so admirably.


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June 19, 2012

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By Kazi Anwarul Masud

History has repeated itself so many times in the case of the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Even after the slackening of the authoritarian control over all sectors of the country by the military since General Ne Win’s military takeover of the country decades back and his Idi Amin –like forced deportation of the people of Indian origin( including Bangladeshis) xenophobic nationalism was adopted as the philosophy guiding the country. Burma Socialist Program Party, floated by the military to the total exclusion of all other political parties, effectively banned the expression of dissident opinion and pluralistic political arrangement in the country. Since then the Burmans who constitute 60% of the population and perhaps all the personnel in the military have been fighting wars with other ethnic groups like the Shan, Mon, Kchin, Arakanese and many others in the ruthless way the Romans adopted to rule their vast disparate empire and consequently driving out hundreds of people to Bangladesh, India and Thailand.

The Burmese military following strict socialistic policy till recently literally ran the resource rich country into the ground and forcing Burma to become a member of the least developed country. The Western world looked on indifferently, barring economic sanctions from time to time, while some of the atrocities in the name of state security interest were being committed by the Burmese junta. The principles of the responsibility to prevent and protect, sanctioned by the UN Summit in 1985 were found wanting but not in former Yugoslavia( where NATO attacks received universal approval along with consequent emergence of new states from the ashes of former Yugoslavia). Burma perhaps escaped international attention because of its geographical location ( it was out of the area for NATO and did not merit US strategic interest) and so its territorial integrity remained inviolate.

What justifies humanitarian intervention? Why Iraq invasion was so important for the West that both Bush jr and Tony Blair had to misrepresent to their own people that Saddam Hussain was about to strike with weapons of mass destruction and that he was bedding with the Taliban-both accusations have now been proved to be incorrect? Can it be that inter-ethnic conflicts are so common with inevitable results of ruthlessness and barbarity like in Sri Lanka and in some African countries that the West suffering from “imperial over-stretch” simply cannot come to the rescue of the rape, murder and annihilation or like in Syria where the efforts of the international community are stymied by veto wielding great power in the UNSC?

Perhaps the answer partly lies in the fact that many countries in the world, both developed, emerging and underdeveloped countries have ethnic minorities preventing their coming to the rescue of the victims of ethnic conflict lest finger is pointed at their record of discrimination against minorities. The declared “failure” of multiculturism in Europe where Jurgen Habermas’ post-secular society is seen as again finding a political space may be a case in point. The saga of the persecution of the Rohingyas is another example of ethnic conflict based mainly on religious differences.

Once again Rohingya people are fleeing from atrocities committed on them by the Buddhists in the Rakhine province into Bangladesh. Bangladesh is already hosting 200000 Rohingyas for the last two decades. The repatriation of these “stateless” persons has been very slow due to insistence by the Burmese authorities in ascertaining their identity which most of them either had not acquired any documents of nationality or had to leave everything behind to save their lives. Bangladesh, despite UN appeal to let the Rohingyas enter Bangladesh, has decided not to allow this time Rohingyas to enter the country in national interest.

Rohingyas were using the land border – kept open until recently ­ to cross over to Bangladesh. The local administration admitted that they had no actual data on the inflows of Rohingya refugees in Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and the adjoining areas An added element has been added by the Burmese authorities accusing the activities of armed Rohingyas, aided by Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami, a right wing political party that had opposed the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, inside Myanmar. Bangladesh government is very clear on the question of refusing Bangladesh territory to be used for terrorism in any country. Some Western countries and UNHCR have urged Bangladesh to give refuge on humanitarian ground.

The US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at a briefing in Washington regarding the issue that the US “ have been urging the Government of Bangladesh to respect its international obligations under the relevant refugee conventions and to continue its longstanding policy of non-refoulement of refugees”. Non-refoulement is a principle of the international law, i.e. of customary and trucial Law of Nations which forbids rendering a true victim of persecution to their persecutor; persecutor generally referring to a state-actor (country/government). Bangladesh Foreign Minister, however, said that Bangladesh is not a signatory to any international convention or protocol on refugees. She hoped that this ethnic problem would be solved by the Burmese authorities and peace will be established soon.

The Rohingya problem is not of recent origin. The ethnic conflict between the Muslim minority and the Buddhist majority has been going on for many years and became worse when General Ne Win seized power in 1962. Muslims were expelled from the army and were rapidly marginalized. Burma has a Buddhist majority. Muslims are stereotyped in the society as “cattle killers” (referring to the cattle sacrifice festival of Eid ul Adha in Islam). The generic racist slur of “kala” (black) used against perceived “foreigners” has especially negative connotations when referring to Burmese Muslims. The more pious Muslim communities who segregate themselves from the Buddhist majority face greater difficulties than those who integrate more at the cost of observance to Islamic personal laws. Muslims in Burma are affected by the actions of Islamic extremism in other countries.

Violence in Indonesia perpetrated by Islamists is used as a pretext to commit violence against Muslim minorities in Burma. The anti-Buddhist actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan (the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan) was also used as a pretext to commit violence against Muslims in Burma by Buddhist mobs. Bangladesh is not the only country of refuge for the Rohingyas. It is understood that over the years thousands of Rohingya also have fled to Thailand. There are roughly 111,000 refugees housed in 9 camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. There have been charges that groups of them have been shipped and towed out to open sea from Thailand, and left there. In February 2009 there was evidence of the Thai army towing a boatload of 190 Rohingya refugees out to sea. A group of refugees rescued by Indonesian authorities also in February 2009 told harrowing stories of being captured and beaten by the Thai military, and then abandoned at open sea. By the end of February there were reports that of a group of 5 boats were towed out to open sea, of which 4 boats sank in a storm, and 1 boat washed up on the shore. In February 2009 then Thailand’s prime minister Abshit admitted and regretted “any losses”, and promised to work on rectifying the problem. One may wonder who are these Rohingyas fighting for recognition as Burmese nationals where they claim to have lived for centuries.

Wikipedia reveals dispute over the origin of the term “Rohingya”. Some Rohingya historians contended that the term Rohingya is derived from Arabic word ‘Raham’ meaning sympathy. They trace the term back to the ship wreck in 8th century AD.

According to them, after the Arab ship wrecked near Ramree Island, Arab traders were ordered to be executed by Arakanese king. Then, they shouted in their language, ‘Raham’. Hence, these people were called ‘Raham’. Gradually it changed from Raham to Rhohang and finally to Rohingyas. However, the claim was refuted by some leaders of Arakan Muslim Conference who argued that ship wrecked Muslims are called ‘Thambu Kya’ Muslims and currently residing along the Arakan sea shore. Should the term Rohingya derive from these Muslims, “Thambu Kyas” would have been the first group to be known as Ruhaingyas. According to them, Rohingyas were descendants of inhabitants of Ruha in Afghanistan. Another historian argued that among the Muslim populations, the term ‘Mrohaung’ (Old Arakanese Kingdom) is corrupted to Rohang. And thus inhabitants of the region are called Rohingya.

These claims are categorically rejected by Burmese historians. Burmese historians like Khin Maung Saw asserted that the term Rohingya has never appeared in history before 1950s. According to another historian there is no such word as Rohingya in 1824 census survey conducted by the British. Historian Aye Chan from Kanda University of international studies noted that the term Rohingya was created by descendants of Bengalis in 1950s who migrated into Arakan during colonial area. He further argued that the term cannot be found in any historical source in any language before 1950s. However, he stated that it does not mean Muslim communities have not existed in Arakan before 1824. But history also reveals that during World war II Japanese forces invaded Burma, then under British colonial control. The British forces retreated and in the power vacuum left behind, considerable violence erupted. This included communal violence between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya villagers. The period also witnessed violence between groups loyal to the British and Burmese nationalists. The Rohingya supported the Allies during the war and opposed the Japanese forces, assisting the Allies in reconnaissance. The Japanese committed atrocities against thousands of Rohingya. They engaged in an orgy of rape, murder and torture In this period, some 22,000 Rohingya are believed to have crossed the border into Bengal, then part of British India, to escape the violence. 40,000 Rohingya eventually fled to Chittagong after repeated massacres by the Burmese and Japanese forces. The history of this part of Burma is replete with ethnic wars. The Muslims being a minority are the worst sufferers.

Rohingya activists have long fought for full citizenship and some were hopeful that after the recent elections and the victory of Aung San Su Kyi things would be better. But Aung San Su Kyi chose not to address the Rohingya issue during her visit to Thailand. All said and done Burma, under long military rule and the present façade of civilian government, remains a fractured, ethnic conflict –infested, pre-modern country despite being endowed with rich natural resources. It is true that after the visit of Hillary Clinton, some opening of the country to international community and internal political reform, and the holding of general elections through which Aung San Su Kyi was elected to Parliament the US has eased some of the sanctions imposed upon Burma and the ASEAN countries may enhance their engagement.

Bangladesh, as India has done, would like to get gas from Burma and increase trade with her. It is, therefore, to the advantage of the countries concerned to remain engaged with Burmese authorities. But as the Americans have learnt from their experience of engagement with the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, ethnicity and religion play a great role in underdeveloped societies.

Had it not been so the Yugoslavia, despite being a relatively developed economy, would not have fragmented into many independent states. In the case of Bangladesh we have to doggedly work with the UNHCR and international community to stop the exodus of the Rohingyas into Bangladesh and to effect the repatriation of those already in our country. Patient diplomacy would give result. Crossing of the swords will not. But he international community should not remain silent spectator to violence against unarmed people forcing them to flee their land of birth but should continue to encourage, in particular ASEAN countries, Burmese military to mend their ways enabling that resource rich country to be on the same page with the international community respecting the rights of their own people as well as those of the foreigners. But as Richard Hass, President of the Council of Foreign Relations notes: “Humanitarianism is another contender for America’s post-Cold War doctrine, and it is one that animated much of the foreign policy of the Clinton Administration.

The international community has enshrined the “responsibility to protect” as an obligation all states must fulfill on behalf of threatened peoples everywhere. The appeal of humanitarianism is obvious: to save innocent lives. Alas, there is no shortage of situations calling out for such intervention. But therein precisely lies part of the problem with humanitarianism”. Rohingyas, therefore, are likely to remain a forgotten chapter in the post-Cold War and current history where bread and butter issues gain prominence and perception of direct security threat are more important for the leading powers than the daily and deadly humiliation of some people in some remote part of the world.

About the author:

SAAGSAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.


KOTA KINABALU: The State Reform Party (Star) shares the sentiments of the Democratic Action Party (Dap) that the possibility of one-to-one fights in Sabah to take on the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) at the forthcoming 13th General Election is non-existent.

It also agrees with Dap that the Sabah Progressive Party (Sapp) was out of synch with local politics but thinks “it would be kinder not to comment further on an irrelevant party”.

However, Star begs to differ with the Peninsular Malaysia-based national opposition party on why “it’s not possible to strike a deal with the self-glorified and unrealistic Star”.

“We are not indulging in self-glorification or being unrealistic,” said Star vice chairman Dr Felix Chong, a Dap leader until recent days, in a prepared press statement. “It’s the people who are glorifying us everywhere including in FaceBook.”

He was referring to a statement by Kota Kinabalu MP and Dap Advisor in Sabah, Hiew King Cheu, in the local media on Thurs this week.
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On Star being unrealistic as alleged by Dap, Chong pointed out that the campaign for a 3rd Force in the Malaysian Parliament was based on realpolitik.

He added that winning seats at the GE was not realpolitik but incidental and that the concept (realpolitik) must extend beyond and more importantly deal with the unresolved status of Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian Federation.

“We can’t talk about Sabah and Sarawak rights in the Malaysian Federation until the issue of the Federal Government’s non-compliance with the four constitutional documents and/or conventions governing our membership, participation and partnership in Malaysia is resolved,” said Chong.

He referred to the four documents as the 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63), 20/18 Points (20/18 P), the Inter Governmental Committee Report (IGCR) and the Cobbold Commission Report (CCR).

He claimed that the Federal Government’s “ominous silence” on the four documents rendered the Malaysian Constitution inoperable to the extent of its non-compliance with the said documents and thereby raised a fundamental issue of politics, the law and the Constitution: were Sabah and Sarawak in or out of the Federation?

If both states were in fact out of the Federation, continued Chong, why is Putrajaya carrying on otherwise since 1963 and more especially since Singapore’s expulsion in 1965? Are both states being occupied by Malaya?

If both states are still in the Federation, he stressed, what’s their legal and constitutional status in the face of the aforesaid non-compliance? Are they colonies of Malaya?

The Dap vice chairman does not want the Federal Government to admit its failure on the four documents “only after all our oil and gas resources have been plundered from us and we are pushed into a corner financially”.
These are serious issues that must be dealt with urgently, he said. “We are looking at the big picture and our longterm future, not the short-run or immediate run like the myopic parti parti Malaya in Sabah and Sarawak.”

Chong added that Dap like “the other parti parti Malaya in Sabah and Sarawak” are more focused on seizing control of Putrajaya from BN instead of being relevant to the struggle of the local people.

“We are not interested in regime change but system change,” said Chong. “Why should the people of Sabah and Sarawak go from the frying pan (BN) into the fire (Pakatan Rakyat) or, at best from the fire (BN) into the frying pan (PR)?”

He noted that PR leaders had often spoken about system change but the fact that they are openly against Star’s struggle for Sabah and Sarawak “shows that it’s either merely paying lip to system change and is focused on regime change or wants system change to be confined to Peninsular Malaysia”.

Chong warned Dap that it’s not good enough for PR to “bribe Sabah and Sarawak” with 20 per cent oil royalty in return for voting for them.

“What PR is saying is that they will steal less of our oil and gas resources compared with BN?” said Chong. “These resources belong to us 100 per cent. It’s like adding insult to injury if someone tries to bribe us into inaction with a fraction of our own money after stealing it.”

Besides dangling the 20 per cent oil royalty carrot-and-stick before the voters, the Star vice chairman hasn’t seen why the parti parti Malaya crossed over from the other side of the South China Sea.

In a dig at Hiew, Chong said that the people of Sabah and Sarawak were not interested in seeing all dolled up Dap leaders “self-glorifying” themselves in photo ops in the media “showing them pointing at an uncovered manhole, an unpaved road or at something floating in a longkang (drain).”

Asked whether the BN would win the next GE by default in Sabah and Sarawak in the absence of a seat-sharing pact among opposition parties to take on the ruling coalition one-to-one, Chong said that it was too simplistic to paint such a dismal picture.

For starters, even given an opposition seat-sharing pact, Chong claims that the BN would have a head start given the number of illegal immigrants — “its electoral Fixed Deposits — on the electoral rolls.

For another, he thinks that in principle “any form of pre-polls seat-sharing and /or coalitions is against the concept of democracy. By endorsing elite power-sharing, it denies the people meaningful participation in elections and thereby circumvents government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

Chong thinks that the only way for the people of Sabah and Sarawak to defeat the BN is to reject any political party involved in placing illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls, proxy politics of “the parti parti Malaya” and to vote on the basis of the issues before them.

“It doesn’t matter how many candidates enter the fray, “said Chong. “The issues and the number of issues will carry the day for Star and its 3rd Force allies in the United Borneo Alliance (UBA).”

A 3rd Force in the Malaysian Parliament is an idea whose time has come, said Chong. “It can steer evenly between PR and BN.”

He described the 3rd Force as a response to the “historical window of opportunity” opened up by the 12th General Election in 2008 when a political tsunami swept Peninsular Malaysia, deprived BN of its coveted two-third majority and threw up a two party system there.

“It would be foolish for us in Sabah and Sarawak to squander this historical window of opportunity and pander to the whims and fancies of the parti parti Malaya with their self-serving politics,” said Chong.

Both BN and PR, noted Chong, were Peninsular Malaysia-based national alliances/coalitions.

In response, believes Chong, Sabah and Sarawak need a Borneo-based national alliance in the Malaysian Parliament to lead a 3rd Force. “Such a Force is the best guarantee for Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia,” said Chong. “The issue of non-compliance can be resolved once and for all.”

Besides Sabah and Sarawak, Chong said that other elements of the 3rd Force would come from the other side of the South China Sea and include the Orang Asli, the Christians, other minorities, fence-sitters and the Indian community which decides in 67 of the parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia.

Star chairman Jeffrey Kitingan announced in mid-April that the party would contest all 60 state seats in Sabah and 26 parliamentary seats including Labuan.

The party took the stand under its Plan Z after Sapp broke ranks with the UBA and entered into unilateral seat-sharing talks in Kota Kinabalu with de facto Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) chief Anwar Ibrahim who claimed to be speaking on behalf of PR. However, this was subsequently disputed by Dap in Sabah.