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Sabahans have only themselves to blame | Free Malaysia Today – Free Malaysia Today

The results of the recently concluded general election (GE15) were a disaster for Sabah parties. Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) secretary-general Masidi Manjun admitted “we have only ourselves to blame” and “you reap what you sow” to describe the election outcome. He acknowledged that the results had upset many people in Sabah.
GRS comprises Sabah Bersatu, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and United Sabah National Organisation (Usno). BN/Umno have a pact with GRS.
Masidi is right about the “many” who are angry with Sabah political leaders, who are seen as fractious, disunited and subservient to leaders of Peninsular Malaysia parties.
GE15 has shown that Sabah has continued with its downward spiral of the “dog-eat-dog” world of turbulent politics. Sabah political leaders were caught flat-footed after GE15, resulting in a hung Parliament and the formation of a unity government as advised by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Warisan president Shafie Apdal made overtures to PBS to form a local platform going into GE15. Shafie’s proposal for Warisan and PBS to work together was spurned by PBS president Maximus Ongkili despite a rare appeal by PBS founder Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who was also hoping that a Borneo bloc could be formed with Sarawak.
Ongkili preferred to continue to work with GRS, a Bersatu-led coalition in Sabah. Ongkili’s stubborn stand resulted in PBS winning one out of the four seats it contested. Both Ongkili and PBS secretary-general Joniston Bangkuai lost in the election.
Ongkili, who had held the Kota Marudu seat since 1995, suffered a stroke in July 2020 and should have called it quits and made way for the younger generation to retain his dignity. Kota Marudu is one of the poverty-stricken areas of Malaysia and many had criticised Ongkili for overstaying as an MP.
Now that Perikatan Nasional is in the opposition, with PAS being the dominant force in the coalition having won 49 seats compared to Bersatu’s 24, GRS has no choice but to become part of the unity government while its parent in West Malaysia, PN, sits in the opposition.
Jeffrey Kitingan of STAR has announced that his party is leaving PN as the coalition is not aligned with the Pakatan Harapan-led unity government. GRS is led by Sabah Bersatu and this announcement may lead to the coalition’s breakup, although GRS has pledged to work with Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government.
It’s all confusing for ordinary folks to track party alignments and allegiances under the unity government. One Sabah youth leader questioned the point of having political parties with different ideologies and manifestos when, at the end of the day, they have to go under one umbrella.
“All that money spent on different flags and banners was wasted when it could have been spent to feed the poor,” said the youth leader. “In future, we should just have two-party systems like the UK’s Conservatives and Labour, and the US’ Democrats and Republicans. We have too many parties and selfish politicians in Sabah all looking after their own self-interest”.
Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) with its 23 parliamentary seats is a good example of the power of a united front. Kudos to the Sarawak leaders who are able to put aside their differences and leverage on GPS’ inter-party unity to deliver what is best for Sarawakians.
The southern Borneo state is the epitome of “united we stand, divided we fall”. As a result, Sarawak gained five ministerships in the federal Cabinet compared to Sabah’s two. A Sarawakian has also been appointed as deputy prime minister for the first time in the history of Malaysia since its founding in 1963.
While Shafie tried his hardest to sell Warisan and contested all 25 parliamentary seats in Sabah, winning only three, other Sabah leaders still preferred to be members of or aligned to Malayan parties.
This means that Sabah has to continue to beg for development funds and the fulfilment of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) as it has no clout like Sarawak’s GPS, which knows what it wants and how to get it.
As for the Borneo bloc, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) vice-president Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said in May that control of Sabah by non-local parties was hampering the efforts of the East Malaysian states to cooperate to protect their rights under MA63.
He said “everybody knows that the administration in Sabah is under the control of non-local based parties”, referring to Umno and Bersatu, which are members of the ruling GRS coalition.
Sabah will definitely be in for a rough ride under a compromised unity government. At the recent state assembly meeting, basic amenities like water, electricity and telecommunications were highlighted, yet the GRS government boasts of earning billions of ringgit in sales tax and the best ever performance since 1963.
Sabahans have been short-changed by their own leaders, who saw fit to increase their salaries in July despite the difficult times. According to chief minister Hajiji Noor, the increase would cost the state government some RM5.6 million a year.
With its crumbling infrastructure, daily electricity outages, water woes and poor connectivity, Sabah is a third-world state within Malaysia.
Sabah has to buy electricity from Sarawak. Sarawak has its own TV broadcasting station to disseminate its own news, better broadband and digitisation network for rural folk and better infrastructure overall.
Years of neglect and subservience to KL masters have left Sabah high and dry in economic development.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
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