The most powerful message in Malaysia for national unity has taken root in Sabah. It has emanated this time from Dato Seri Shafie Apdal, the caretaker Chief Minister of Sabah. It is the clearest enunciation that this forthcoming election on September 26 is about the development and advancement of that state, the nation, and not of any particular race, religion or region. It is a highly evocative plea, it enjoys the widest appeal, is certainly acceptable to all and is a clear option available to the people of Sabah.
The clarity and pointedness of the message cannot be dismissed. It has Shafie’s opponents scrambling. Some of them must be feeling awful, outclassed and irrelevant as they can no longer continue to deceive the Sabahans with their persistent puerile message of their near divine right in running Sabah’s affairs with their carefully chosen puppets, their superior airs and the overbearing overlordship of a particular peninsular ilk.
Virtually forced out of office into the whirlpool of an unnecessary poorly timed election (the 16th for Sabah against Malaysia’s ￼14th) Shafie has held his own in asserting ‘enough is enough.’
Shafie’s language is conciliatory in affirming that Sabah as a part of Malaysia wants to be included in the hectic pace of development that has overwhelmed peninsular Malaysia with the vast overcapacity in built up high rises at public expense, super highways, first class medical care facilities and even a so-called multimedia super corridor. One must not forget the palatial landscaped edifices of Putrajaya dramatically developed out of the picture books of Alladin and the Arabian Knights.
Sabah’s Basic Needs
Shafie’s plea is for much much less, those mundane needs such as better built schools (bukan sekolah papan), public housing, clinics, hospitals, paved roads to dispersed remote communities and significantly, more respect and decent recognition for the character, characteristics and innate identity of Sabah.
But the most appealing sentiment hinted at by Shafie is that with more than 10 percent of the population, aren’t Sabahans entitled in some way to have at least 10 percent of participation in the country’s bureaucracy of teachers, health care workers, soldiers, customs and police personnel and the public service.
Do Sabahans and Sarawakians combined make up 10 percent of the Politbureau of the public service- the so-called Public Service Department ? And logically the question may be raised as to where the Sabahans and Sarawakians are in the GLCs which directly control at least a full third of the equity in the country’s corporate sector. “
Realisation not an Awakening
It is not that slumbering Sabah has suddenly awakened. That awakening came to Kuching earlier when the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem become the short lived chief minister of Sarawak.
Rather Shafie, as an authentic, experienced and energised representative of his people feels the pressure to now demand and deliver. From being within earshot of hearing every important discussion in the federal capital’s corridors of power Shafie knows how Sabah’s vital interests have been sidelined for far too long. He knows how some chosen puppets in his own state have empowered and enriched themselves at the expense of the Sabah people. They conceded his state’s right to an unabashed UMNO-driven Putrajaya designed dictatorship.
The irony is that the seemingly unbeatable UMNO lost power officially in May 2018 when el supremo, Dr Mahathir Mohamad became the seventh prime minister. He was however booted out after 22 months in February 2020 because UMNO wanted a more genuinely peninsula Malay representative government. Being very short of numbers in parliament UMNO manipulatively ensnared , co-opted and anointed the current prime minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin and some other turncoats, twerps and traitors. Included in that cabal were 18 PAS MPs.
COVID-19 Gave Cover
With the timely arrival of COVID-19 Muhyiddin managed to create a cabalistic makeshift government composed predominantly of Malay and Muslim politicians drawn from the ultra conservative Islamic party establishment and diehard Malay parties. Malay leaders cooperating with non Malay leaders on a footing of equality were excoriated and specifically excluded. More significantly the non Malays who made ministerial appointments were those who fully accepted, endorsed and conceded peninsular Malay overlordship.
In a climate of restriction, fear and threats an unusual concatenation of party hopping resulted in the displacement of some chief ministers, GLC heads and even members of regulatory and statutory institutions. PKR, DAP, Amanah and Warisan were consigned to the doghouse.
Six months into this changed environment with a new prime minister at the helm UMNO decided to try its luck in Sabah and dismiss the chief minister there. The problem was that Shafie bit the bullet. He dissolved the legislative assembly and went into an extensive and offensive audit of his predecessor governments which had little to show while the peninsula, with substantially fewer natural resources was powering ahead albeit fitfully.
Political Piracy in Sabah
In effect the political pirates who seized power in early March 2020 in Putrajaya using the perch of the PJ Sheraton have now arrived in Sabah in their distinct but separate blue and red attire (and hidden green frocks) and have attempted to seize power there. Shafie has surprised them. He has managed to garner much support and continues to gather momentum.
On September 29, exactly two months and a day after the country’s no fingerprints Mafia master crook was found guilty for grand larceny practice without a licence, we will know the verdict of the attempted act of piracy in Sabah. Let us keep our fingers crossed.
A New Federal Government?
Meanwhile while the PN and its merry band of political pirates were busy making their pitch in Sabah, the seemingly eternal prime minister-in-waiting Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced in Kuala Lumpur that he had the numbers to form a strong, formidable and stable government.
Out of Putrajaya came a rejoinder to this announcement. It’s Wednesday and a cabinet meeting has just concluded. Nothing’s amiss, this rejoinder tried to say. Ultimately it is for Yang dipertuan Agong who is currently hospitalised to decide the next course of action.
A Memorable Day
September 23rd 2020 must be Malaysia’s most dramatic day for political posturing and manoeuvres. We moved from third world to first world politicking but the country remains in the third world firmly with Covid-19 holding sway with a largely masked population, minding their affairs while maintaining social distancing and grace.
Dato’ M Santhananaban
The writer is a retired ambassador