Another great injustice done to Sabah
Published on: Sunday, May 17, 2020
By: Datuk John Lo
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Let’s add to YB Junz Wong’s lone voice to Putrajaya that industrial diesel price in Sabah is blatantly unfair. The grossly unjust pricing in industrial diesel is but only one economic injustice from federal. Those of us who are in their 60s, 70s can recall a long litany of 3rd class treatments, disappointments, indifferences the federal government has been dishing out to Sabah since the formation of Malaysia. 

Was Sabah ever an equal partner from the beginning? No, never. Many retired senior civil servants who are still around can testify to the maltreatments when trying to get federal funds. Even on the rare occasion on getting approvals. the fund would arrive late in the year, before it can be utilized, it has to be returned. 

Even in the banking industry, there was a differential in interest rates against Sabah for many years. 

What it means was that Sabah customers were charged a higher rate than their counter parts in W Malaysia. 

Sabah’s cost of living has been and is still about 30pc higher than W Malaysia. Our cry for lower prices fell on deaf ears for years and years until BN needed our votes to stay in power when some items have been included in the so called “price equalisation scheme”. 

Same treatment, be it infrastructure, in the promotion of tourism, investment and just about every aspect of economic activities. Federal government’s “unwanted adopted child” treatment for Sabah is best manifested in oil/gas which is one of Sabah major resources:

[a] Sabah is the biggest producer of oil/gas. Petronas has ignored Sabah’s interest for years and put Sarawak, Terengganu, Malacca and Johor well ahead. This is reflected in the scanty petrochemical industry in Sabah, even that was done with much begging and persuasions. We are miles behind Sarawak. Malacca and Johor don’t produce 1 single barrel of oil, yet they have huge petrochemical industries which we will never get at current scenario. 

[b] Talking about higher price for industrial diesel, Petronas has and can give all sort of stupid reasons, the fact remains that oil is being pumped out from Sabah, shipped to W Malaysia for processing/refining, then shipped and SOLD back to Sabah AT HIGHER PRICE THAN W MALAYSIA. Remember, it is our oil, why is that? How stupid can Sabahans be? In other oil producing countries, diesel is dirt cheap. 

[c] As pointed out by YB Junz, at 57pc more expensive for industrial diesel in Sabah, together with other handicaps [no thanks to the Federal Government], like Cabotage Policy, Sabah can kiss industrialization good bye. Come on guys, let’s shed away the political masks of pleasantries, we cannot and will never be able to embark on any meaningful industrialization. 

Let’s stop living in a fool’s paradise. The federal government, be it BN, PH or now PN, they are all the same. Their political/economic priority is W Malaysia centric, not Sabah. This is a sad story as so much oil/gas is being pumped out of Sabah, all that Sabahans can do is to drool and look helplessly at all our wealth slipping away into other people’s pockets. 

[d] Adding salt to the industrial diesel wound is that our gas is being pumped to Bintulu for processing and export. All that we get is a little toll fee. Again, how stupid can Sabahans get for allowing this? The gas should be retained to be piped into our homes and factories, not to Bintulu then to Tokyo, London and Shanghai for fuel for their industries and heat their homes. 

[e] Petronas has done nothing for Sabah by adding value to Sabah’s oil/gas to benefit Sabahans. 

[f] Our cooking gas, which is being carried into our homes in cylinders should cost a fraction than current pricings.

Why did I say it is same with BN, PH and PN? For years and years, BN has given Sabah the rawest deal. It got better when Najib, out of political desperation at the eve of GE14, began to bribe us with funds. PH was no better. 

Soonest after GE14 victory, it reneged its election promises of 40pc share of revenue and 20pc oil royalty. Under PN, Warisan, being in the opposition, is unlikely to make much headway as the PN leaders are too focused on their political musical chairs. This being the case, I am not at all confident that Sabahan ministers in the federal cabinet can do much. 

Of course, I stand to be corrected and would be more than happy to apologise to them if they can get a better treatment for Sabah including lower the price of industrial diesel

I support YB Junz’s voicing out about the price of industrial diesel. However, such whining and lamentations are unlikely to bring a change of heart at Federal level. YB Junz’s query is a voice in the wilderness. Unless all Sabahans add their unhappiness to his voice and make it really loud. 

The federal leaders know Sabahans are weak, unlike the Sarawakians. The federal leaders are correct in thinking Sabahans are a bunch of spineless weaklings for letting our economic rights to be trampled and abused for 50 years. 

Weak Sabahans have produced generations of Sabahan political leaders who have failed to defend our legitimate economic rights, resulting in long-term serious economic neglect. W Malaysian leaders will continue to take Sabahans for granted unless we can prove we are united and willing to fight to protect our economic rights. By we, I mean all Sabahans, our leaders in government and opposition. The leaders can have different approaches and policies BUT THEIR OBJECTIVES MUST BE NOT DEVIATE FROM PROTECTING SABAH’S ECONOMIC RIGHTS.

Unless there is a common genuine bipartisan unity on economic rights, Sabah’s current highly unfavourable position will not change. With due respect, YB Junz will not make a difference unless all chip in and do our share of fighting for our economic rights. Same goes with the newly sworn-in deputy federal minister who has promised to sort out the federal/Sabah problems within 6 months. 

Against Sabah are huge, really huge political and business warlords in W Malaysia which will go to the end of world to protect/preserve their interest. No single Sabahan politician can achieve a reversal. The alternative to bipartisan unity will spell complete economic disaster for Sabah in the long term. We have already lost ownership of most of our factors of production. 

What is left will not last another 50 years. To regain our economic dignity, ownership and rights, we will need many more YB Junz— a whole new generation of political leaders whose hearts are solidly for Sabahans over their personal interest.

All that now remains is – will other Sabahan politicians who claim to want to protect Sabah’s economic interests, join YB Junz’s lone voice to turn it into a deafening thunder for the ears across the South China Sea to take Sabah seriously?

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