Tiny political steps in the right direction
Published on: Sunday, November 21, 2021
By: Datuk John Lo
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Many Sabahans are working in Cameron Highland (left pic).
THE Pakatan Harapan’s memorandum to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor falls far short of my expectation. 

STILL, it is a tiny little step in the right direction. 

In a way, it has some historical value as it is the first time that the opposition has expressed interest to work with the parties in government after Hajiji’s inclusive gesture as CM for all Sabahans irrespective of race or religion. His decision to provide funds for opposition constituencies must have struck the right chord with the PH leaders.

Recognising that every political party, elected representatives, especially the MPs, can play an important role to steer Sabah towards an accelerated economic development and to fight for Sabah’s equitable funding in the 12th Malaysia Plan. 

The ultimate objective is for the opposition and government to achieve a genuine equal partnership in Malaysia for Sabah [not talk only] and a full membership in the proposed Malaysian Family.

Only Sabahan politicians can stop the economic exploitations.

Hopefully, this baby political détente will reduce the number of political politicians and produce some genuine economist politicians for Sabah, meaning less self-centred politics and more rigorous focus on solving Sabahans’ 50-year-old economic plights. 

Sabah has suffered the indignity of economic backwardness long enough. Time for all political leaders to unite with Hajiji to achieve real economic development which we yearn so much and rightly deserve. 

It is common knowledge that many W Malaysian leaders have come to praise us, to lull us into a dream-like satisfaction, a sense of unreal happiness when Sabah has the highest rate of poverty. 

At the same time, they have short-changed us in development funds and delays in projects year in year out. Most saddening is that some Sabahan politicians are dancing to their tune. 

Time for Sabahans to speak out forcefully in Parliament and Assembly.

I don’t agree with a senior Sabahan political leader’s recent statement that Sabahan MPs should stop speaking out on Sabah’s poor treatment from the Federal Government in Parliament to promote national harmony. Such fake harmony is meaningless when economic development is very lopsided against Sabah. 

Blatantly obvious, Sarawak’s political leaders have spoken out, demanded and at times, threatened. Just look what they have achieved for their state. They have stood their ground, have insisted and implemented “Sarawakians First Policy” successfully for years. 

So clever these Sarawakians that they got Federal Government to pump our gas for their industrialisation. 

Being submissive, humble with hat in hands begging for progress, grateful for crumbs? Obviously, “blessed are the humble” has failed to work for Sabah. We do not need humble leaders. Beggars can do it better. Time for Sabahans to demand some returns from our political leaders for all the perks and good life Sabahans have given them through the ballot box. Time for them to show some performance instead of playing underlings, eating humble pies in federal politics.

Speaking out for Sabahans is not anti-national or anti anything. It is their job, duty of our elected representatives to fight for economic justice and equity for every Sabahan. 

Keeping quiet is not an option as they have been elected to get what is best for Sabah.

Time to develop Sabah’s own economic model. 

It is my hope that this initial political rapprochement between Pakatan Harapan and the state government will not be forgotten but will lead to our economic solutions. Sabah’s economic woes are just too many to reiterate here but suffice to say we have lost control of our economy, resources and our destiny. Many Sabahans are economic refugees in our own land as well as in the Klang Valley and Singapore. Believe it, many Sabahans are also working in Genting and Cameron Highland. I have met a few.

Allow me to highlight an EPF’s recent warning that 6.1 million Malaysians have less than RM10k in their EPF, more frightening is 3.6 million have less than RM1k! Do our leaders know how many poor Sabahans have no EPF at all! Sabah economic and social problems are real and they are worsening unless political leaders unite to rectify this really bad situation.

Sabah should have our economic development model.

With the limited political détente in hands, there is a faint hope that Sabahans’ economic plights can be resolved. Hopefully, it can progress into a meaningful détente for them to speak with 1 voice in Parliament for our rightful place as equal partner in Malaysia and within the Malaysian Family.

Ultimately, we must recognise that West Malaysian type of bigotry politics is not suitable for Sabah. It is toxic and getting worse. Malaysia is trailing badly in comparison with other Asian Tigers. The W Malaysian political leaders, after 50 years, are still resorting to regressive, inward looking selfish economic policies. 

No progressive country has adopted Malaysia’s economic policies where more than 50pc of the population are being given unearned privileges and head starts. The 51pc grab-takeover in the forwarding agencies will definitely produce negative vibes to the investors who are already shying away from Malaysia and flocking to Vietnam and Indonesia. 

How to succeed and to be competitive when political leaders have obsessed with debates on Timah Whisky’s name, spending less time on the 12th Malaysia Plan and other pressing economic problems. So much so that the cabinet has to spend time to deliberate and make a decision on this absolutely superficial/nonsensical issue. What a joke! To a large extend, Sarawak political leaders have created their own political/economic ecosystem, unique to suit their cultural, political and economic environment. They have achieved a lot more in terms of equal partnership than Sabah.

Time for Sabah political leaders to stop being submissive, obedient and the nice guys while our wealth are being carted away, many more Sabahans have sunk further into dire poverty. 

Time for Sabahan political leaders to pluck up courage to chart our own destiny like Sarawak, to have our own economic model in the context of the Malaysian Family. To do this, we need political leaders with conviction and courage to call a spade a spade.

This baby détente is a start but it lacks political muscles in Parliament to fight for Sabah’s economic justice and equity in the annual budgets and 12th Malaysia Plan.

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