Creating new genre of Sabah leaders
Published on: Sunday, May 22, 2022
By: Datuk John Lo
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I am grateful for the feedback to my article last Sunday “Coming together cos they love Sabah” in the Sunday Express on 15 May 2022. Dominating these comments are 

[a] Sabahans’ keen desire for politicians to get down to do real work, i.e., solve Sabah’s economic problems. 

[b] Sabah politicians should unite to protect Sabah’s interest.

A few would like to know what are Sabah’s most serious problems. In this article, I like to highlight some of the problems from the federal that have strangled Sabah over the decades. 

Some in Sabah have, very prematurely, started to celebrate the achievements of MA63. No doubt MA63 does represent an achievement of some sort. 

Lest we forget, the battle is far from final victory. The negotiations and subsequent implementation will be arduous to say the least and will most definitely take years. 

Excellent example is the frustration over Sabah’s 40pc share of revenue which drove Masidi to say that Sabah might sue the federal government.

Hajiji (left), Abang Jo (right)


There is absolutely no guarantee that the results will be to our liking or will benefit Sabahans to the full extent of our entitlement under the constitution. Sabahans can still be short-changed. 

Sabahans should not be under any delusion. The little success to date can be negated and disappeared like a buff of smoke if our political leaders become weak, complacent, worst, disunited.

Sabah political leaders who are unwilling to unite and fight for our rights are irrelevant for our future. Sabah needs a new breed of political leaders who can think, commit to fight for our rights and solve Sabah’s problems.

Inequitable treatment from Federal

This is the “mother of all problems” which, together with weak politicians, have strangled and stunted Sabah economic growths for decades. The federal government [both BN and PH] has been responsible for Sabah’s poverty in a large extent. 

Why this problem? Very simple. Over the years, our leaders have allowed Sabah to be trampled, steamed rolled, too timid to take a stand for selfish intentions. Reality in life is you can’t expect others to protect your rights/interests.

For certainty, you get short changed, played out, exploited! In contrast, Sarawak has always stood firm, hence it is way ahead of us in many aspects.

[a] Sabah, the-unwanted adopted child.

The federal inequitable treatment given to Sabah has permeated extensively from economic development fund, promotion of trade/industry/tourism, alleviation of poverty, resources like oil gas, revenue sharing, R&D, education, lack of federal and financial institutions, most importantly, budget discrimination to fiscal and monetary policies and implementation. This list is ad infinitum.

Space constrain does not allow a detail analysis of all these items. Let’s focus on a selected few.

[b] Infrastructure.

Highways, airports, telecommunications [internet]

The 748 KM North-South Highway was built in 7 years. World class! In comparison, Pan Borneo is a kampong highway and will likely take 30 years with current snail pace construction and teeny-weeny budget funding. It could be done in 5 years.

KKIA, pre-covid, has already reached its saturation point. The Minister of Transport has indicated that he would review KKIA’s position in 7 years [2029] + review period of 5 years [2034] + 5 years for decision making [2039] + 5 years to get budget [2044] + 5 years to construct [2049]. 

If the Minister of Transport is allowed to have his way, Sabah can only hope to have a new KKIA in 2049. 

By then, we may travel to the moon for holidays. What will become of the present KKIA? What is the cost of not having a new KKIA to Sabah’s tourism and economy? 

Blatantly clear, Sabah can’t rely on federal government to be proactive in helping Sabah. 

We are always the “back burner” and “after thought” state. Sabah must seek alternative solution for a new KKIA. We will die waiting.

Sabah can’t progress, can’t compete without a reliable, fast Wifi system. In KK, Wifi is ok, ok only with 4G intermittently. Speed? Forget about it. 5G? 6G? Please kneel down and pray.

Sabah’s overall connectivity is 3rd world while Malaya’s is world class, be it highways, shipping and internet. Sabah is very seriously behind in the world of connectivity.

[b] Fiscal and monetary policies.

When federal leaders make economic policies or promotion for Malaysia, they mean Malaya. When was the last time Sabah has been featured? 

The best example of Sabah being ignored or side lined is in fiscal and monetary policies. 

These two items are in the purview of BNM, Ministry of Finance and are the main levers to regulate and steer the economy. 

Sabah, having been ignored in these 2 policy considerations for decades, is dead duck.

There has been no or very little consideration for Sabah in fiscal policies like the budget, tax incentives, free trade zones, 5-year development plan and their implementation. 

Worse for Sabah is in monetary policy deliberation. Zil consideration for Sabah when BNM wants to up or down the interest rate! It is all about Malaya.

[d] Lack of federal and financial institutions. 

This issue has escaped the attention of Sabah leaders. All ministries, all the important federal and financial institutions like BNM, KLSE, KLCE, EPF, all oil palm bodies and research facilities [even though Sabah is the largest producer state], Petronas [Sabah is largest producer of oil/gas], Medical Institutes of Research, Professional bodies, Economic and Industrial Institutions, bank headquarters, international institutions, all multi-national companies etc etc are all in Malaya. Not one is in Sabah.

The whole economic system, the economic structure is designed to favour heavily for Malaya.

[e] Education.

Sabah must have a holistic education. UMS by itself is insufficient. Many of Sabah’s school, especially those in the rural area are underfunded, grossly lacking in staff and are in dilapidated conditions. Bad schools can produce poorly educated Sabahans.

Unity is key to economic prosperity.

Sabah has 2 important aspects that are important to unity, i.e., racial and religious harmony.

These are precious assets that we must preserve at all cost. Sabah should never, never allow into Sabah the destructive Malayan politics of race and religion. 

We are rich in race and religious harmony but are very poor in managing political unity for economic progress, for protection of our rights and prevention of exploitation by outsiders.

It is obvious that Sabah’s weakest link to economic prosperity are political leaders who do not or are incapable of contributing solutions our economic problems.

Unite, Unite Unite to add value to Hajiji’s efforts.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2022/05/19/sarawak-|will-not-compromise-on-its-rights-says-abang -jo/.

Dear Sabah leaders, please take a leaf from Abang Jo of Sarawak! Hajiji has managed to regain and reverse a number of things in Sabah’s favour since taking over as CM. 

[a] MA63 constitutional amendments. 

[b] payment of petroleum sales tax from Petronas. 

[c] Sabah gas master plan, including 25pc share of natural gas produced in Sabah at cost without premium. 

[d] an LNG plant in SOGIT at RM8 billion. 

Hajiji’s success in righting the relationship with Petronas has already attracted more than RM25 billions of new investments in green energy [including hydrogen], silicon metal, silica, new electricity generation capacities which will spur many more investments especially downstream in ITP [Industrial Tree Plantations] and mining. Mining will be a major industry in Sabah.

In the final analysis, the responsibility of protecting Sabah rights is the responsibility of every political leader, all Sabahans. Sabah political leaders must emulate Sarawakian leaders, including those in opposition, who are supportive and proactive in preserving Sarawak’s rights.

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Datuk John Lo and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]


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