Sat, 9 Dec 2023



Time to self-reflect, reform and transform
Published on: Sunday, November 13, 2022
By: Datuk John Lo
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STOP PRESS -Court grants Sabah Law Society leave for judicial review over 40 per cent federal grant

Heartiest congratulations to Roger Chin, President of Sabah Law Society and his committee for being granted leave in respect of 40pc federal grant.

SLS represents everything that every responsible political leader, every society and every Sabahan should do for the good of Sabah. SLS, in taking up this case on behalf of all Sabahans, has personified the rapidly increasing feeling of “I Love Sabah”.

All the very best to SLS.

Sabah has achieved impressive progress in 2021/2022.

Sabah has been suffering economic setbacks for more than 1 generation. Positive changes that give hope are emerging: [1a] Regains of rights in oil and gas. [1b] Authority to generate power. [1c] Substantial inflow of investment. [1d] Regain control of fishing authority. [1e] Director level representation on the Petronas and Income Tax Boards. [1f] Most substantive improvement is Hajiji’s shift is from personal to policy approach in economic development, investment and administration.

No doubt about it, there is a mile-long list of things that Sabah must get to be a meaningful 1/3 partner in word and spirit. A lot, I really mean a lot, of hard work ahead. Must not rest on our laurels that Sabah has slogged thus far. Some fundamentals exist now that will make further progress possible.

Against this back ground, tough 2023 and a few more years are ahead in view of global gloom and political uncertainties in our national politics. 

Sabah will get some reliefs by the substantial inflow of investment, increasingly larger revenue in royalty from high oil/gas price, and most importantly, the open and positive policy approach by Hajiji. Sabah’s revenue will hit the highest record of RM6 billion in 2022.

Sabah will continue to be plagued by numerous serious problems in the foreseeable future; some leading ones are [1g] Infrastructures. [1h] Unequitable and discriminatory allocation of economic funding by the Federal Government. [1i] Improving but still inefficient administration system within Sabah. Luckily, the silo mindset is beginning to be dismantled. [1j] The mother of all Sabah’s problem is too many political leaders lack economic leadership, lack of commitment to look after their constituents’ interest and insufficient unity to fight for Sabah’s economic rights.

If Sabah wants to maximise the benefits from the progress achieved in 2021/2022 and to forge a speedier path for progress, we must undertake some serious and honest self-reflection, transformation and reformation. Time to stare into the mirror and ask ourselves this question: What is wrong with us Sabahans?

Why self-reflection for Sabah?

Definition: “Self-reflection is taking the time to think about, meditate on, evaluate, and give serious thought to your behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, motivations, and desires for improvements and progress.”

Many Sabah politicians are the first people who need to undertake self-reflection.

Simple. For years, we have conducted ourselves like nothing has happened, like everything is top notch. Sabah leaders have ignored that our economy has been crumbling away, control of our economy has all but gone. Instead of Sabahans First, Sabahans have become last. Sabahans have become economic refugees in our own State, in KL, Johor and Singapore. This is ridiculous and totally unacceptable in the state with the most resources. 

The fact is staring at us. The Sabah’s economic system, the way Sabah has managed our economy have failed badly and our resources wasted away to enrich non-Sabahans. Sabah’s political leaders must self-reflect to identify the source of this problem. They must rectify this “Sabahans becoming economic refugees”. They must think of the future of our younger generations.

Why transformation for Sabah?

Definition: “Transformation is a marked or radical change in form, nature, or appearance.”

What is Sabah’s most serious obstacle to progress? It is not what you think. It is not the lack of infrastructures, nor it is money. 99pc of Sabah’s problems can be sorted out with the right mind-set. Our greatest enemy is ourselves especially the Sabah selfish political leaders. We have refused to see the obvious Sabah’s poor economic performance in the past. If we have, we have accepted it and kept quiet. Sabah’s biggest problem is our mind-set of acceptance for many political leaders not working for Sabahans, to allow them to work for themselves, to let Sabah to become their rich harvest ground. Politics is their career, their pathway to wealth. From this negative mindset has sprouted all other problems.

The starting point is for Sabah politicians to transform themselves or Sabahans should replace them with new ones who have the right mind-set. The present negative mindset of poverty acceptance must go. We need a new mind-set so that we can improve, can do better, can fight for our rights in the followings:

[3a] Federal allocations for Sabah is not a gift or charity. It is Sabah’s right and entitlement, including the 40pc share of revenue.

[3b] Sabah’s right to a minimum size of allocations must be established.

[3c] Sabah must have comparable infrastructures with W Malaysia. The Federal Government is obligated to complete Pan Borneo ASAP, not as a favour to Sabah. The Federal Government has taken years. The Pan Borneo is not even a proper highway. It is just a glorified trunk road. It is nothing compared with the North-South Highway which took only 7 years to complete.

[3d] Sabah must have effective representations in all important federal policy decision making bodies, institutions and GLCS/GLICs.

[3e] Sabah’s allocation in Malaysia’s national budget must be reflective of our economic contribution to the national development, reflective of a partner in MA63.

[3f] Sabah political leaders should transform themselves into economic leaders, with indepth knowledge of Sabah’s economic problems and ability to produce solutions. Sabah does not need politicians who goes around shaking hands, who can’t help to put food on the table for us.

[3g] Sabah leaders should familiarize themselves with progress already made by Hajiji and support his initiatives or, if they can, produce better options to support his First Sabahans First Policy.

Why Reformation for Sabah?

Definition: “Reformation is the action or process of reforming an institution or practice.”

Transformation is all about changing mind-set in Sabah’s context. To produce results from transformation, we need reformation of key institutions as they are responsible for implementation of transformation.

[4a] Sabah’s administrative system is notorious for red tapes, delays and non-responsive. Hopefully, these will be solved soon. SKN DSP Safar Untong has initiated the reformation for the whole administration system with a comprehensive digitalization programme. When completed, Sabahans, for the first time ever, will enjoy services of Smart Government. Efficiency will be greatly enhanced. Service for the public will be on par with first world country.

[4b] Two reformation actions should be taken soonest. The first is to rationalize the non-performing or under-performing GLCs. Secondly, prepare the performing ones for IPO. If these can be done, the GLCs can be transformed into major economic development agents and funds mobilizers for Sabah.

Sabah must stay steady, keep the course.

The above are samples what need to be done in Sabah urgently. We are on the right track now. Support those leaders with the right mind-set. 

Keep faith. Be brave to call it a spade a spade. Admit our past short comings. For the sake of Sabah’s future generations, we must undertake deep self-reflection, be honest enough to go through difficult psychological transformations and be courageous to implement some very painful reformations. Then, only then can Sabah achieve the proper mind-set for long term economic growth.

The process of self-reflection, transformation and reformation can enhance the quality of political unity that Sabah must have to progress.

- 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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