My fellow Malaysians in the Land Below the Wind, A Happy New Year and Kong Hee Fa Cai.
This Chinese New Year will usher in the Water Dragon. The Dragon is a creature of myth and legend.In ancient China, the dragon represents the emperor and power. Today, it is the ultimate auspicious symbol signifying success and happiness. According to a Feng Shui master, the year of the dragon is traditionally associated with new beginnings and good fortune.
This year is the year of the Water Dragon. Water symbolizes the ocean. This is an element of power,force and strong energy. The Water Dragon could be the destructive force of nature such as tsunami or earthquake. It could also be the driving force for social, political and economic changes. The water dragon is also a symbol of intelligence, courage, generosity and charity. It is predicted for countries that will hold their presidential or general elections that there will be changes. This is a sign of the bold progress and reforms that the powerful water dragon will bring this lunar year. The Dragon favours the bold. So this year he who is bold and he who dares will win. This is the year for the bold to step forward and bring change.
Putrajaya is UMNO not Malaysians
Firstly, decisions made by the Federal Government more popularly referred to as “decisions of Kuala Lumpur” and now “Putrajaya” have been taken by the people of Sabah as being synonymous as that of people of Peninsula Malaysia. I want to say that this is not correct. The decisions of the Federal Government are not synonymous with the people of Peninsula Malaysia. They are in truth and in fact
decisions of UMNO.
The Federal Government’s interest in pursuing the NEP and the promotion of elitist’s interest is not the aspirations of the people of Peninsula, at least not since March 8, 2008. In the 12 th General Elections the majority of the people of Peninsula Malaysia rejected racial politics. They rejected the NEP. In the 12th General Elections, 52% of the people in the Peninsula voted for the multi-racial politics of Pakatan Rakyat. They voted for PR’s New Economic Agenda, they rejected the NEP. They wanted affirmative action based on needs not race.
The people in the Peninsular rejected UMNO and BN. Unfortunately and ironically, it was the people of Sabah and Sarawak that kept UMNO and BN in Putrajaya. The brave people of Sabah who changed their state government three times, who we in West Malaysia would be the ones who will lead the change voted for BN. What happen to the people in Sabah?
Looking Back at Sabah’s History
To answer the question, to see what will be Sabah’s future, I look back at Sabah’s past. Sabah’s history is marked by the people’s courage to vote for change. It is the only state that changed its state government three times. We, in Peninsula Malaysia have always admired the courage of the Sabah people in throwing out despots and corrupt governments. However, it is sad to note that despite the people’s valiant efforts, Sabah had fallen from being the second richest state after Selangor in the 1970’s to become the second poorest. With each change the forces that the Sabah people rejected rebounded and took a stronger hold on the government. I note three features that have constantly
1) That the Sabah people is strong when they unite under a multi-racial party;
2) That the Sabah people is weak when the multi-racial party is broken up and political parties base on race take over;
3) That the Sabah people’s aspirations are thwarted by the Federal Government who used the Federal government’s power and machinery to remove state Government whose policies are not in accord with UMNO’s.
The Early Years
I wish to refer to some historical facts to illustrate my point on the Sabah people’s need for unity and how critical it is for Sabahans to reject racial politics.
Prior to the formation of these racial based political parties, Sabah had always been racially, culturally and religiously diverse. However, the people of Sabah had never seen themselves as racially or religiously divided. In Sabah many families have relatives who are Chinese, KDM, Malay, Muslims and
Christians. Ethnicity was not a feature of Sabah politics. However, this changed in the early 1960’s. Prior to the formation of the Federation of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur promoted the formation of an inter- ethnic alliance in Sabah. The Sabah Alliance was formed just before the first elections in April 1963. The
Sabah Alliance consisted of UNKO, USNO and the Chinese parties later to become the Sabah Chinese Association (“SCA”) and later UPMO and SIC.
The first political party in Sabah was the United National Kadazan Organisation (“UNKO”) established in 1961 by Donald Stephens. Its majority support came from no-Muslim Kadazan communities.
The second political party was United Sabah National Organisation (“USNO”), the indigenous Muslim party formed by Datu Mustapha Datu Harun in December 1961. Although USNO was opened to all races in Sabah, a disproportionate number of the members who held senior positions in the party were Suluks as Tun Mustapha himself was of Suluk descent.
The third and fourth parties to be established were two separate Chinese parties namely Democratic Party and United Party. DP was formed in Kota Kinabalu in November 1961 by Peter Chin and UP in Sandakan by Khoo Siak Chew. In 1965, DP and UP they merged to form the Sabah Chinese Association to conform to the Peninsula model of the MCA.
The indigenous peoples in the interior formed their own political party in January 1962, known as United Pasok Momogun Organisation (“UPMO”) led by G.S. Sundang, the traditional Murut chief. UPMO was a breakaway party from UNKO who opposed the Malaysia proposal. UPMO leaders believed that the Malaysian proposal was not in Sabah’s best interests and argued that Sabah should achieve
progress and independence on its own first before entertaining any proposal to form a federation with its neighbours. In June 1964, UPMO merged with UPKO to form the United Pasokmomogun Kadazan Organisation (“UPKO”).
To complete the lineup of Sabah political parties is the Sabah Indian Congress formed in November 1962 to represent the Indians that formed 1% of the Sabah population.
The Sabah Alliance modeled on the Peninsular Alliance of UMNO, MCA and MIC won the elections with Tun Mustapha appointed as the Governnor or Yang DiPertua Negeri and Donald Stephens as the first Chief Minister.
Relationship between the state and Kuala Lumpur began to strain when UPKO raised the issue of state rights known as the “Twenty Points” safeguards which were integral to the new federation. Donald Stevens required a strict interpretation of the Twenty Points safeguards for state autonomy. The Federal and state disagreed on Issues such as the Borneonization of the civil service, the use of the English language, the school and education policies. Thus Sabah leaders started to view Malaysia as a distinct and separate country and the Peninsula as the new colonizers of Sabah.
In contrast, Tun Mustapha’s policies were more in line with those of Kuala Lumpur. Tun Mustapha insisted that his post was not just ceremonial and required that the Yang DiPertua be consulted by the Chief Minister.
In the ensuing conflict over the powers of the Yang DiPertua and the Chief Minister, Kuala Lumpur backed Tun Mustapha. Stephens relinquished his post as Chief Minister. Tun Mustapha lured UPKO’s members to defect to USNO. In May 1967, UPKO left the Sabah Alliance and sat on the side of the opposition.
Federal support for Tun Mustapha won the day and this support continued even when Tun Mustapha turned to become autocratic and his excesses became not only well known but even an embarrassment to Kuala Lumpur. Tun Mustapha detained political opponents without trial in Kapayan, Yayasan Sabah which was formed to pursued education and social objectives was transformed into a key mechanism for political patronage. The Yayasan Sabah was used to allocate timber resources to Tun Mustapha’s political supporters.
This is an early example of UMNO providing support to local Sabah political parties and personalities that supported its racial policies and to undermine those that were not in supported of them.
The Rise and Fall of Berjaya
When the people of Sabah could not endure the abuses, they formed Berjaya on 15 July 1975. Berjaya was the first truly multi-racial political party led by Fuad Stephens. In the 1976 general elections, Berjaya ended the 13 year rule of the Sabah Alliance and the 8 year personal rule of Tun Mustapha.
The new Berjaya government was sworn in on 20th January 1976 with Fuad Stevens as Chief Minister and Harris Salleh as Deputy Chief Minister. However, before the new cabinet could settle down in office, almost the entire cabinet was wiped out in the plane crash in June 1976. Harris Salleh was saved because Fuad Stephens asked him to stay behind in Labuan to take a later flight with the Finance
Minister Tengku Razaleigh. Tengku Razaleigh was there to hammer out the important agreement for Sabah to hand over the oil resources to Federal control. Fuad Stevens and his cabinet were fighting hard to protect the Sabah people’s right to use its own resources.
Harris Salleh signed the petroleum agreement soon after he was appointed the new chief minister. With a stroke of the pen the Sabah people loss its rights to the resource in exchange for a 5% royalty. Harris thus enjoyed support from the Federal Government. During his tenure Harris Salleh brought in migrant
workers from Indonesia and Philippines. Power entered into Harris Salleh’s head. The policies of Berjaya started to reflect those of UMNO. Labuan was given to the Federal Government to be turned into a Federal Territory. The 20 Points safeguards in the Malaysia Agreement and the state autonomy were put
in the backburner.
The Last Hurrah under PBS
Sabahans increasing frustration with Harris led to a replay of USNO’s ouster. Just before the 1985 general elections, PBS was formed. PBS was formed by Joseph Pairin Kitingan as a multi-racial party determined to fight for the rights of Sabahans that Berjaya had deviated from. PBS snatched a dramatic victory to wrest control of the state government from Berjaya and BN. PBS governed Sabah in 4 general elections from 1985 to 1994.
However, PBS could not maintain state development without the Federal government’s support. After 1986 riots PBS joined BN. PBS entered BN as a component party at the Federal level but remained as the opposition in the state. In 1990 PBS pulled out of BN. PBS retained Sabah in the 1990 general elections
and also won narrowly in 1994. Before it could form the state government, PBS was undermined by a series of defections and certain developments by its political rivals engineered by UMNO.
In order to counter PBS, USNO and UPKO dissolved to form UMNO Sabah. Some of the Chinese members of Berjaya restarted the SCA and it became the Sabah chapter of the Peninsula MCA. Other Chinese members formed the Liberal Democratic Party led by Datuk Hiew Ming Kong of Tawau and Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat of Kudat.
In 1990, Mark Koding and Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia (now Speaker Dewan Rakyat) quit PBS and formed AKAR which promptly joined BN.
In 1994, Datuk Yong Teck Lee, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok and Tan Sri Joseph Kurup formed the Sabah Progressive Party (“SAPP”), New UPKO and Sabah People’s United Party (“PBRS”) respectively. Datuk Jeffery Kitingan also left to join PBRS, later PKR and now STAR.
As a result of the defections, PBS lost control of the state. An UMNO led BN formed the state government. It was not a Sabah government of the Sabah people by the Sabah People for the Sabah people. It was a government snatched from the Sabah people through defections, lured by promises of power and positions.
In 2002, PBS rejoined BN. Thus ended any form of opposition in Sabah. UMNO through BN ruled Sabah to this day. The Sabah people’s struggle for their promised rights of state autonomy, for a multi-racial government and a fair share of its riches and resources ended. In 2002, the vision of a multi-racial autonomous state was stolen. Although it has been crushed the dream will not die and lives on in the hearts of all true Sabahans.
The Moment in Time Has Come
In a Federal system, theoretically, each level of Government remains sovereign in its own domain. Under the UMNO model, Malaysian federalism the autonomy of the states has shrunk substantially. UMNO using the Federal government apparatus was able to establish legal supremacy and political authority that permitted UMNO to encroach onto the sovereignty of the states without serious hindrance.
In the case of Sabah, UMNO dealt firmly with state leaders who sought to protect state autonomy. UMNO supported only those state leaders who supported UMNO’s own policies and interests. Sabah with its diverse races and cultures does not have any one race that is significantly larger than others. There has never been one group religious or racial that dominated the others. The tension that comes
from ethnicity was unknown before 1963. It came with the promotion of ethnic based racial political parties by the model used by then Alliance and now BN.
The lessons learned from Sabah’s history are clear and is there for all to see. The Sabah people’s future and fortune is not with ethnicity, it is not with racial politics, it is not with political patronage. In the name of Malay first Sabah has been raped and looted. Its resources and the riches have been plundered
by those who looked after their own personal interest, first, second and last. Sabah’s future lies with Sabahans renewing their struggle for recognition of the 20 Points. It lies is with Pakatan Rakyat. It lies with a truly multi-racial coalition. Pakatan Rakyat respects the state government’s sovereignty. This is
clearly set out in the Buku Jingga on the state and Federal relations. It is one of the first things to be done as part of the 100 day Programme. On January 14, Pakatan Rakyat at its convention has unveiled a fund and blue print to give effect to the 20 Point Agreement and to increase the oil royalty to 20%.
The moment has come for the people of Sabah and its leaders to rise up once again. Every ten to twelve years like the Chinese zodiac, Sabah enters a new phase of its political development. In the 12 year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, the Dragon shall rise again and enter in 2012. The Sabah people must like the
Dragon that comes once every 12 years seize the moment and rise up for change, for freedom and to recover your rights.
History has taught us that wresting control of State governments is not enough. Penang, Kelantan, Sabah and the power grab in Perak proves that state rights are not respected by UMNO. That it does not accept the democratic choice of the people to choose its state government. UMNO undermines the wishes of the people in the state. Putrajaya only respected the state if UMNO is removed from Putrajaya. Sabahans must not focus only on who forms the state government, they must also look at who forms the Federal Government. The BN model of Federalism has given too much power to the center. To regain your rights under the Malaysia Agreement, UMNO must be swept out of Kinabalu but also Putrajaya. The Dragon favours the bold. It is my sincerest wish and my dearest hope that the Sabah
leaders heed the cry of your people. I am sure when you give utmost priority to the people’s interest above all others, all disagreement can be overcome. Disputes over seats, control and position must give way to the needs of the people. The people will appreciate your personal sacrifices and reward you with
a momentous decision in the coming 13th General Elections. March bravely forward, your courage will overcome all obstacles and the luck of the Dragon will set you free.
I wish you Selamat Tahu Baru, a Very Happy New Year, Kong Xi Fa Cai,
William Leong Jee Keen
22 January 2012