Opinion

Sabah for Sabahans?

FEB 20 ― Before you send me to Kamunting, realise I am not advocating Sabah leaving Malaysia.

But I think it is high time Sabahans have a good, long think about the status quo.

As it is, things cannot stand.

Last I checked, Sabah is still the poorest state in Malaysia. Nabawan in Sabah is the poorest town in the country, with a 70-per-cent poverty rate.

On top of that, a small private army has landed in Lahad Datu intent on claiming Sabah as its own.

If we had a referendum, what with all the “free citizenships” Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration has so benevolently bestowed upon foreigners, would Sabahans actually have the numbers to keep the state in Malaysia?

Or would our new Sabahan brothers and sisters vote overwhelmingly to become part of the Philippines or even choose allegiance to the Sultan of Sulu?

A wanted Filipino fugitive is also now finding safe haven in the state, rumoured to have family connections on the Sabah government.

So much for Sabah “prospering” under Barisan Nasional rule.

Sabah politicians have called on the federal government to do something about the massive influx of foreigners into the state for a long time.

Only now has a Royal Commission of Inquiry been called, and it has confirmed what most of us already knew.

That we have been betrayed.

What right did the former prime minister have to give citizenships to foreigners as he liked?

What he did might have been technically “legal” but it was morally wrong and it was a betrayal of the state, a betrayal of the Sabah people and going against the heart of the 20-point agreement that said the state had jurisdiction over immigration matters. Not the prime minister.

And can Sabahans trust PKR to change things, when Sabah’s PKR is a toothless body helpless to even choose its own leaders? When all decisions are centralised and it has no say in choosing who should lead it into the state?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attempted to parachute another West Malaysian in to lead Sabah PKR like he did with Azmin Ali.

What next? Azmin Ali as Sabah chief minister? If that happens, I am surrendering my passport and moving to the Philippines.

It is time Sabahans said, “Enough”. It is obvious that Putrajaya and Pakatan Rakyat are deaf, dumb and blind to what Sabah really needs and what Sabah really is.

Sabah is not “just” another state. It was equal party to an agreement between Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. Each had special status, certain rights, and to this day the federal government has chosen to piss upon the spirit and the words of the agreement.

If Sabah is to become more than an impoverished state beholden to cruel masters, it has to start rejecting subjugation.

The first step is saying a big, firm “No” to West Malaysian-based parties like Umno and PKR who are more interested in pushing the Malay agenda than the Malaysian agenda.

(I might perhaps make an exception for Sabah DAP, which has a long history in Sabah, refreshingly free of the stupidity displayed by both Umno and PKR in the recent years.)

Some say Sabah is “selfish” for harping about its rights when it should think of “Malaysia” as a whole instead of its special privileges.

Basically, Sabah should just lie on its back and think of Malaysia? Brilliant.

That has not worked now, has it? The more Sabahans demur, the more our rights are stripped away. Most of the state’s revenue goes to the federal government while Sabah just has to make do with the leftovers.

This is the sad truth: Unless you have lived in the state, know its peoples and have a firm grasp of its issues, you are in no position to solve its problems.

So Sabahans should have no reason to vote for PKR or Umno when they have the (barely arguable) better choice of either the SAPP or STAR.

All our “questionable” guests? Deport them. We have an army. We have a navy. And the Philippines will have to take responsibility for all its people who have run our way. As should the Indonesians.

Revoke all of Dr Mahathir’s freely-given citizenships. I may sound cruel and heartless, but there is no other way. And truth is, we should have done that years ago.

To encourage better relations with our West Malaysian siblings, we should encourage them to come to the state but under “skilled migrant” rules.

We need doctors. We need teachers. Civil engineers. Encourage people who want to help build the state to come over, but under the restriction that if they want labour it has to be Sabah labour.

God knows Sabah needs the jobs.

And if you have lived and contributed enough, then why not give them “Sabah PR” status.

Let Sabah choose who it will embrace, and if we want to be choosy, we should have every right to be.

If not for the state’s poverty and poor infrastructure, it would be a heaven on earth. The sunsets are spectacular. The beaches are amazing. Even our cloud formations are nothing like you will ever see in the Peninsula.

The people are laidback. Less judgmental. Not as uptight.

I experienced far more racism and ostracism in one year living in Selangor than I have in all my years living in Sabah. So please, don’t patronise us Sabahans by talking about 1 Malaysia.

Sabahans are not asking for anything but what we deserve: to be treated with dignity and as equals. Not as indentured slaves, fit only to be trampled and used by Putrajaya.

By right, we should even be asking for Labuan back. Haris Salleh had no right to hand Labuan over, as Dr Mahathir had no right to give out citizenships to illegal immigrants.

There is no point now to look back. All Sabah can do is move forward. And it can only do that with the strength of its own people because there can be no help found in Umno or PKR.

Sabah deserves better than liars or traitors.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist

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