Opinion

Sabah’s ‘development or else’

Erna Mahyuni

Native Sabahan Erna is (not) Malay but loves Malay literature. Her hobbies: cats/gaming/blogging at ernamerin.com/Tweeting at @ernamh.

NOV 7 — A long time ago, Sabah was like the miserable child in a messy custody battle. Custody battles are hard. It’s not easy for a judge to rule on what truly is best for a child. Who could provide a better environment? The rich parent or the one who makes up for it in affection what he or she lacks in money?

Sabah got to choose... and chose the poorer parent, who wasn’t getting paid child support from the other, richer parent: Umno. Umno was still mad about the PBS walking out and like all vengeful “spouses” chose to try and beggar PBS and, by proxy, Sabah.

But in the end, choice didn’t matter. Because Sabahans’ right to choose who they wanted to lead them was taken away from them by the Great Frog Exodus.

It’s funny that Sabah’s chief minister, Datuk Seri Musa Aman, can so blithely state that Sabah has grown as a “progressive, prosperous, peaceful and stable state” under Barisan Nasional.

That’s like saying after starving and torturing a child for leaving your care and then bribing someone to place the child in your hands, you expect the child to be grateful for receiving what it was due, after you denied it child support for eight years?

Look at the recent power outages at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport. That stems from years of the Umno administration beggaring Sabah after PBS left the fold. I grew up getting used to the power cutting out all the time, with no warning and no knowledge when it would return. And that still hasn’t changed ― frequent power outages still happen because now, like then, there isn’t enough power to meet the state’s needs.

Even a half-hour outage here gets people cursing at TNB while in Sabah, we had to live with far worse.

So much money is still being poured into ridiculous mega projects and failed cattle farm endeavours while Sabah’s infrastructure is still 20 years behind Selangor and Penang. The state isn’t enjoying the money from our own natural resources; it’s being used to bankroll the rest of the country which, isn’t very fair now is it?

Rather than give the cattle project to the NFC, they could have asked people who knew what they were doing. They could have asked Sabahans. Sabah is the biggest producer of beef in the country, but beef is also more expensive in the state than anywhere else.  We even have our own homegrown dairy chain, Desa Cattle, capable of producing 900,000 litres of milk per year. But is milk cheaper in the state than elsewhere? Nope.

We have ample land and potential for agriculture and animal husbandry. But what are the future plans for Sabah? To build more palm oil plantations. How progressive! How innovative!

What utter rubbish.

What else is rubbish? All the people telling us that all we need to do is vote BN out. We tried that, remember? All it takes is an incentive here, and an incentive there, and look, it’s frogs jumping all over the place when it’s not even raining season. Oh, wait. Election season is rainy season. It rains money and promises, instead. And don’t forget the sewing machines.

I can’t help being pessimistic. Sure, I’d like to believe that someday Sabah and Sarawak wouldn’t get such a raw deal. That we’d be appreciated for being more than a “vote bank” or “ignorant savages who will give us all their oil and gas for another national holiday.”

But I’m beginning to think that Sabah isn’t going to change until the state’s been milked dry. When there’s nothing left to take. Fleas and parasites don’t stay on dead bodies now, do they?

Maybe that’s what it will take. Losing everything. So there will be nothing to lose when Sabahans finally grow back the spines they lost after PBS politicians turned traitors.

It’s not that I don’t love my state. I do. I just know that Sabahans are very good at suffering and weathering hardship. We’re almost too good. Because at this rate, it will take an ocean of suffering before we finally decide that we must turn the tide or drown.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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