Playing politics with Sabah
COMMENT: Sabah has been in the federation of Malaysia for 50 years and should have prospered given its wealth of natural resources. But for five decades, the Land Below the Wind is not enjoying the fruits of the union. It is still stuck in a time groove, with little or no development coming its way.
Life in Sabah is still a struggle for the vast majority of the people. They are ruled from Putrajaya, whose callous leaders are only interested in milking the state. In the eyes of the political masters, Sabah is just a “fixed deposit” – to be used for its votes. They need Sabah only to stay in power.
So what does Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin (pix, top) mean when he told Sabah Umno Youth members recently that they must understand the struggles of the Sabah people first before contesting in the Umno polls? Khairy made this plea not out of a genuine concern for the plight of the people there, but with an eye on the coming Umno elections.
Khairy’s message was mere politics. He was in effect telling his Youth members in Sabah that if they want to contest in the party polls, they must first take good care of the people. Understand their hardship, sympathise with their struggles, meet their needs and then give them your best service. If they can do this, their fellow members in Sabah Umno Youth would support them when they make a bid for a post in Umno. Khairy was just fishing for votes.
But that was what Umno has been doing for years on end – lobbying for votes in Sabah whenever it was time for the country to go to the polls. In the 13th general election, Umno leaders kept going to Sabah to woo – and buy – votes and the state did deliver the crucial votes for Umno to cling on to power.
“But have they [Umno leaders] shown any genuine sincerity [to help the people] for the past 50 years?” asked a Sabah Progressive Party leader before the bell rang for the May 5 polls. The grim answer is an emphatic No. Sabah is still in the grip of economic backwardness that has spawned widespread poverty.
Khairy, a rising star in the Barisan Nasional government, would do well to get rid of his sanctimonious sermon and really understand the problems plaguing Sabah. He cannot play politics with the people of Sabah just like what his boss, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has been doing for so many years. Khairy is seen as a progressive who can make a difference in the stultifying atmosphere of Umno politics. Or will he turn out to be another political henchman who only panders to the wishes of his boss?
In the meantime, Sabah, now the poorest state in the country, can only look forward to more years of backwardness. Not even the coming Malaysia Day celebration on Sept 16 – when Sabah took the (mistaken?) step to join the federation – can lift the spirit of deep despondency. Not even Khairy can do much to whip up support from the disillusioned people.