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‘Resentments in Sabah reaching boiling point’

Queville To

The growing unrest among Sabah youths over rising unemployment and unjust policies is worrying former Sabah Chief Minister Yong Teck Lee.

KOTA KINABALU: As the state just marked the 48th anniversary of its independence through the formation of Malaysia, there is mounting fear that the youths in Sabah may lose patience and apply radical solutions to address fundamental problems that are troubling the state.

Former Sabah Chief Minister Yong Teck Lee believes that the government is ignoring at its peril the scores of issues facing the development of the state.

He sees the various political manoeuvering and manipulations by the Barisan Nasional (BN) to retain power without the endorsement of the people of Sabah over the years as a sticking point which will not be tolerated for long.

The tipping point, he believes is spiralling unemployment situation among the youths and increasing number of  land grabs by private companies which are causing friction and frustration in the state.

“Youth unemployment is very serious, grabbing of people’s land is also very seriousness… now  people are losing their traditional livelihood and culture… and when they come into the urban area, there are no jobs, they become squatters, they become hopeless.

“The government has to recognize the basic facts and the problems.

“What we see now in the mainstream media is that our political leaders, including the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister ignoring of what’s happening,” said Yong at an event late last week.

Unhappy youths

He said poor governance, implementation of unfair policies and exploitation of Sabah’s natural resources by the government had made it increasingly difficult for the people of Sabah to make a living in their own land.

 He cited cases of youths from Sabah having to leave their families and migrating to Peninsular Malaysia in search of jobs as most positions in the state civil service had been given to youths from the peninsula.

And this included jobs such as computer technicians in government schools.

Yong blamed this on the federal government’s failure to honour the Borneonisation of the civil service in the state, which was among the pre-conditions of the Malaysia Agreement.

“In the past we could accept the dispatch of senior officers for the various government departments and professionals in the various fields from the west (peninsula) which we were lacking.

“But today, 48 years after we achieved independence, we even have such junior staff like clerks and computer technicians for school being sent from Kuala Lumpur to Sabah.

“The state government claimed that they have trained 40,000 ICT technicians over the years, but on the other hand, computer technicians are still being dispatched from Peninsular Malaysia to Sabah,” he said.

Yong also pointed to the exploitation of Sabah’s natural resources, especially its oil and gas that had enriched those outside the state and left many in Sabah in a state of impoverishment.

Autonomy and efficient economy

He cited the recent case of a woman and her daughter from a remote village in Kota Marudu found scavenging for food to feed their family to illustrate the socio-economic disparity in the state.

“What we are asking for – autonomy, efficient economy and fairer policies for Sabah, actually is a solution to some of the problems that we are facing today.

“If you continue to deny a fairer solution for Sabah … that is in the oil and gas (sharing), youth unemployment, Borneonisation of the civil service and land reform etc, it can bring about a more serious and radical alternative.

“This is a social issue that will eventually translate into a political crisis. It has happened in many countries,” he warned.

He reiterated that one of the solutions was autonomy – delegation of powers to the state.

“We must go back to the Malaysia Agreement, go back to land reform whereby land will be given back to the people … proper human resource training and employment given to the youth here.

“That will bring about stabilization of the society. Otherwise you’ll get a radical solution.

“The people, the young generation especially, are now talking that if they don’t have autonomy, they will go all the way to Merdeka (to fight for true independence from the Federal government),” he said.

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