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BN ruling Sabah another 5 years is not main issue

By Joe Fernandez

(Part 1) Critics in Peninsular Malaysia miss the forest for the trees when they complain that "Barisan must be laughing at these fringe parties" in Sabah. Obviously, they are referring to the "inability" of the opposition parties to forge an electoral pact to take on the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) one-to-one come the 13th General Election.

The issue is not whether the BN, in the absence of opposition unity, continues to rule Sabah for a further five years.

That doesn't mean that the BN in Sabah will surely "fall" if the opposition can get their act together.

Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, being a typical Peninsular Malaysian Malay politician for one, obviously does not want to see the fall of the Muslim-initiated, formed and led state government in Sabah. He was instrumental in setting up this government and, and according to Sabah Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) insiders, expects cross-overs post-13th GE. Under this strategy, he's allegedly determined to prevent any possibility of the Dusuns and Dayaks -- at least the Christians and pagans in their overwhelming numbers -- ruling their own countries.

The Dayak Melanau but Muslim Taib Mahmud in Sarawak is Anwar's main political partner -- hitherto secret -- in Malaysian Borneo.

Hence, regime change is not the most important issue in Sabah as elsewhere in Malaysia.

All the more so since the system of party politics has failed the people of Sabah and Sarawak, the poorest states in Malaysia at the end of 2010, according to a World Bank report released in Kota Kinabalu.

What is pertinent is system change as advocated even by Pakatan Rakyat (PR), the national opposition alliance.

Anwar has spoken out so often eloquently enough on this vision but only in underlining the need to get away from the current race-based system to one, ostensibly, based on Equality as demanded so often, by among others, Hindraf Makkal Sakthi. Anwar no doubt has his eyes on the 67 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia where the Indians decide.

The BN is making some efforts to overcome the legacy of race, albeit late in the day, but not enough and even that not fast enough for many people and too little, too late.

However, the much heralded system change if any must not stop at Peninsular Malaysia and exclude Sabah and Sarawak.

There are no race issues in Sabah and Sarawak, at least nothing serious enough which warrants too much public concern and/or which cannot be resolved at the ballot box, unless brought by visiting politicians from Peninsular Malaysia.

Critics in any case, especially in Peninsular Malaysia, also appear oblivious to local history.

They also appear equally oblivious to the fact that the politics of Peninsular Malaysia, based on jealousy of the Chinese in business, racial polarisation and more recently the proverbial "falling out among thieves", are surely not what Sabah and Sarawak are all about.

Most Sabahans and Sarawakians unlike the Anwar Ibrahims don't care whether a cat is black or white -- shades of the late Deng Zhiao Peng -- as long as it can catch mice. Anything that runs contrary to this comes from Peninsular Malaysia which appears determined, under Umno, to re-cast Sabah and Sarawak in its political mould of race and religion.

These are no doubt among the reasons, but clearly not the only ones, for the State Reform Party (Star) in Sabah for example to declare recently that it will go for all 60 state seats at stake and 26 parliamentary seats including one in Labuan come the 13th GE.

Having said that, it must be noted that the 1963 Malaysia Agreement guarantees that Peninsular Malaysia would only have at the most one less than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament in order to effectively give veto powers to Sabah and Sarawak in the collective over Constitutional amendments. By the same token, by extrapolation and logical deduction, Malaysian Borneo could merit the same position as Peninsular Malaysia in the numbers game.

There was a fundamental breach in this position when Singapore left Malaysia in 1965.

Its 15 seats in the then Parliament, by right, should have all been either given to Sabah and Sarawak or the number of Peninsular Malaysia's seats reduced to maintain the balance vis a vis Sabah and Sarawak.

Instead, Sabah and Sarawak were pawned off with only eight of Singapore's seats while the rest were taken by Peninsular Malaysia with no justification whatsoever.

The rest is some additional history which needs to be taken into consideration in any debate, if not polemics.

The rot having set in, so to speak, it was thereafter downhill all the way for Sabah and Sarawak in the numbers game in Parliament.

Today, of the 222 seats in Parliament, Sabah and Sarawak only have 57 seats including one in Labuan. Surely, this doesn't reflect the balance of power envisaged by the Malaysia Agreement. In short, Peninsular Malaysia is unjustifiably holding 18 seats in Parliament which should in fact belong to Sabah/Sarawak.

To correct the situation, Sabah and Sarawak should be given a further 26 seats in Parliament to balance the 165 seats excluding Labuan held by Peninsular Malaysia. A recent Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) headed by Maximus Ongkili has raised this issue as a principle among its 22 proposals but makes no recommendation on actual numbers.

If Peninsular Malaysia's representation in a future Parliament are further raised above the current 165 seats, the balance of power envisaged in the Malaysia Agreement must be taken into consideration and not continue to be compromised.

It's difficult to predict the restoration of a balance of power in Parliament unless both sides of the political divide are in consensus on the issue. This is important considering that any increase in the number of seats in Parliament must be passed by a two-third majority.

BN ruling Sabah another 5 years is not main issue

by Joe Fernandez

ANALYSIS (Part 2) The present BN ruling coalition has less than two-thirds of the seats in the current Parliament. It's also highly unlikely that any future ruling party, coalition or alliance will achieve the magical two-third position in Parliament.

The Elections Commission, at best, can therefore only re-draw and keep re-drawing the present electoral boundaries for any number of reasons but cannot propose an increase in the number of parliamentary seats unless there is, as stated before, consensus on the issue.

Meanwhile, the parti parti Malaya are already operating in Sabah and Sarawak, positioned to take further advantage of any increase in the number of seats in Parliament. Again, the PSC's recommendations refer.

The parti parti Malaya are doing this after adding insult to injury by already taking a big chunk of the current 57 seats which Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan have in Parliament.

All this means that the parti parti Malaya are further weakening the position of Sabah and Sarawak in Parliament and at the same time strengthening their position at the expense of the people in the two Malaysian Borneo states.

Enter Star with its 60/26 policy on contesting all seats at stake in Sabah come the 13th GE.

However, the party appears more than willing to accommodate other local parties in the opposition provided they are not in cahoots, for want of a better term, with the so-called parti parti Malaya in Sabah and Sarawak.

Members of these parties are routinely castigated as "traitors" who are ever willing to be proxies and stooges of politicians on the other side of the South China Sea "for the continued enslavement of the people in Malaysian Borneo under Putrajaya's internal colonization policies" in return for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver.

The publicly expressed willingness on the part of Star is notwithstanding the fact that the young Turks in the party are, in principle, against any form of seat-sharing which mirrors the BN Formula.

The BN Formula, the young Turks argue, circumscribes the democratic process by endorsing elite power-sharing and denying the grassroots meaningful participation in the electoral process.

Accordingly, the young Turks also have quarrels with the BN Concept -- pre-polls power-sharing pact -- but remain silent on the BN Spirit i.e. arriving at decisions in government, the Cabinet and the legislature by consensus-and-compromise.

Much has been made of the fact that the members and leaders of the parti parti Malaya in Sabah and Sarawak are locals, not Peninsular Malaysians, and hence the thinking that the said parties should be considered "local parties". It is difficult to accept such perverted logic, according to local parties, unless such parties reportedly incorporate locally, change their names, and have full autonomy from the parent parties in Peninsular Malaysia.

Only genuinely local parties, argue parties like Star, can fight for the rights of Sabah and Sarawak as equals -- a legal concept -- of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) in the Federation of Malaysia as per the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.

Sabah and Sarawak don't want to be planets revolving around a sun but aspire to be a sun around which other planets revolve.

Sabah and Sarawak being the equals of Malaya can best be seen in the fact that Malaysia has two High Court systems i.e. the High Court of Malaya and the High Court of Borneo with separate jurisdictions. A case in the High Court of Borneo cannot be transferred to the High Court of Malaya and vice versa. Action can be commenced in either Court against anyone no matter where resident.

Both Sabah and Sarawak are the only states to have their own Attorney Generals while Malaysia has one in Putrajaya.

Both Sabah and Sarawak are the only states to have the Ministerial form and system of government, the only other Ministerial form and system being the Federal one in Putrajaya.

The 20 Points related to the Malaysia Agreement clearly states that the head of government in Sabah would be Prime Minister and the Yang di Pertua Negara, the head of state in a secular state constitution. However, these three provisions as many others in the 20 Points are being observed more often than not in the breach.

They retain immigration powers which, in recent years, have been re-defined by administration to mean only the right to deny work permits to Peninsular Malaysians wishing to work in Sabah or Sarawak. Otherwise, both Sabah and Sarawak could impose a blanket ban -- instead of on a case by case basis as at present -- on politicians from both sides of the divide entering the two states "for the purpose of stealing seats".

Hence, the oft made argument in Sabah and Sarawak that only local parties can fight for, secure and ensure the rights of the people in the two states.

The suspicion is that the only reason that the parti parti Malaya are in Sabah and Sarawak is to come to power in Putrajaya.

Seizing control of the Federal Government will remain an elusive dream without the parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak. This reflects the reality that politics in Malaysia has irreversibly metamorphosised into a two-party system in Parliament.

The political tsunami of 2008 must be seen as "an Act of God", truly ushering in "a historical window of opportunity for Sabah and Sarawak". This fact has been acknowledged by both sides of the political divide in the two states but there has been little, by way of dividends, for BN parties in Sabah and Sarawak. What has been noted is Umno continuing to humour BN parties in Peninsular Malaysia in government, the Cabinet and elsewhere at their expense.

It remains to be seen whether this translates into substantial anti-BN votes come the 13th GE.

Patently, it cannot continue to be business as usual in Sabah and Sarawak.

Many in Malaysian Borneo believe that a 3rd Force in the Malaysian Parliament, to steer evenly between the Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Rakyat, is a idea whose time has come.

Initially, such a 3rd Force would largely be a part of both the BN and to a lesser extent PR, and at the same time allow the nucleus of such a force to be outside the two Peninsular Malaysia-based national coalitions/alliances.

The nucleus of the 3rd Force is expected, in time, to build a Borneo-based national alliance/coalition to emerge in Parliament for a three-party system.

The Jury in Sabah and Sarawak has decided on the issue.

They have long retired and deliberated on the pros and cons of a two party system vs a three-party system.

They are in favour of a three-party system.

The rationale behind the decision in favour of a three-party is that under a two-party system, Sabah and Sarawak would be merely going from the frying pan (BN) into the fire (PR), -- keluar dari mulut harimau, masuk mulut buaya -- or at best, from the fire (BN) into the frying pan (PR).

There are those in Sabah and Sarawak, as in Peninsular Malaysia, who beg to disagree with the need for a 3rd Force in Parliament.

Demokrasi Sabah (Desah), a newly set-up NGO headed by former Sabah state secretary Simon Sipaun, wants to ensure one-to-one contests to ensure the further strengthening and entrenchment of the two-party system in Malaysia. Desah wants to put the idea to a test through a series of public debates in Sabah but confined to the opposition parties.

Local opposition parties in Sabah, as in Sarawak, are all for one-to-one contests but draw the line at a two-party system.

Also, they are eager to debate the parti parti Malaya on both sides of the political divide in the state and in neighbouring Sarawak.

1 comment:

  1. The writer is MAD for thinking removing Umno-BN is not the main issue.


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