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There are not really that many issues to resolve — immigration, crime, oil royalty, autonomy, federalisation, and the 18-/20-Point Agreements. On the side, of course, are the Bible and Allah issues, which is not a Sabah/Sarawak problem but being exploited by the opposition as if they are.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
The last Umno General Assembly can be said to have sent out mixed signals. Instead of replying to the many questions that people may have about what to expect in the run-up to the next general election expected in 2-3 years from now, it raised more questions than it answered. If people had followed the Umno general assembly with the hope of becoming enlightened, then they were disappointed because, instead, the reverse happened: they became more confused.
While the Umno General Assembly can be considered an internal party affair and only the business of Umno and of no one else outside Umno, in reality, the nation considers it more than just an Umno matter but a matter that affects the entire nation. And that is because Umno is the lead or dominant partner in the ruling coalition who decides not only what Umno does but also what Barisan Nasional does at well.
Hence what is decided at the Umno General Assembly will affect all Malaysians and also what is said and done at the assembly will be monitored by the entire nation. The Umno delegates do not speak just for their own party but for the whole country and the policies that are decided will invariably become the country’s policies.
And that is why the entire nation is listening to what is said and is watching what is done at the Umno General Assemblies every year.
Umno, therefore, has to decide what message it wants to send out because this message is not just for its own party members but also for all Malaysians. Unfortunately, the message Umno is sending out is confusing and tantamount to mixed signals. Umno is zigzagging and is trying to please the Malays as well as the non-Malays both at the same time. So, in one breath Umno says one thing and in the next it says the opposite.
Umno has to decide whether it wants to just play to the Malay gallery (and ignore the non-Malay gallery) or play to the non-Malay gallery as well. Umno cannot do both and be all things to all people (like Anwar Ibrahim is fond of doing when he says one thing to the Muslims and the opposite to the Jews).
If Umno wants to be a hardcore Malay nationalist party and just focus on the support of the Malays, then Umno must be prepared to lose the non-Malay support. It cannot be both ways.
However, if this is the route that Umno chooses (to focus just on the Malays), Umno must remember that this may suit the Malay voters in West Malaysia but that does not mean it also suits the Bumiputera voters of East Malaysia. Hence by strengthening itself with the Malays in West Malaysia, Umno may have to lose the support of the East Malaysian Bumiputeras.
This may not be the best strategy to adopt considering that Barisan Nasional, and that means Umno as well, rules with the support of many of the 57 seats from East Malaysia, Labuan included. Without the 57 East Malaysian seats, Umno will not be able to win enough seats to form the federal government, made worse by the fact that Barisan Nasional in West Malaysia is practically just Umno alone and there is not much contribution from MCA, MIC, Gerakan and PPP.
Hence Umno needs to strike a balance between the aspirations of the Malays in West Malaysia as well as the aspirations of the people of Sabah and Sarawak. And the rhetoric at the Umno assembly (plus the various government policies) must reflect this aspiration, which, unfortunately, it does not.
The government is always at a disadvantage. And this is the same the world over, the UK included. The opposition is able to criticise the government and promise the voters all sorts of things when it knows it will not win the election and, therefore, does not need to deliver these promises. However, once it comes to power, such as in some states in Malaysia, it is really not that easy to make good these promises after all. Selangor is one example.
But then the voters believe that once the government is changed these promises will be met (although there is no evidence of this and promises do not make them evidence). Voters all over the world are not really very clever. And that is why I always say that a parliamentary democracy is one of the worst systems of government because we are putting the power to choose the government in the hands of voters who are incapable of thinking.
Another thing we need to understand is that voters all over the world, never mind which country we are talking about, are basically very selfish people (only a handful are idealistic). They vote based on the concept of ‘what do I gain from voting for so-and-so’?
We can ask the question: why do the Chinese vote opposition? What do they gain? What they gain is simply the end of the Malay hegemony. Hence by voting opposition they can get rid of Malay political power and hence also end what they view as discrimination by the Malay government against the non-Malays. Therefore there is a personal gain in voting opposition.
Now let us talk about Sabah and Sarawak. What do the voters from Sabah and Sarawak gain by voting opposition? Barisan Nasional needs Sabah and Sarawak to stay in power. Without Sabah and Sarawak, Barisan Nasional is out of office. So that is what they gain, the end of Barisan Nasional rule.
Okay, so let us say they vote opposition and Barisan Nasional is kicked out because they lost the seats in Sabah and Sarawak. What gain is that to Sabah and Sarawak?
The gain to Sabah and Sarawak is that all their problems will be solved once Barisan Nasional is kicked out. Pakatan Rakyat has promised to give Sabah and Sarawak what they want and once Pakatan Rakyat is in power all these promises will be delivered. That, of course, is yet to be proven but elections are, after all, about promises.
First would be the 20-Point and 18-Point Agreements. The people in Sabah and Sarawak feel that these Agreements are being violated and once Pakatan Rakyat is in power these Agreements would be honoured and respected in full.
Next is the Oil Royalty. Currently it is only 5% and Sabah and Sarawak want it increased to 20%, which Pakatan Rakyat has promised they will get once the government changes.
The illegal immigrants and security problem in East Malaysia is another point of unhappiness which Pakatan Rakyat has promised to solve — and which the federal or Barisan Nasional government is perceived as not able to or not wanting to solve.
Autonomy is another issue. Too many of the key positions in Sabah and Sarawak are being held by federal officers or people from Semenanjung. They want locals to hold all these positions like in, say, Terengganu and Kelantan. In fact, the mentality of the people in Sabah and Sarawak is just like those from Terengganu and Kelantan. Hence if you comprehend how the people in Terengganu and Kelantan think then you will understand how those in Sabah and Sarawak think as well.
For example, a person from Besut cannot stand for elections in Kemaman (and vice versa) although both Besut and Kemaman are in the same state, Terengganu. The semangat kedaerahan is very strong. Imagine if a person from, say, Johor, was to be given a senior position in Terengganu.
And that was why when Dato’ Aziz Ibrahim from Kedah was appointed the SEDC Terengganu GM there was so much protest from Pemuda Umno Terengganu. They resented a Kedah man holding the post. And that is only one post, mind you. Imagine if many posts in Terengganu were held by outsiders.
Another very important point is that Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia. Together with Singapore and Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia. Hence Sabah and Sarawak are at par with Malaya (or West Malaysia) and Singapore (which has since left to become an independent island state).
Currently, Sabah and Sarawak are being treated as just two of the many states in Malaysia, at par with Perlis, Kelantan, Penang, Melaka, etc. Hence Sabah and Sarawak have been ‘downgraded’. In fact, most view Sabah and Sarawak as at par with Melaka and Penang, which also have Governors and Chief Ministers.
This is another bone of contention of Sabah and Sarawak and yet they do not have CPOs but Police Commissioners (who I am told flies a flag on their car). They also have their own immigration policy and can bar West Malaysians from entering Sabah and Sarawak, which Penang and Melaka cannot do.
This shows that Sabah and Sarawak are different and are of a higher status than the other states in West Malaysia. Hence Sabah and Sarawak have valid grounds to be upset about being treated as just another of the 13 states in Malaysia. And that is why they also get upset about having to celebrate Merdeka Day on 31st August every year. Sabah and Sarawak did not get Merdeka on 31st August 1957. They formed Malaysia on 16th September 1963.
This is a matter that needs to be addressed.
On the matter of the Oil Royalty, Sabah and Sarawak may be getting just 5% and not the 20% that they are asking for. However, the development aid that they get comes to more than 20% of the equivalent of the Oil Royalty. The people of Sabah and Sarawak do not see this because the federal government has not been able to highlight this fact.
What the federal government can do is to agree to the 20% but make Sabah and Sarawak pay for their own development (or at least some of it) from this 20% (just like in the case of Terengganu). At the end of the day it comes to the same thing. But then it will be seen like Sabah and Sarawak have got the 20% they are asking for while, in reality, after they pay for their own development (like Terengganu), it comes to the same thing.
The problem with this, though, is that the state, and not the federal government, decides on how the money is spent and what type of development is done in Sabah and Sarawak. The federal government loses some control over how the money is spent but then the people of Sabah and Sarawak are happy that the money is under their control and they decide what happens to the money.
We must remember that oil and gas have been around East Malaysia for more than 100 years, long before Merdeka in 1957 or the creation of Malaysia in 1963. Terengganu, however, got oil only in 1977, 20 years after Merdeka. Hence Sabah and Sarawak feel that the oil and gas belongs to them, unlike Terengganu where they feel that the oil and gas belongs to Malaysia.
UK has just announced that immigrants who are not employed are going to be kicked out of the country and those coming to the UK must first prove that they have jobs waiting for them before being allowed in. The reason for this is immigration is now a serious election issue and if the government does not resolve the immigration issue it is going to be kicked out very soon.
So UK, which is a very liberal country, is now facing problems regarding immigrants. Hence this is not just a problem for Malaysia or for Sabah and Sarawak. With the immigration problem comes the crime problem, the same for Sabah and Sarawak as well. It is understandable why the people in Sabah and Sarawak are unhappy when even in the UK it is the same thing.
There are not really that many issues to resolve — immigration, crime, oil royalty, autonomy, federalisation, and the 18-/20-Point Agreements. On the side, of course, are the Bible and Allah issues, which is not a Sabah/Sarawak problem but being exploited by the opposition as if they are.
But it needs a political will to address all these issues. And this is what appears to be missing — the political will to resolve these issues. Added to this is the problem of warlords, especially in Sabah, who are plotting the downfall of the Chief Minister and hence are duri dalam daging, which does not help as well.

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