Kota Marudu Member of Parliament

Increasing number of Sabahans ‘want single-party governance’

MORE indigenous Sabahans want a local party to govern the state as many of its leaders hold high positions in politics, economics and education, said Universiti Malaysia Sarawak political scientist Dr Arnold Puyok.

He said there was a strong call among the Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) for the return of governance by a single local party, like how Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) had led the state at different periods without the influence of Barisan Nasional.

He said KDM did not want the state and its leaders to be influenced by their political counterparts from the peninsula when it came to dealing with the key issues of poverty, and education and job opportunities.

“Many feel they are being left out from the mainstream development in Sabah,” he told The Malaysian Insight.


“But. this is where KDM leaders should come in. There are many KDM ministers in the state and federal Cabinets, who are in a better position to provide opportunities that the KDM community can participate in.

“They should pave the way for more KDM to contribute to governance and the economy.”

Recently formed state opposition parties are using the old PBS slogan “Sabah for Sabahans” and the state rights issue to gain political traction.

They includes Parti Warisan Sabah, led by former Umno leader Mohd Shafie Apdal, which is calling for the return of single-party rule like in the days of PBS, which governed the state from 1985 to 1994.

PBS joined BN after winning the May 1986 state election following months of riots in a few locations.

But on the eve of the July 1990 state polls, PBS pulled out of the coalition and won the state election for the third time. It also won the 1994 state election by a narrow margin.

However, numerous defections occurred, with PBS representatives switching allegiance to BN before the party was able to form a new state government.

In 2002, PBS rejoined BN, but since then, many in the KDM community have felt that the party, once led by Pairin Kitingan, and now, Maximus Ongkili, has become a "toothless tiger".

Puyok said there were many talented and educated members in the KDM community, such as former state secretary Simon Sipaun and state Bersih chairman Jannie Lasimbang, both human and native rights activists who are known to be apolitical.

Sabah also has Bernard Dompok, a BN leader who was once vocal in defending the rights of Christians in Malaysia.

But, Puyok said, the public perception was that some of these leaders were unable to keep up the fight, like Dompok, who toned down after losing his Penampang seat to then-PKR’s Darrel Leiking in the 2013 general election.

A former editor of a state paper, Fiona Siambun, said while BN no longer had a grip on KDM, a majority of the natives were divided when it came to supporting opposition parties.

“They are generally unhappy with the economy, and social and political situation in Sabah, where only a handful of individuals gain from projects and enjoy the spin-off perks,” she said, referring to the political patronage practised within the ruling coalition.

A widespread notion among KDM is that the distribution of main government projects is largely controlled by those from Sabah Umno, while smaller projects are distributed among other component parties, like Upko and PBS.

Sabah comprises 12% of the country’s more than 31 million population, second only to Selangor, with one third, or 600,000, of the state population being from KDM ethnic groups.

Statistics from the state Economic Planning Unit in 2004 showed that the highest poverty rates were recorded in districts where the main ethnic groups were KDM, such as Kudat (41%), Pitas (46%), Kota Marudu (37.1%), Ranau (38.2%), Tambunan (44.4%), Keningau (30.1%), Tenom (31.6%) and Nabawan (70.8%).

KDM also forms the largest group among the poor in urban and semi-urban areas, like Penampang (6.7%), Tuaran (20.5%) and Papar (14.7%) .

Siambun said although the issues facing the community were clear, KDM leaders just couldn't seem to work together.

And, although the erosion of Sabah’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 is a topic frequently raised by opposition politicians, it has not gained traction in the state's east coast districts, where the population is largely Bajau and Suluk.

Furthermore, said Siambun, the state was also experiencing a generation gap, where adults and youth in the KDM community have different priorities.

She said youth were more concerned about the economy, jobs and education, compared with their parents, for whom piracy and kidnapping by southern Philippine militants were issues of greater concern.

She said political parties must engage the younger generation to help them see how their future would be affected by such issues.

Puyok said KDM must stop blaming others for the community's problems, and equip themselves to compete and participate in the economy. – August 11, 2017.

Source : themalaysianinsight