(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): The choice
of a Sabah MP from the Barisan Nasional (Sipitang) to move the motion of
thanks for the Royal Address is clearly meant to celebrate the Barisan
Nasionalís unexpectedly large margin of victory in the recently-held
Sabah state election.
However, I do not think the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was sufficiently boosted by its results as to seriously consider calling immediate general elections. After all, it was not a free, fair and clean election to allow for the legitimate expression of the mandate of the people of Sabah.
To win 31 of the 48 contested seats in the Sabah State Assembly and defeat a local opposition party, the entire resources and full might of the entire Cabinet, the Federal Government and the various State governments had to be mobilised
There were sufficient signs immediately after the Sabah elections on March 12/13, 1999 to show that despite the Barisan Nasional's surprising margin of victory in Sabah, things were not all well for the Barisan Nasional.
One of these signs was the failure of the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange to respond positively to the Barisan Nasional victory in Sabah. On the contrary, the KLSE Composite Index not only fell on the first Monday after the Sabah election result, it continued on its nosedive for the following two weeks, falling from 528.79 points on the eve of the Sabah state election result on 12th March 1999 to below 500 points, at one time touching 494.57 points, ending at 500.16 points at the close two Fridays later on March 26, 1999.
One important reason is that the Barisan Nasional victory in Sabah was not an honourable one, as it was in no small measure the result of the politics of money, the politics of fear, the politics of abuses of power as well as massive electoral irregularities.
It has been alleged that just before the polling day, the Barisan Nasional pumped in RM200 million from Kuala Lumpur buying water tanks, grass-cutting machines, outboard motors, housing materials, rice, sugar and sardines for the Sabah voters. These were distributed a few days before the election and more than 70% of rural voters received them.
The Kadazandusuns were warned that they would be penalised and denied Ďdevelopmentí if they voted for Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) while the Chinese in Sabah were threatened that they would suffer the fate of the Chinese in Indonesia if they did not support the Barisan Nasional.
I wish to deplore in particular the reprehensible conduct of MCA and Gerakan leaders who went over to Sabah to help in the Barisan Nasional campaign who tried to frighten the Chinese voters that if they voted for the Opposition, they would end up like the Chinese in Indonesia by showing films of the atrocities perpetrated on the Indonesian Chinese.
I know MCA and Gerakan national leaders regarded such scare tactics as a trial run for the general elections in Peninsular Malaysia, but all right-thinking Malaysians must condemn these MCA and Gerakan leaders for their most irresponsible actions. These MCA and Gerakan leaders should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for resorting to such despicable tactics of fear in trying to frighten the Chinese in Sabah to vote for the Barisan Nasional in the Sabah state election - and one such leader who had been reported to me as guilty of such gutter tactics was none other than the Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik.
During the Sabah state election, the entire Federal Cabinet as well as State Mentri-Mentri Besar and Chief Ministers, including the Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, put up a public collective display of abuse of power and misuse of public funds by using their Ministerial positions to campaign for the Sabah Barisan Nasional, failing to make a clear and important distinction between government and party - which is the root cause of all forms of abuses of power, breach of trust and even corruption in Malaysia.
Is the Auditor-General conducting an audit of the man-hours which the Federal Cabinet Ministers, State Mentri-Mentri Besar and Chief Ministers and senior government officials had spent in the Sabah state general elections, and how much Federal funds they are misused in the campaign - and will the Auditor-General issue a special audit report to be tabled in Parliament?
Electoral irregularities in the Sabah state election included the scandal of phantom voters and the unfair gerrymandering of constituencies in the last constituency redelineation exercise giving UMNO a most unfair advantage.
A Sabah State Assembly Election Monitoring Team established by several NGOs in the country has prepared a report finding that the recent Sabah election was neither clean nor fair.
The following is the conclusion of Sabah election monitoring team:
" We have seen how in these elections the immense power of incumbency, especially one that is unregulated, created an undemocratic framework in which the electoral process took place.
"The issues of concern in this election were:
"The electoral process was also hampered by:
There was widespread voter disenfranchisement through negligence or fraud, such as unauthorised transfers to far off constituencies or names missing from the electoral rolls; while allegations were rife of ICs being given to illegal immigrants to cast votes.
The Sabah Election Monitoring Team has made detailed recommendations to ensure clean and fair elections, particularly when general elections are held. Is the Election Commission seriously considering these recommendations and is the Election Commission prepared to hold a round-table conference with all political parties and NGOs to consider how the electoral system can learn from the Sabah election so that Malaysia can conduct the next general election in a truly free, fair and clean manner?
The biggest concern of the Sabah election result was the virtual polarisation of the voters with all the Malay-dominant constituencies voting for UMNO while the Kadazandusun-dominant constituencies voting for PBS, resulting in the toppling of the Sabah Chief Minister, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok and the Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Joseph Kurup showing their categorical and unmistakable repudiation by the Kadazandusun communities.
There are Barisan Nasional leaders who appear to be adopting a vengeful attitude, declaring that the Sabah elections outcome is a loss to the Kadazandusun community and wanting to punish it for not voting for the Barisan Nasional.
Democracy and general elections should not be about revenge and punishment
for exercising oneís right to elect the candidate or party of oneís choice
but to hear and respect the peopleís voice in the process of nation-building
and national integration, with the winning parties making a special effort
to understand the sense of alienation of the disaffected voters or communities
and taking the necessary remedial measures.
The polarisation in Sabah should be regarded as the greatest challenge of the newly-elected Sabah Barisan Nasional state government whose top priority in its five-year agenda should be to understand and resolve the legitimate grievances and disaffections of the Kadazandusun community and to begin the healing process in Sabah, without which there could be no unity or integration of the various communities in Sabah.
I had hoped that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad would immediately after the Sabah state election start the healing process and send out a clear signal that the new Sabah state government would make a special effort to win back support of the Kadazandusun communty and that there should be no programme or measure which could be regarded as the Sabah Barisan Nasional retaliating or punishing the Kadazandusun community for not supporting the Barisan Nasional candidates in the state election.
Alas, this was not to be. The appointment of Osu Sukam as Sabah Chief Minister in disregard of the uncompleted 14-month term for a Kadazan Chief Minister in the first round of rotation for the post was the first shocking development, as it reflected the insensitivity of Barisan Nasional to the deep-seated alienation of the Kadazandusun community. This does not augur well for national integration and unity in Sabah as the country enters the new millennium.
The refusal of the Barisan Nasional to honour its promise and complete the first round of rotation of the Chief Ministership among the three communities although there was still a 14-month uncompleted term for the post of Sabah Chief Minister to be held by a Kadazan was soon followed by a second shocker.
In Alor Star ten days later, the Prime Minister said it was up to the people of Sabah to decide if they wanted to continue with the present system of rotating the state's chief ministership, a prelude to the abandonment of the Barisan Nasional pledge on the rotation of the Chief Ministerís post among the three main communities in Sabah.
The statement by Mahathir that "If the majority of the people think the rotation system should not be continued, the government is willing to review the matter" is very ominous and the Barisan Nasional must be made to understand that the end of the rotation system for the Chief Ministerís post before the completion of two full rounds as promised by the Barisan Nasional pledges in two Sabah state elections in 1994 and 1999 will be regarded by the people of Sabah and Malaysia as a grave breach of trust and understanding.