Mahathir should explain why Barisan Nasional is short-changing the Kadazandusun community in Sabah by refusing to allow the post of Chief Minister to be held by a Kadazandusun for full two years before introducing a new “2:1:1” rotation formula

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad should explain why Barisan Nasional is short-changing the Kadazandusun community in Sabah by refusing to allow the post of Chief Minister to be held by a Kadazandusun for full two years before introducing a new “2:1:1” rotation formula instead of beating about the bush attacking the Opposition.

The Star today reported that when he was asked to comment on my statement that the new “2:1:1” Sabah Chief Minister rotation formula was a gross breach of Barisan Nasional’s election pledge and most unfair  to the Kadazandusun community, Dr. Mahathir said:

“If we had abolished the rotation system, they would say ‘See they do not keep their promises.’

“If we continued with the system, they would say, ‘See this is a bad system.’

“I bet you that if you look at past issues, the opposition have never supported anything the Government does, yet you can see what we have done is to develop the country.”

Although Mahathir had cleverly evaded my question, the people of Sabah and Malaysia know that he has still to give an answer as to why the Barisan Nasional had acted so unfairly to the Kadazandusun community in refusing to honour its election pledge in two general elections to fully implement the two-year rotation of the post of Sabah Chief Minister among the Malays, Kadazandusuns and the Chinese before introducing the new "2:1:1"  or any other formula.

I challenge Mahathir to produce proof as to when I had criticised the Sabah Chief Minister rotation system. I had never criticised nor supported the Barisan Nasional’s Chief Minister rotation formula. It was clear from the beginning however that the rotation proposal did not stem from any genuine belief or commitment in power-sharing among the three major communities in Sabah but an election ploy to wrest state power from the PBS.

It is the prerogative of  the Barisan Nasional to decide whether it wants to continue with the rotation formula for the post of Sabah Chief Minister, or introduce a new variation of the “1:1:1: formula, but it is manifestly unfair and a short-change to the  Kadazandusun community to introduce the new “2:1:1” rotation formula for the Sabah Chief Minister before the full completion of the first cycle of the "1:1:1" formula.

As it is,  the Kadazandusun community is denied the right and opportunity to the full two-year rotation as Chief Minister when this election pledge has been implemented for the Malay and Chinese communities.

The Kadazanduzun community had a chief minister for only 10 months in the person of the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun-Murut Organisation (UPKO) president, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, when Sabah state general elections were held in early 1999.

Although Bernard failed to defend his Moyog seat in the 1999 state general election, there was no reason why another Kadazandusun Chief Minister could not be appointed to take up the remaining 14 months of the two-year slot for a Kadazandusun Chief Minister to fulfil the election pledge given in two general elections before introducing any new formula.

The principle involved is not just about a gross  injustice  to the Kadazandusun community  but whether Barisan Nasional election pledges can ever be believed again when  the national and Sabah Barisan Nasional parties can disregard the solemn pledge given in two Sabah state general elections on power-sharing in Sabah by rotating the Chief Minister’s post among the state’s three main communities.

The grievances of the Kadazandusuns  in Sabah that they have been shortchanged in being denied the full two-year slot for a Kadazandusun as   Sabah Chief Minister was intensified by the unfair Sabah  UMNO tactics of wresting  an extra two-year term as Sabah Chief Minister when Osu Sukam was appointed to the post after the last state general election.

It is both pathetic and tragic that Kadazandusun leaders in the Barisan Nasional like Bernard, who is now Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department,  could defend these double violations and claim that the Barisan Nasional has not gone back on its promise. Clearly Bernad and the other Kadaandusun leaders in the Barisan Nasional dare not even ask  that the outstanding 14-month term for a Kadazandusun Chief Minister in the first rotation cycle should be completed first before introducing the new “2:1:1” formula.

It has been reported that under the new "2:1:1" formula as described by Mahathir Mohamad at his meeting with  Barisan Nasional leaders last Friday,  Sabah Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president Datuk Chong Kah Kiat will serve as the Chinese representative for two years starting from the day he is sworn in.

When Chong's term expires, Umno, as the Muslim representative, will get its turn.  After that, a Kadazandusun will be made the chief minister to represent the non-Muslim bumiputras.   Upon the end of the Kadazandusun term, the post  will revert to a Muslim representative from Umno.

This is a most shocking and unfair interpretation of the "2:1:1" formula calculated to impose UMNO hegemony in Sabah at a time when UMNO has lost its traditional hegemony in Peninsular Malaysia as the Malay majority party after the last general election.

It would firstly mean that the Kadazandusun would be denied its two-year rotation as Chief Minister in the first cycle of "1:1:1" formula.

Secondly, it would mean an unfair interpretation of the "2:1:1" formula as to give UMNO an unfair extra two-year term at the expense of the other two communities.

Osu Sukam’s two-year term as Chief Minister should be considered as the first of the two-year stints as Chief Minister in the second rotation cycle. If this is the case, when Chong’s term expires, it should be followed by a Kadazandusun, and then rounded up with a UMNO nominee to complete the "2:1:1" cycle.

Any other interpretation would mean UMNO abusing its hegemonic position to take unfair advantage to deny the other Barisan Nasional component parties a fair and equitable power-sharing in Sabah.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman