Call on Sabahans of idealism and conviction not to despair but to come forward to join forces with DAP to restore Sabah as  a citadel for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance for the state and nation

by Lim Kit Siang

(Kota Kinabalu,  Monday)The Sabah Assemblyman for Moyog, Datuk Clarence Bongkos Malakun told  the Sabah state assembly in May last year  of the joke that "if you throw a stone into a crowd in Sabah, not only will it hit a datuk but it will ricochet off him and hit another datuk".  

But Sabah is not only the state with the most datuks, it is also the state with the most ex-Chief Ministers, so that what Malakun  said could be modified to "if you throw a stone into a VIP crowd or gathering in Sabah, not only will it hit an ex-CM but it will ricochet off him and hit another ex-CM".  

This, however, is not the only unique characteristics of Sabah.  While the whole world has gone forward into the 21st century to advance towards globalisation, information technology,  democracy and political pluralism, Sabah has gone backwards to the 20th century by some four decades to the nineteen sixties when there was no Opposition whatsoever in the Sabah state legislature  -  with the PBS returning to the Barisan Nasional to forge a political hegemony which is inimical to the interests of the people of Sabah and Malaysia.  

The plight and woes of PBS could probably be traced back to its "stab in the back" of the Barisan Nasional on the eve of the 1990 general election, when it surprised all and sundry, friend and foe, with the announcement of its pull-out from the Barisan Nasional and throwing its lot with the Gagasan Rakyat led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.  

The DAP was the second largest political party in the Gagasan Rakyat which was led by Semangat 46, but the PBS announcement came as a total surprise and I first heard  about it  from a radio news broadcast.  

The PBS' "stab in the back" could have contributed  to the intensity of the bitterness in the last few days of the 1990 general election campaign, climaxing in the despicable and dishonourable Barisan Nasional tactics  falsely accusing Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah of  having sold out the Malay race and betraying Islam for purportedly  wearing a Kadazan tengkolok with a Christian cross - and now both Tengku Razaleigh and PBS are back in the BN fold!  

Before the announcement, the DAP had no inkling whatsoever that the PBS would pull out of the Barisan Nasional before the 1990 general election, and I was as surprised as anyone at the PBS move.   

I was equally surprised when I later found out the reason for the PBS' "stab in the back" of Barisan Nasional.  I was told after the announcement  that a delegation of top PBS leaders  had met Tengku Razaleigh and, together with other political feedbacks in Peninsular Malaysia,  the PBS leadership was  convinced that UMNO and the Barisan Nasional would be toppled in the 1990 general election and that Tengku Razaleigh would be the new Prime Minister kicking out Mahathir.  Not wanting to "miss the boat", as well as wanting to play the "king-maker" in the formation of the new Malaysian government, PBS took the precipitate decision to pull out of Barisan Nasional a few days before polling.  

If the PBS leaders had  asked for my views then, I would have told them that there was no chance whatsoever that Gagasan Rakyat could topple the Barisan Nasional, and that at most, the hope was to start the process of change and democratisation by depriving Mahathir and Barisan Nasional of  two-thirds parliamentary majority.  

In the event, Semangat 46 fared badly in the 1990 general election, with many Semangat 46 candidates managing to save their election "deposits" thanks to the DAP votes - and PBS started on the downward course of its history being reduced from the single most dominant Sabah party into the pale shadow of its former self today.  

With Sabah having 60 State Assembly seats in the next state election as a result of redelineation of constituencies, how many candidates  would PBS be allowed to field  under the Barisan Nasional allocation of seats?  I understand that the latest thinkiing in the highest Barisan Nasional circles is that PBS would be allocated less than 10 of the 60 Sabah state assembly seats.  Even if PBS is allocated one-third of the seats or 20 constituencies, it is already  a very sad end  for a party which was once the undisputed political hegemon in Sabah - what more to be allocated less than one-sixth of the total Sabah seats!  

The Barisan Nasional, as successor to Alliance, was supposed to be  a coalition of equals - but this had always been  a myth.  When Alliance was formed in the 1950s, UMNO's position in the coalition was described as primus inter pares - or first among equals. This may have described the relationship between Tengku Abdul Rahman and Tun Tan Cheng Lock, but UMNO's position in the Barisan Nasional is best described as primus tanpa pares - first with no equals.  (With the rampant corruption of Malay by  the English language, one can be forgiven for corrupting Latin with Malay for a change).  

The latest Hishamuddin Hussein Onn -Ling Liong Sik spat is the best example of the total change of character of the power relationships and equation  between UMNO and the other component parties in the Barisan Nasional after more than  four decades of Alliance-Barisan Nasional "coalition" building.  

Already reduced to a political party whose party constitution is utterely irrelevant and subservient to the directives of the leader of another party, the MCA President is now struggling to maintain a position of equals with the UMNO Youth leader!  

I will not go into the merits or demerits of the Hishammuddin-Liong Sik spat, with the UMNO Youth leader publicly lambasting the MCA President for being "arrogant" and  "insensitive" for  "making sweeping statements", "souring relations between UMNO Youth and MCA" and "should be more responsible".  

But it is simply unthinkable that the MCA Youth leader would ever dare, or even dare to entertain the idea,  of doing what the UMNO Youth had done - to  publicly lambast the UMNO President in a threatening tone for being "arrogant" and "insensitive"  for "making sweeping statements", accusing him of "souring relations" between MCA Youth and UMNO  and lecturing him to "be more responsible"!  

The degradation of the position of the MCA President to the level of the UMNO Youth leader is confirmed by the reaction of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy UMNO President, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who called on Liong Sik and Hishammuddin to meet and resolve their differences!  

The transformation of UMNO's role in the ruling coalition from primus inter pares to primus tanpa pares is evident everywhere, as for instance in Penang, where a UMNO Division Chairman is more powerful than the Gerakan Chief Minister, who could not respond to the demands of the people of Penang for a review of the RM1.2 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project, simply because the project had been privatised, against international best practices of good urban governance and public integrity, to an UMNO division chairman in the state!  

PBS' return to the Barisan Nasional, although in an emasculated role, might be understandable if the underlying motivation is to protect and uphold the rights and interests of the people of Sabah and Malaysia.  

However, PBS' bona fides in rejoining Barisan Nasional for the sake of the rights and interests of the people of Sabah come under question when the PBS maintained such a deafening silence on the controversy over the "929 Declaration" where the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad announced that Malaysia is an Islamic State at the Gerakan national assembly on September 29 last year.  

PBS should have been in the forefront to criticise and oppose the "929 Declaration" for it involves a tectonic shift in the Malaysian nation-building process, going against the 1957 Merdeka Constitution and "social contract" reached by the major communities and reaffirmed by the peoples of Sabah and Sarawak in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive nation with Islam as the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic State.  

PBS had used the famous 20 Points to topple the Berjaya Government in 1985 and consolidate its position during the heyday of its power in the state, but why is it so silent when the fundamental basis of the 20 Points undescored by the Cobbold Commission that Malaysia is a secular nation and not an Islamic state came under challenge in the "929 Declaration"?  

Instead of taking a stand to protect and preserve the 1957 Merdeka Constitution and "social contract" and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement by opposing the "929 Declaration",  PBS gave it endorsement by rejoining the Barisan Nasional after the "929 Declaration"!  

DAP will try to fill the political vacuum in Sabah.  The road ahead for the DAP in Sabah is an uphill and difficult one, but the DAP will persevere in our vision for a Sabah and Malaysia where there is justice, freedom, democracy and good governance for all.  

I was asked by a reporter friend earlier today whether there is a political future as Sabahans  have become so "numb" to the isues of justice, freedom and democracy that they now overwhelmingly support the Barisan Nasional, especially with the return of the PBS to the BN fold.  

I want to ask Sabahans with idealism, principles  and conviction not to despair but to come forward to join forces with the DAP to restore Sabah as a citadel for freedom, democracy, justice and good governance for the state and nation and for  the sake of our children and children's children.  


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman