(Kota Kinabalu, Tuesday): The nine-day Gaya parliamentary by-election has entered into the sixth day today, which marks two-thirds of the campaign period with three days left before polling on Saturday on October 12, 2002.
From the by-election campaign so far, it would appear that there are no great or major issues apart from the trio of high parking fees in Kota Kinabalu and the outskirts, illegal immigrants and relocation of squatters.
It is a grave reflection of the very unhealthy and even “sick” state of democracy in Sabah and Malaysia that a local government issue like the burdensome and oppressive parking fees in the city centre township as well as the city outskirts can surface to become one of the prime issues of a parliamentary by-election and that there is otherwise no hope or way to compel the authorities to take the grievances of the people of Kota Kinabalu seriously if not for the fact that there is a parliamentary by-election!
The voters of Gaya know that whoever is elected as MP for Gaya cannot go to Parliament to speak on the oppressive Kota Kinabalu car-parking fees, for the Parliament Speaker would rule such a speech out or order and unparliamentary as being out of place, irrelevant and against the parliamentary standing orders.
But the ever-shrinking space of democracy in Sabah and Malaysia have created the unhealthy situation where the only way for the people of Gaya to get their local government problems attended seriously is through a parliamentary by-election, at the expense of the issues that should be addressed by MPs at the national level in Parliament.
Why are there no satisfactory channels at the local government level to allow the full play of grass-roots democracy for legitimate problems and grievances of the people to be addressed? Why has the next tier of representative government, the Sabah State Government and Sabah State Assembly, failed to address and resolve the grievances of the Kota Kinabalu ratepayers?
Equally important, why is the Sabah Barisan Nasional, in particular the Sabah State Government, so insensitive to the legitimate grievances of the people of Kota Kinabalu that even up to now, the Sabah Chief Minister has not been able to resolve the issue once and for all?
Local government grievances and problems of the people should be addressed and resolved at the local government level in a genuine grass-roots democracy, but when it could only be highlighted in a parliamentary by-elections, by-passing even the Sabah State Assembly, then something is very wrong with the whole system of representative democracy at all levels of our society – a phenomenon which should be the concern of everyone in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and Malaysia.
Barisan Nasional leaders waxed endlessly about Malaysia becoming a developed nation – but how can Malaysia ever achieve developed nation status when democracy in the country has continued to regress instead of progress, with the Gaya parliamentary by-election reduced into battle over oppressive car parking fees in Kota Kinabalu, an issue which could not be raised in Parliament – and what is even more shocking, the inability of the Sabah Barisan Nasional state government to immediately resolve the issue!
The oppressive car parking fees in Kota Kinabalu must go, but it will be very sad if the Gaya parliamentary by-election on 12th October 2002 goes down in history as the by-election over car-parking fees when 18 years ago, in the great Tambunan by-election on December 29, 1984, it was about democracy and justice for Sabah and Malaysia!
In actual fact, the two other issues of illegal immigrants and relocation of squatters should not have been issues in the Sabah of 2002 if the Barisan Nasional government had been true and loyal to its 1994 election manifesto of ”Sabah Baru” where it made the following specific promises – in particular the first two:
Let me refer only to the 1994 “Sabah Baru” pledge of the Barisan Nasional to reduce the poverty level in Sabah to zero in the year 2000.
According to the Eighth Malaysia Plan 2001-2005 tabled in Parliament in April 2001, the incidence of poverty in Sabah in 1999 was the highest of all states in Malaysia, and was nowhere near zero incidence and higher than Kelantan and Terengganu. The incidence of poverty of the various states in Malaysia in 1999 were as follows:
|State||Incidence of Poverty (%)|
A new political scenario in Sabah has emerged with the PBS returning to the Barisan Nasional in November last year, creating a political vacuum highly detrimental to the healthy growth of democracy, justice and equitable development in Sabah and Malaysia.
I call on the Gaya voters on Saturday to support DAP to play the role of PBS Plus to fill the political vacuum in the state to defend the legitimate rights of the people of Sabah both as Sabahans and Malaysians
The PBS President, Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan has denied that the voice of the people could no longer be heard because of the absence of a strong opposition party in Sabah and that on the contrary PBS would be able to represent the people more effectively by being a component party of Barisan Nasional.
Nobody expects Pairin to say otherwise, but the truth is there for all to see. Until PBS re-entry into the Barisan Nasional, PBS leaders were articulate in Parliament, the State Assembly and outside to remind the Barisan Nasional about its broken promises of a Sabah Baru where there is no poverty, a house for every Sabahan, no illegal immigrant and no corruption in Sabah by the year 2,000 but now these voices have fallen silent.
DAP calls on the voters of Gaya to support our role of PBS Plus in the Sabah political vacuum for the DAP has taken stands to defend the legitimate rights of the people of Sabah which the PBS had shied away from, for which I will give two instances.
The first is the failure of the Barisan Nasional to honour its 1994 election pledge on the two-year rotation of the Sabah Chief Minister’s post among the three main communities, in particular the short-changing of the Kadazandusun community which has been denied even a full two-year term for the post.
Since the rotation system for the Chief Minister’s post was first introduced in 1994, UMNO had served two terms when the post was first held by Tun Sankaran Dandai in 1994 and later Datuk Salleh Tun Said, and the second term by Datuk Osu Sukam. The Chinese community has had also two terms, with Yong Teck Lee in 1996 and currently Chong Kah Keat.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had announced in March last year a new formula whereby the post of Sabah Chief Minister would be held by UMNO after Chong Kah Kiat’s term expires in March next year, then a Kadazandusun, then reverting to an UMNO leader.
This is most unfair and not in keeping with the 1994 Barisan Nasional “1:1:1” rotation pledge, as the Kadazanduzun community has 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.
Without going into the merit or demerit of the rotation system, it is clear that the “1:1:1” Chief Minister’s rotation pledge has been broken and transformed into a “4:2:1”, which is most unfair and inequitable.
Now that PBS had returned to the Barisan Nasional, will the original 1994 rotation pledge be honoured when Chong Kah Keat’s term expires next March so that the Kadazandusum community will be able to hold the post for two full two-year terms before the formula is reconsidered?
DAP has no objection if Joseph Pairin is re-appointed Sabah Chief Minister next March, as the issue is how can the Barisan Nasional’s election pledges be believed when it could be broken with such ease as far as the rotation of the Chief Minister’s post for the Kadazandusum community is concerned.
The DAP’s clear and unequivocal stand in defence of the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the social contract and 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 is another example where the DAP has a position on a fundamental constitutional issue which had been studiously avoided by the PBS.
It is most unfortunate that when Mahathir made the unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional “929 declaration” at the Gerakan national conference on September 29 last year that Malaysia is an Islamic State, the PBS, which was still in the Opposition, did not dare to declare its unequivocal opposition, leaving the DAP as the only voice, whether in government or opposition, to defend the fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of the nation.
After the September 911 terrorist attacks in the United States, the world has become a very dangerous place, as reflected by Malaysia being placed in three United States immigration blacklists, with Malaysia being put in the category of “terrorist-risk” states causing great inconvenience and even hardships to Malaysians studying or visiting the United States as well as detrimental to Malaysia’s international image and as a foreign investment and tourist destination.
These vital questions, including the great issues of democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice and good governance, must be decided by Parliament and this is why DAP calls on the voters of Gaya to vote the DAP to defend their rights as ratepayers of Kota Kinabau, Sabahans and Malaysians in the parliamentary by-election on Saturday.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman