Kurniawan bin Hendrikus (not his real name) who now lives in Kampung Gayaratau off the Ranau-Tamparuli road fears for the future if Pakatan wins Sabah.
“I worked in Semporna and Tawau in the 1990s and used to fear walking alone at night as these towns virtually belonged to ‘Malaysians’ from the Southern Philippines,” he recalled. “Now, the same man who treated Sabah like rubbish is heading the Opposition to try oust the Barisan Nasional.”
Sabah has been plagued by illegal immigrants for over three decades, causing socio-political and economic problems for the state. Although the numbers vary from thousands to millions depending on who you ask, all agree that the influx of immigrants especially from the Southern Philippines happened during Mahathir’s premiership, a move said to dilute the influence of the majority-Christian Kadazan-Dusun-Murut (KDM) communities.
Mahathir must be brought to account for “Projek IC”, the massive operation that flooded Sabah with illegal immigrants in exchange for Malaysian citizenship in the move dubbed ‘Project IC’ said Madius Tangau, the MP for Tuaran.
Madius who is also the President of the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) added that the Sabahans want the PM then (Mahathir) who has admitted to giving out the fake ICs to be held responsible.
Mahathir blamed Anwar Ibrahim, who was his deputy at the time of the ‘Project IC’ taking place, for being directly involved in ‘Project IC’ and for acting without his (Mahathir’s) knowledge, the same blame game he uses in the Scorpene drama where he blamed Najib Razak, who was then the Defence Minister, for paying RM3.7 billion without the knowledge of the Minister of Finance, who also happened to be him (Mahathir).
A day after blaming Anwar, the latter returned the ball to Mahathir’s court saying it was Mahathir who was behind ‘Project IC.’ Anwar pointed out that there was even a taskforce set up by Mahathir to oversee the awarding of Malaysian citizenship to immigrants in Sabah.
Pakatan’s hint that Mahathir would be able to restore Sabah’s rights had Sabah’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) scoff at them for “daydreaming.”
Its President Teo Chee Kang reminded Pakatan that it was under Mahathir’s rule that the state suffered greatly, and lost some of its autonomy.
“I read in the papers that several Pakatan leaders from Sabah recently flew all the way to Kuala Lumpur to see Mahathir on Sabah rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963. I find it ironic. I would like to remind them that it was during Mahathir’s administration in 1983 that our state powers to regulate the distribution of gas and electricity were taken back by the federal government. In the 22 years of Mahathir’s rule we lost numerous state rights to the federal government,” he added.
Dr Jeffrey Kitingan who is Sabah’s STAR Chairman said it was Mahathir who introduced ‘Project IC’ and told him (Jeffrey) not to ‘teach’ the people what they didn’t know (Sabah rights).
‘Project IC’ was also called ‘Project M.’ ‘M’ is for ‘Mahathir.’
Sabah also lost a lot under Mahathir’s rule. In 1983, Mahathir made plans for Labuan to be handed over to the Federal Government. Labuan is an important hub for the oil and gas industry. In order to make oil revenues from Labuan totally the Federal government’s, Mahathir conceived the plan for Labuan to become a Federal Territory during a Barisan Nasional meeting in 1983.
Harris Salleh, who was the BERJAYA Chief Minister of Sabah then agreed to hand over the island over to the Federal government without any deliberation. No referendum was made for the proposal.
In August 1983, Tun Datu Mustapha who was USNO’s President made a call to Labuan’s USNO division to reject the proposal and demonstrate against it. In February 1984, Mahathir proposed for the expulsion of USNO from the Barisan Nasional. On 21 February 1984, the Labuan USNO division voted to dissolve itself in support of the handing over of Labuan to the Federal Government. On 27 February 1984, UMNO Supreme Council voted for the expulsion of USNO from the Barisan Nasional. The expulsion of USNO from the BN took effect on 15 April 1984, one day before Labuan became a Federal Territory.
“We are not giving away our territory because the Federal Government is in the position to develop the island,” Harris said in his defence.
As a result of his subservience to Mahathir, Federal allocation to Sabah increased tremendously during the years when BERJAYA was in power. Despite this, in 1986 the poverty level in the state remained at 33 percent, which was higher than the national average of 18.
The transfers to Sabah from the Federal government dropped in 1986 when PBS under Joseph Pairin Kitingan won the state.
It was during the Mahathir-Harris master-and-servant relationship that Sabah also almost lost its right to determine its own Immigration policy.
Pairin, in reminding Harris on why he was ousted in 1985 as Chief Minister, reiterated that it was under the latter’s Berjaya Government that the state’s rights were slowly eroded until very little was left.
“The Berjaya Government was on the verge of surrendering Sabah’s immigration powers before it was ousted from power,” said Pairin in a bombshell revelation.
Even Lim Kit Siang who is Mahathir’s now best-friend-forever wrote that Mahathir must explain the attempt to undermine Sabah’s rights to its own immigration policies.
He wrote: “As the then Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir – who is still very active and alert in the public domain, even plotting to scalp another Prime Minister – should throw light on another long-kept secret in Malaysia on the circumstances and history of attempts in his first four years as Prime Minister in the eighties to abolish Sabah’s state immigration powers as revealed by Joseph Pairin.”
This goes to show that other than Mahathir neither Lim Kit Siang nor Anwar Ibrahim or their respective parties (PRIBUMI, PKR, DAP) can be trusted to look after Sabah’s rights. But what about Shafie Apdal, once UMNO’s rising star from Sabah?
Shafie’s WARISAN, is seen by many in Sabah as being a proxy of Mahathir’s PRIBUMI. Many also question Shafie’s honesty in wanting to help Sabahans.
“People ask what he did to develop Sabah when he was in the federal Cabinet. Did he do anything to fight for Sabah autonomy? Even the other opposition leaders are asking these questions,” said Unimas don Dr Arnold Puyok to The Star.
Three village chiefs, Sosor Bin Aling from Kg Mempulut , Simon Sinsuran from Kg Dalit Stesen and Lidy Bin Lunggiri from Kg Pohon Batu said in the 1980s when Mahathir was in power, roads were never repaired and electricity did not reach them.
“Along the way, we were still using kerosene. Road conditions were extremely severe and there was hardly clean water to use. The primary schools were still as in the days of the British. However, the current Prime Minister had given them access to electricity and water supply is currently under installation, ” they said.
They said compared to the last 22 years with the last eight years, Najib Razak as the Prime Minister had helped them to get basic amenities like roads, schools and a clinic.
“We therefore fully support the government led by Najib. He is one of the best leaders compared to Mahathir. Logs were felled at the time of Mahathir and our area was also handed over to the major companies and we did not get any results,” they lamented.
Simon thanked Najib as he approved the construction of SMK Dalit which served about 30 villages.
After building SMK Dalit, their children no longer need to go to Keningau to study at secondary schools.
He hoped Najib would upgrade the clinic at the Dalit station.
Similarly, in Kabulu, they asked for a clinic for the good of the people in the area.
With also the toll-free Pan Borneo Highway which is already under construction set to improve communications and livelihood of Sabahans (as well as Sarawakians), it is only right for Sabahans to know that progress will only happen by having an administration that truly cares for its people and delivers promises.
Not the ones who use arm-bending solutions or those who now turn a blind eye on the said solutions just because they want to try ride on the dictator’s self-imagined ‘popularity.’