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End the curses of 2Cs and 2Is which have increasingly added to the miseries and sufferings of the people of Sandakan and Sabah

Speech at a DAP Sandakan dinner-talk        
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Sandakan, Sunday) : For 12 years from 1978 to 1990, Sandakan was represented by the DAP in Parliament and the people of Sandakan were in the political vanguard in the state and nation in the battle for justice, equality and democracy. 

In the past 17 years from 1990 to 2007, the people of Sandakan withdrew from this front-line role for political change in Sabah and Malaysia. 

Last year, the wind of political change blew strong and hard in  Sarawak when six DAP representatives were elected into the Sarawak State Assembly, fundamentally altering the culture, quality and direction of Sarawak State Assembly proceedings and Sarawak politics. 

Many are hoping that this “Sarawak wind of political change” will also blow in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah come the next general election, which is most likely at the end of this year or early next year after Barisan Nasional’s surprise result in the Ijok by-election in Selangor yesterday. 

The time has come for the wind of political change to blow again in the “Land Below the Wind” as Sabah was known. 

Earlier today, together with the Sarawak DAP Assemblywoman for Pending Violet Yong and Pahang DAP Assemblyman for Triang Leong Ngah Ngah, I visited the new Sandakan  market which had been operating for four months. 

It was a grandiose “white-elephant” which cost RM34 million or over 60 per cent cost overrun from the original estimate of RM21 million  – an outstanding symbol of the lack of municipal good governance in Sandakan and Sabah as well as the lack of accountability, integrity and effective democratic representation. 

The cries of the majority of the stallholders in the new Sandakan market that they are sandwiched between high rentals and poor business as a result of bad siting, lack of supportive infrastructure like proper bus service and sub-standard construction despite exorbitant construction costs, had been totally ignored by all the three tiers of government - local, state and national. 

The Sabah State Assembly had just concluded its meeting last week but nobody raised the scandal of the RM34 million new Sandakan market in the Sabah State Assembly. 

I am shocked at the total lack of accountability and integrity over the scandalous RM34 million new Sandakan market. I had not heard this issue ever raised in Parliament by the Independent MP for Sandakan, Chong Hon Min, demanding that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) for instance should  conduct a thorough probe and to arrest and prosecute those involved in corrupt practices. 

The curses of 2Cs and 2Is are crime and corruption for the 2Cs and illegal immigrants and infrastructure failures for the 2Is. 

The older generation of Sabahans can still remember the times half a century ago when Sabah earned the appellation of “The Land Below the Wind” – not only because of its location below the typhoon belt around the Philippines but because it was regarded as a “human paradise” where one can keep the doors open without fear of crime. 

Today, even if the house is doubly or trebly locked, there is no guarantee of personal safety or property security in the privacy of homes, let alone in the streets and public places. Topping crime incidence in the country, Sabahans have long lost their innocence – with crime and the fear of crime among their top curses, fears and preoccupations. 

This is the curse of the first “C”. 

The curse of the second “C” is worsening corruption. Sabah came into Malaysia 44 years ago as one of the most resource-rich states  but it has now become one of the poorest states in the country with one Chief Minister after another bleeding it dry. 

In my speech in Parliament on April 16, 2007 where I spoke about the plight of the Kadazandusun and Murut  (KDM) communities becoming the new underclass in Sabah, I quoted a newspaper article five years ago, which said:

“Ask politicians and journalists about the rotation system, and they will jokingly say: ‘One CM took the hills, one gave away the sea, one signed off the valleys and another bet on watery deals.’

“They cannot help but compare what veteran politicians say about the Usno-Berjaya-PBS governments: ‘Usno took the meat of the timber, Berjaya the bones and PBS the crumbs with Barisan looking at leftovers.’”

Everyone in Sabah knew what was meant by the cynical comment that “One CM took the hills, one gave away the sea, one signed off the valleys and another bet on watery deals” except for the ACA, which seemed to be the only one ignorant about its implications. 

Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had ridden on the hopes of the people in his promise to spearhead an anti-corruption campaign to secure a unprecedented landslide victory in the 2004 general election, winning 91% of the parliamentary seats, the general consensus in Malaysia and internationally is that Malaysia and Sabah today are even more corrupt than before Abdullah became Prime Minister some 42 months ago.

It is not just me who is saying this. The world is saying it, as testified by Malaysia’s seven-point drop in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from 37th to 44th ranking from 2003 to 2006. There is the danger that Malaysia is heading south towards 50th ranking in the TI CPI on the occasion of the 50th Merdeka anniversary in 2007 – with  the recent crop of bad news about corruption including the allegations of serious corruption against the ACA director-general himself as well as against the Sabah Chief Minister.

Even former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has come out publicly to say that corruption under Abdullah is even more serious than corruption during his 22-year premiership!  How ironic!

The curse of the  first “I” is illegal immigrants. During my visit to Sabah in the late seventies, I had raised the warning that the problem of illegal immigrants would haunt generations of Sabahans if not resolved resolutely.

Tragically, I had been proved prescient and right.  At that time, I had talked about 140,000 illegal immigrants in Sabah, and I was accused by the then Chief Minister of being reckless and irresponsible in using such a figure. Today, the number of illegal immigrants in the state is more than 10 times this figure, with Sabah politicians talking about 1 – 1.7 million illegal immigrants totally altering the political, economic, social and demographic picture and future of the state.

Last week Parti Bersatu Sabah President Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan led a PBS delegation to Putrajaya to present a memorandum on illegal immigrants in Sabah to the Prime Minister. This is pathetic play-acting as Joseph Pairin is the Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah.

Is he suggesting that the Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman is ineffective and useless as far as addressing the problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah? If so, why does he want to continue as the Deputy Chief Minister? If Joseph Pairin is serious about addressing the worsening problem of illegal immigrants in the state, and not just PBS play-acting and a “Public Relations” exercise, he should convince Musa to lead a Sabah State Cabinet delegation to meet the Prime Minister on a blueprint to resolve the problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah.

The curse of the second “I” is infrastructure failures – as testified by the acute and perennial problem of breakdowns of infrastructure services and basic utilities like power, water and municipal good governance. All this add to the cost of doing business and drive away investment, local and foreign.

Malaysia is talking about becoming a first-world developed nation but from the frequent disruption of the most basic utilities like power and water, and their poor-quality services in Sandakan and other parts of the state, Sabah should be compared with African states than with developed nations of the West.

This year the country is celebrating its 50th Merdeka anniversary although Sabah and Sarawak would only be marking 44 years of Malaysian nationhood.

Let us resolve that the most meaningful way to mark these occasions is to end the curses of the 2Cs and 2Is which have increasingly added to the miseries and sufferings of the people of Sandakan and Sabah.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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