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Sabah bleeds under Umno hegemony

The happiest political entity in Sabah is destroying the socio-political fabric of the multi-ethnic state.

by Luke Rintod of FMT
KOTA KINABALU: Can a local Sabah party candidate actually win an election without Umno’s help?
Umno’s one-time formidable partner PBS (along with its spin-offs Upko and PBRS) is no-longer significant on the political front.
In fact, the trio of Umno proxies – PBS, Upko and PBRS – now share the humiliation of being further sidelined by their domineering and condescending peninsular-based master.
Umno is now quite simply the happiest political entity in Sabah.
Such has been the dominance of Umno that for many years not a single Christian Kadazan-Dusun-Murut (KDM) has been appointed to the top seven posts in the Sabah hierarchy.
So much for the “fair” power-sharing formula of the Barisan Nasional (BN). It is a topic that has dominated PBS and Upko’s coffee table conversations of late following the elevation of the State Legislative Assembly Speaker to the post of governor and another Umno member to his former position to replace him in quick succession.

With the appointment of Salleh Said Keruak, a Bajau, as the new Speaker, and his predecessor Juhar Mahirudin, a Suluk, as the new Yang di-Pertua Negeri or governor, the KDM is left licking its own wounds on the political fringes.
During the Usno, Berjaya and PBS eras, the seven top posts in the state were shared among the major communities in Sabah.
This old-time wisdom was a political and social arrangement to maintain a harmonious spirit within the multi-ethnic society which is Sabah, the second largest state in Malaysia.
Besides the positions of governor and chief minister, the other top posts in the state are the Speaker, state secretary, state attorney-general, director of Sabah Foundation, and the State Establishment director.
But now no Christian KDM occupy these posts.
Manipulation of boundaries
The old practice in Sabah is that if the chief minister is a Muslim or a non-KDM, then the governor should be a KDM.
That was what Sabah’s founding fathers Donald Stephens and Mustapha Harun agreed on in the 1960s, at the outset of Sabah’s independence.
That explained why when Mustapha, a Suluk-Bajau, was Chief Minister, most of the time the governor was a KDM, albeit a convert.
Until recent times, this unwritten law was followed in filling other senior positions in the state, both political and non-political. In fact, it is the glue that binds together the multi-ethnic society of Sabah.
However, the last KDM to occupy the post of state secretary was Simon Sipaun. And that was 20 years ago. The post of state attorney-general is also out of bounds for the moment. Here a non-KDM from a private practice close to the powers that be has been installed.
In a multi-religious landscape where the top political posts have always been distributed fairly, the sudden ostracising of non-Muslims has left people wary of what will come next.
What happens when a tradition is not followed?
Discontentment and disappointment will set in, hibernate and finally break lose as people vent their displeasure on such discriminatory policies.
Political analysts say that what Umno is signalling is that it can rule Sabah on its own without the Christian-KDM dominated parties like PBS and Upko which now wield little power within the BN fold.
Thanks to gerry-mandearing of constituency boundaries in the 1990s, KDM now has a reduced number of seats.
Umno is already “allocated” 32 seats, just over half the number of seats in the 60-member State Legislative Assembly.
Petrified PBS and Upko
Up to recent time, it used to be a 20-20-8 equation for the Christian natives, the Muslim natives, and the Chinese in the previous 48-state constituency legislature.
But now the seats at the legislative assembly has increased to 60. Ironically, the KDM seats have been reduced to just 16 or 17.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the mastermind behind this sleight of hand.
Analysts point to this fail-safe political structure to explain Umno’s unhindered hegemony and condescending attitude in Sabah for the last eight years. It also points to a weakness within the Sabah BN.
Umno’s partners are to blame for their own fragility. PBS and Upko dare not question Umno even if it affects their community. They mumble and grumble in closed-door meetings.
In the case of Speaker, PBS only half-heartedly pushed for its man Johnny Mositun, one of the two current deputy speakers, for Chief Minister Musa Aman to consider.
Insiders said that Musa opted for Salleh who had been sidelined for a few years but recently made a comeback as Musa’s deputy in Sabah Umno liaison committee.
Sabah DAP secretary, Edwin Bosi, said the race politics in Sabah has got worse and has become a stumbling block to progress.
“In the 21st century, merit should be emphasised. I suggest top government posts be rotated every six years among the various races in Sabah,” he said.
Glaring discrimination
What Bosi is suggesting is moving around qualified top civil servants or politicians to different posts, each time making sure the unwritten law is adhered to.
“In rotating them, we would be able to satisfy everyone,” said the retired civil servant.
Political analyst Anthony Tibok is worried by what he sees as a disease creeping into Sabah’s political life. Sabah, he feels, is fast copying the discriminatory policies perpetuated in the peninsula.
“It is a discrimination when I can be limited in what I can be because of my religion or race and when it does not apply to a Muslim or Malay.
“Am I a second-class Malaysian?” he asked, adding that he had received reports of discrimination and failed promises of fair power-sharing among the major races in Sabah.
Outspoken local politician, Daniel John Jambun, said Umno has trampled on every fair power-sharing formula in Sabah, bulldozing its way without guilt.
Jambun sees a planned and systematic disenfranchisement of Christian natives in Sabah by Umno.
“It is unprecedented the way Umno is doing it… it is very, very glaring. Not only in the top posts but it is becoming more and more obvious at the lower ranks of both state and federal civil services in Sabah. Go to any agency and you will know what I am saying.
“I give you only one example: there was this hiring for 35 vacancies in the State Printing Department recently. Guess what? Only three are KDM, one is Chinese, and the rest Muslims.
“This is only a tip of the iceberg. We shall reveal to the world more facts and statistics of discrimination and disenfranchisement in due time,” he said.
Jambun is expected to present a paper at the National Human Rights Conference on the “Future of Marginalised and Minority Communities in Malaysia” to be on Jan 23 at the Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur.
The one-day conference is co-organised by Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMa), Hindraf, Borneo Resources Institute, Sarawak Dayak National Union, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association and the London-based Human Rights Foundation.


  1. Padan muka orang2 KadazanDusun...serves them the purpose...Masih juga tidak sedar-sedar...

  2. This is no laughing matter..matters have just get so serious to the point that the KadazanDusuns have just lost its own country and rights literary....

  3. Orang KadazanDusun patut peluk cium and mengucapkan Terima Kasih banyak-banyak kalau boleh juta-juta kepada Tun Mahathir kerana merampas hak-hak orang KadazanDusun secara halus selama ini(Total Take over)..KadazanDusuns Love you Tun Mahathir...tell your Malayan friend and cousins..welcome to sabah..take all you can..the KadazanDusuns tidak akan marah..macam cerita P.Ramlee..kalau marah kena jual....

  4. Oniba noh puhobuk tulun borneo, au noh alaid om kumobong no di. Pogidu kama


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