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Sabah-based parties know Sabah issues better

By Chong Tet Loi
Two-party system is not that fashionable in the world. The number of nations that adhere to it is getting smaller. Even our former colonial suzerain, Britain, which used to have a two-party system for a good long time, now admits a third force in their political interplay

THE need to elaborate further and clarify John Lo’s “Two-party System Will Give Sabah More Muscle” (forum 16.9.12) compels me to continue this lengthy political exchange.
The writer writes in relation to Malaysia politics with specific mention on the coming 13th general election. Therefore Malaysia is THE context. In such a case, history and reality must be our yardstick in recognizing the relevance of the two-party system.

The writer refers to Pakatan Rakyat as a party in his argument which I beg to differ. The common understanding on the entity of a political party is that it is having a similar ideology and its constituents are almost homogenous.

In relation, Pakatan Rakyat comprises also DAP and PAS, ranging from socialists to religious bigot. Such a composition of constituents is unprecedented within and outside the nation. In the very recent past, they could not come together under one common structure. Notwithstanding, the clarion call within the country for a civil society in stemming the tide of corruption and injustice compels them to join forces.

In essence, Pakatan Rakyat is much more than a party. In view of its complexity and pluralism, “coalition” is a more appropriate term to describe the alliance. The writer is preoccupied with defending his “party” concept, thus leading him away from political realities in the country, especially that of Sabah. Being inclusionist in meaning, coalition can perhaps steer him into a better perspective.

The political setting of Malaysia is defined by coalition, rather than by “party”. Right from the beginning, we had the Alliance, a coalition indeed in the relevant geo-political setting at that time. The Alliance had then become regressive and not transformed itself according to the needs of times. It was inadequate to serve efficiently the aspirations of the nation. After 1970, it expanded to include and embrace new constituents, hence the BN.

BN, a larger and more inclusionist coalition, had accommodated more diverse aspiration of the Malaysia populace. Owing to adjusting to changes and serving the needs of times promptly, it had endowed the nation a new lease of relative peace and stability.

However, BN is increasingly changing its nature and outlook, serving the interest of an ever smaller group. It is accommodating in form, comprising 14 parties, but not in spirit and practice. It thus has a shrinking political base.

It is important to understand that in order to succeed in Malaysia politics, accommodation of the various definitive aspirations is the key.

Getting back the Pakatan Rakyat, it is found accommodating primarily Malayan aspirations, and less so East Malaysian aspirations on the fact that it lacks East Malaysian-based parties. Maintaining “mosquito” presence through nominal politicians does not in any way reflect meaningful East Malaysian participation.

Pakatan Rakyat makes concessions to East Malaysian aspirations here and there, mostly non-collective initiatives. The known professed accommodation of East Malaysia demands is Malaya yielding to popular East Malaysian aspirations championed by East Malaysian-based parties, I personally do not see the shadow of influence of their East Malaysian colleagues.

Imagine this – Pakatan Rakyat can accommodate wide ranging Malayan difference, which are more diverse than the parochial aspirations of East Malaysian in expanse and dept. I do not see the reason why it cannot also accommodate East Malaysia- based parties. Pakatan Rakyat maneuvers in Sabah clearly indicate that it want to dictate and does not respect Sabahan initiatives and pursuit of restoring our own legitimate powers and rights which our Sabahan national founding fathers had successfully instituted.

East Malaysia did not join the Malayan Federation. Instead a brand new nation was formed. Also, the name Malaysia was adopted, not Malaya Raya or otherwise. The East Malaysian national founding fathers had intended in the new nation that East Malaysian uniqueness was not to be eroded. Whichever coalition that aspires to wrestle federal throne or now Putrajaya must accommodate East Malaysian aspirations.

If Pakatan Rakyat is not ready to accommodate more than BN the aspirations of East Malaysia, it is already doomed to failure. Malaysia may have fulfilled Malayan dreams, but not much that of East Malaysia, especially Sabah. That’s why more than ninety-five percent of the oil and gas businesses, more than eighty percent of oil palm landmass, etc, do not belong to Sabahans. Besides, Sabah is plagued by illegal immigrants, project IC, high unemployment, highest incidence of poverty and so on. Sabah is on. Sabah is so impotent in Malaysia.

As long as these problems still persist, there is always a market for Sabah-based parties. Non-Sabah based parties will just sweep these under the carpet. In the end, Sabah will get a raw deal and the present predicament will remain forever. Consequently, Sabah will further be downtrodden.

Sabah-based parties are more knowledgeable with the pulse of Sabah’s dilemma and therefore represent Sabahans more efficiently. They are more capable of solving Sabah’s problem thoroughly and taking Sabah’s dilemma by the horn.

Once Sabah’s dilemma is overcome, Sabahans can then psychologically, mentally, spiritually and resourcefully take on the nation. If Sabahans, without a credible political record of solving the problems in our own house, jump into the bandwagon of the two-party system now, can we, with all the debilitating burdens, be able, confident and ready to contribute concretely to political nation building whereby we can stand uprightly and proudly before the giants?

In order for two-party system to flourish, Malaysian society must necessarily come of age. One of the requirements of coming of age is that the Sabahan dream must be also fulfilled.

The existing Malaysian ethos has not come of age for Sabahans to play our role in national level parties, that is why the cream of Sabahan leaders prefer more Sabah-based parties to assert their aspirations. Pakatan Rakyat and its supporters must take cognizance of this important fact.

On another note, the two-party system is not that fashionable in the world. The number of nations that adhere to it is getting smaller. Even our former colonial suzerain, Britain, which used to have a two-party system for a good long time, now admits a third force in their political interplay. In its political structure, the state of Scotland has a parallel parliament. These are signs that the two-party system becomes less capable of fulfilling the growing aspiration of an ever-expanding and discerning constituency. The writer needs to review his covert assertion that the two-party system is a progressive act.

The notion that the two-party system can do wonders and solve a lot of problems is a flaw. At present, the tussle between BN and Pakatan Rakyat causes to empower some entities and we feel to have more muscle. But we must be aware that power corrupts.

In relations, it is wiser to build up democratic institutions that can check and balance, in the political equation, a third force such as East Malaysia-based parties can serve to check and balance; who knows one day to serve that role.

This coming 13th general elections will be a watershed in the history of Malaysia. There will definitely be a reshuffle and realignment of powers if the past 308 election and subsequent events were any indications, At this juncture of possible drastic changes, Sabah must claim its legitimate and rightful share of reshuffle and realignment.

In this, Sabah’s rightful share is claiming back what we had as provided in the Malaysia agreement. Our Sabahan national founding fathers had been visionary in foreseeing that the relevant state rights and safeguards were the foundation for Sabahans to survive and compete within the Malaysian framework. Those features are also precisely the catalyst for Sabahans to mature and the springboard to rise to national political leadership. Unfortunately, Sabahans are deliberately denied the facilities.

Sabahans had in the past asserted to reclaim the lost ground repeatedly but were frustrated. We are entering the 50th year of Malaysia, coincidentally it will also be the year of the 13th general election. The 13th general elections to be the most opportune time to reclaim. Do we want to squander a rare window of opportunity that appears only after 50 years?

If we search our conscience, and dare to compare, we can find out the Sabah is obviously suffering the most mistreatment and the most exploited state in the nation.

As an ordinary Sabahan Malaysian voter, I see that political aspiration to national pinnacle leadership is a remote cause or perhaps unreachable at this point in time. However, the dismantling of unjust structures which the nation has throughout history imposed upon Sabah and contravened the spirit of the Malaysia agreement is extremely immediate.

The honouring of the Malaysia agreement will bring immediate positive changes to any ordinary folk in Sabah. The Rakyat of Sabah can then be uplifted and empowered on an equal footing to excel vis-à-vis our counterparts in Peninsular Malaysia.

I observe that the great majority of the best of Sabahan politicians join Sabah-based parties. They choose this option because they take upon themselves that their paramount mission is addressing an imbalance, an anomaly within the nation and an injustice that is absolutely not part of the deal when we partook to form Malaysia. And that redress attempt is Sabah’s genuine and authentic aspiration.


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