COMMENT: President of United Progessive Kinabalu Organisastion (UPKO), Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau
It is time for all Bornean parties including state chapters of federationwide party to strategically unite to exercise veto power to prevent Malaysia from deterioration and decadence, whether due to corruption, authoritarianism or bigotry.
What would make a party of Borneans, by Borneans and for Borneans? It is superficial to pin down whether the party is a state chapter of a federal-level party, a component of a federal-level coalition or a standalone entity in Borneo.
The real yardstick of Borneoness in a party is whether it uses its power and influence to strive for the best interests of Borneo people.
Many Borneo parties – from Donald Stephens’ UPKO, Mustapha’s USNO, Stephen Kalong Ningkan’s SNAP to Pairin Kittingan’s PBS in the 1980s – did try but they were ruthlessly removed from power by UMNO and their local allies.
Hence, after some point, the most effective way to fight for the Borneans was to fight within the BN. Like it or not, that was the game that most Borneo parties have to put up to.
Things changed after 2008 when BN lost its two-thirds and UMNO could not take Sabah and Sarawak for granted as their fixed deposits would not run away regardless of the return. The power of Borneo parties collectively has grown after the regime change in 2018 and the Sheraton Move in 2020.
Today, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri’s government with 114 seats would collapse immediately if GPS’ 18 parliamentarians moved away. GPS’ king-making power is rewarded with the appointment of four federal ministers, two minister-class special convoys and four deputy ministers. But what have Sarawak and Sabah people got from GPS’ instrumental position in government?
It has failed to even fight for the right of some 250,000 diasporic Sarawakian voters in Malaya, Sabah and Labuan to vote without flying home, especially amidst the pandemic. Never mind the pandemic picked up its momentum 21 months ago, enough for the Election Commission to expand absentee voting facilities to benefit the 250,000 Sarawakians.
However, the EC did nothing and the GPS state government say nothing. Why is not GPS using its power to force the EC to drop its Malayan-centrism, which led to ignorance and apathy of 250,000 diasporic Sarawakians, 300,000 diasporic Sabahans and 100,000 diasporic
Malayans who are domiciled outside of their regions? Would the EC dare to sit on it if its refusal may cause the Government’s collapse? It is time for Borneo parties to compete and collaborate professionally.
Let us compete vigorously and healthily to spoil our people with good choices during and between elections. Also let us collaborate intelligently for our common interests.
Instead of attacking each other for their federal-level affiliation, let us compete to see who can best use their federal cables to ensure a better Malaysia for all. We must stop the fairy tales of “Sarawak/Sabah isolationism” or “Sarawak/Sabah exceptionalism” that Sarawak and Sabah can remain beautiful, peaceful and wonderful even if the rest of Malaysia is set on fire or sunk into pollution.
As long as Sabah and Sarawak remain in Malaysia, our best interest cannot be attained by just preserving our home regions. South China Sea is not our great wall to fence off troubles from Malaya.
The Allah ban is the best case in point. Like Arabic and Indonesian Muslims, Borneo Muslims never complain about Borneo Christians praying to Allah and never fear that would cause confusion and even apostasy to Muslims.
Yes, regardless of faiths, we Borneans are intelligent people who don’t get confused. But because some Malayans suffer a cultural shock listening to Borneo Christians praying to Allah in church, all non-Muslims were prohibited from praying to Allah from 1986 until a High Court’s ruling in March 2021.
Why did the Muhyiddin Government file an appeal to this blessed judgement? And why did PM Ismail Sabri who talks about “Keluarga Malaysia” everyday not order the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to withdraw the appeal? Where are GPS, PBS, PBRS, STAR, UMNO Sabah and Bersatu Sabah on this? Why do they not exercise the Borneo Veto power to knock some sense into the Malayan elites’ mind? Does GPS whose pullout alone can bring down the Ismail government agree with the Likewise, why is GPS quiet on the federal policy to restrict beer sales?
Instead of asserting commonsense into the Cabinet with its Borneo veto power, is GPS now converted by hardliners in PAS, UMNO and Bersatu that alcohol is satan’s urine that must be banned or restricted in sales and consumption? It does not matter if PAS contests for one seat, ten seats or all 82 seats in Sarawak, if GPS is now a mentee of PAS, then PAS is running Sarawak without having to win even one seat.
Many Malayans would think such call to defend our cultural freedom can only be made to the non-Muslim parties in GPS, PBS or or non-Muslim lawmakers in Bersatu and UMNO. They do not understand that in Sabah and Sarawak, cultural freedom is a common property for Muslims and non-Muslims.
Sabahan and Sarawakian Muslims know well, if the non-Muslims lose their freedom to drink, the Muslim ultra-right would want to turn Sarawak into Darul Hana and introduce Hudud in Sabah and Sarawak. These hardliners have successfully indoctrinated their members in Borneo to oppose their Christian families and friends praying to Allah.
They tried to ban Timah. It won’t be long for some of them to want to ban Tuak, Langkau, Lihing, Bahar and Montoku. Lest we forget, we have more than half a million Sabahans and Sarawakians in Malaya, and half of them are non-Muslims. Their cultural freedom to drink in Malaya must be defended as long as Sabah and Sarawak still remain in Malaysia.
Hence, I call upon my old friend, Abang Jo, the most powerful Borneo politician in Malaysia’s history now, to courageously exercise GPS’ Borneo Veto Power to oppose the continuing of the AGC’s appeal on the Allah ban and the PAS-inspired federal policy to gradually eliminate alcohol in Malaysia.
As Ismail needs your support and he cannot afford to undermine you in a key state election, Abang Jo, please summon your moral courage to do the right thing for Sarawak and Sabah.