COMMENT: The 2015 earthquake in Sabah claimed a total of 18 precious lives and chipped off part of the fabled Donkey’s Ear on Mount Kinabalu, and could have changed the state’s geological structure permanently.
Were there any premonitions prior to the tremor? Local villagers said some unusual animal behaviors were observed days before the tragedy, including frequent appearances of wild boars and incessant dog barks. Mountain guides also claimed that unusual clouds hovered in the sky over the one or two days before the quake.
Some said the presence of nude foreign mountaineers on Mount Kinabalu could be a bad omen or perhaps the predisposing factor.
Meanwhile, geologists will tell you that the actual reason of the quake was the constant movements of the Earth that has since accumulated an immense quantity of energy that at a specific breaking point would be liberated instantaneously between the tectonic plates.
After the earthquake on Mount Kinabalu, another political tremor is now in the making in the Land Below the Wind.
A tremor took place in the state’s opposition a couple of days ago when PKR and DAP reps and state leaders quit their parties en masse. The sheer magnitude and gravity of the tremor have dealt a severe blow on the existing structure of Sabah’s opposition camp.
Prior to that, the ex-Umno strongman from Sabah Shafie Apdal announced that he would set up a new local political party and was prepared to rally other opposition parties to join forces to fight the BN.
Explaining the political phenomenon from the geological point of view, after Sabah politics has been brought under the powerful arms of the BN, on the surface things look rather stable and calm but deep inside frustration and discontent still linger while the dissident energy is fast building up.
After PBS, then a symbol of Sabah’s local politics, was annexed by the BN, the annexation failed to quell the people’s affinity to local politics. They voted for the opposition to vent their frustration. Even though PKR and DAP, both hailing from the other side of South China Sea, have managed to win their votes, that alone is never sufficient to embody such an emerging awareness.
Although other local opposition parties have been loud in their slogans, they fail to secure a strong mandate from the electorate due to weak organization and lack of powerful leadership.
Earlier this year, Adenan Satem managed to get the people in Sarawak to overwhelmingly rally behind him around the “Sarawak for Sarawakians” campaign in the state elections.
Seeing this, Sabahans begin to take cue from the experience across the western borders, reawakening their dream of autonomy that has been hushed for almost a decade.
Unfortunately Sabah lacks some of the conditions that Sarawak has. No one in Sabah Umno, which holds the reins of the state administration, is even close to Adenan Satem. Simply put, the helmsman still needs to take instructions from the party’s federal level leadership.
As for the opposition parties in the state, they are all from the peninsula, whose leaders are not at all native to Sabah. Wanting in local agendas, neither PKR nor DAP can effectively lead a “Sabah for Sabahans” movement.
While Shafie Apdal might have left Umno involuntarily, his departure nevertheless provides him a unique opportunity to fill the vacuum in local politics, in particular one for the state’s Muslims. If successfully pooling the resources of other local Kadazan and Chinese parties in the state, there is hope his party can shake the BN’s foundation, or even trigger a major quake measuring in excess of 6 on the Richter scale.
Of course, it’s still premature to foretell a major quake, but the several minor jolts in the opposition could very well be a premonition or even a precursor of bigger things to come.
- The views herein are that of the writer. This article was first published in mysinchew.com.