By JEFFREY KITINGAN
COMMENT: (The year) 2019 could be the most challenging year for Malaysians, both politically and economically, after what 2018 has become a turning point in our nation’s history.
The 14th General Elections on 9th May 2018 saw BN/Umno being dethroned as the federal government which had ruled since 1957 (then under Alliance) when the Federation of Malaya was formed and later the bigger Federation of Malaysia on 16th September 1963. It also saw the return of the old Umno boss at 93 years young (sic) under the victorious Pakatan Harapan coalition and as his second stint as the 7th Prime Minister of the new federal government under Pakatan Harapan (PH).
2018 also saw the emergence of hope that the grouses of Sabah and Sarawak and their rights in Malaysia could be addressed. At the same time, the voices of Sarawak for Sarawakians and Sabah for Sabahans grew louder and stronger.
Although Sabah flowed with the political tsunami in Malaya, there was a constitutional crisis twist with two Chief Ministers being sworn in within 48 hours. Despite a High Court ruling (in favour of Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Mohd Shafie Apdal), the appeal is still pending before the Court of Appeal and, most probably, finally at the Federal Court.
The hopes and expectations of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia will grow higher. The movement to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s rights will grow stronger partly fueled and driven by the Manifesto and election promises of Pakatan Harapan and angered by the post-election rhetoric in side-stepping their implementation.
These hopes and expectations will not be dampened by excuses in avoiding fulfillment of the Manifesto promises or the non-inclusion of the revenue and oil royalty rights in Budget 2019 or the formation of the Special Cabinet Committee (SCC) on MA63.
So, what is in store for 2019?
Certainly, in 2019 there will be more power play and power struggles and expected fluidity of the political dynamics in Malaya. In anticipation of the two-year transition and change of PM-ship in 2020, the relationships between Dr. Mahathir, Anwar Ibrahim and Azmin Ali will dominate the political scene and rumours will only grow stronger.
The Umno-PAS cooperation will be further tested especially in the by-elections in Cameron Highlands and the Negeri Sembilan Rantau State seat.
There also appears to be emerging signs of a power struggle in PH particularly between Dr. Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim and between PPBM and PKR to be the lead party and internally in PKR between the pro-Anwar and pro-Azmin factions.
In Sabah and Sarawak, the struggles will be between Malayan parties and local parties with Sabah having the addition of challenges being faced by the Warisan-PH coalition and Upko.
With the cases on 1MDB and ex-PM Najib coming up, MA63 is likely to take a backseat and pushed into the background. The entry of PPBM into Sabah will pose a further check and balance on the Warisan-PH coalition.
In Sarawak where the State elections are due to be held latest in 2021, the politics will be likely see a re-shaping of Sarawak for Sarawakians against Malayan parties foraging for Sarawak seats. To honour MA63 and autonomy, the State elections should be left solely to Sarawak local parties.
All considered, the possibilities and challenges could be political instability in Malaya with a different type of instability in Sabah. This may result in things becoming more dictatorial and restrictive particularly against Sabah and Sarawak rights which may see an emergence in Sabah and Sarawak, demands for a referendum for self-determination and eventual separation if their rights are not restored quickly.
In Sabah, more options will be thrown up with PPBM Sabah with prospects of Warisan-PH and even Upko leaders leaving and joining a new PPBM coalition or a unity government with pro-Sabah rights reformists against the current unstable Warisan-PH coalition.
• Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan is President of Parti Solidariti Tanah Air-ku (Solidariti) and MP for Keningau as well as State Assemblyman for Tambunan