KOTA KINABALU: The recent poll results showing that 67 percent of Sabahans wanting autonomy to be implemented is not surprising, Assemblyman for Bingkor Dr Jeffrey Kitingan
In fact, he pointed out, if the pollsters had asked whether the people wanted independence, the results may have been similar in numbers.
Jeffrey, the president of STAR, who says he had long championed for Sabah to be restored as an equal and autonomous partner in the Federation of Malaysia, added the state has been denied its rights and special safeguards have been violated and many unfulfilled for the past 54 years since 1963.
“To compound matters, Sabah and Sarawak were denied its fair share of its development despite contributing the bulk of the Federation’s revenues,” Jeffrey said in a statement.
Sarawak and Sabah are the third and fifth largest contributors respectively to the Malaysian GDP.
Yet, according to Jeffrey in the national Budgets 2015, 2016 and 2017, there was very little federal allocations for development in the two states. Although the off-budget Pan Borneo Highway is to be built, albeit 25 years late, and it is targeted for completion after 2022-2025, if on schedule.
“To rub salt into the wound, the constitutional provisions for the return of the 40% net revenue derived from Sabah and other revenues, have continued to be ignored despite years of clamouring for the same to be paid annually,” added.
Jeffrey maintained that autonomy for Sabah is still a long, long way off.
“Firstly, the federal government has maintained a parallel government to the Sabah government in the form of the Federal Secretary Office,” he said.
“The FSO is aided with all forms of federal departments and agencies, with many duplicating Sabah agencies, and headed by Malayans. Even teachers from Malaya are given priority even when there are many better qualified Sabahan graduates.”
Secondly, he said, the Sabah government is now a puppet government dictated by Umno Malaya with non-Umno BN components completely powerless.
“These non-Umno parties even have difficulty getting posts in local governments, and there are whispers in the corridors of power indicating that the signatures of Umno division chiefs are more powerful and carry more weight than the presidents of the Sabah component parties,” he said.
Jeffrey added the federal government has entrenched and centralized all powers in federal ministries, departments and agencies and provided them with tons of money.
“Such is their power than many Sabah departments and agencies are left with little influence and little authority, even to the extent the issuance of fishing licences are issued from Putrajaya or powers usurped like LIGS (Sabah Rubber Industries Board) being sidelined by RISDA.
“Last but not least, the revenues and rich resources of Sabah are fully exploited by Malaya and the federal government,” he added, saying Sabah is the poorest State in the country and burdened with high costs of living and a lower minimum wage compared to Malaya.
“To restore autonomy to Sabah from being a vassal State, one of the first things the federal government and Umno need to implement is to withdraw Umno from Sabah and leave the Sabah government to local parties.
“Will the federal government and Umno have the will to grant Sabah its overdue autonomy? That is a big question posed from the poll results.
“If autonomy is not restored and quickly, do not be surprised in the next polls, the support for autonomy will be turned into support for independence.”