Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sabahans see Yong as standing up to KL

Sabahans see Yong as standing up to KL
23 June, 2008

It is fast becoming obvious that despite attempts by BN leaders to undermine Yong, and to pit his deputy Datuk Raymond Tan against him, he remains popular and is gaining fresh support.

ANALYSIS by The Malaysian Insider

The dark clouds, strong winds and heavy rain that take over the sunny skies every afternoon over the last few days is reflective of Sabah’s current turbulent political mood.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), which has remained loyal to the Barisan Nasional ever since its inception in 1994, has rocked the coalition’s strong state boat, now that it is adamant about going ahead with the vote of no confidence against the prime minister.

Once a fellow rower in steering the coalition forward after the BN received major setbacks in the peninsula in the March 8 elections, SAPP seems ready to head off on its own into unchartered waters.

Its president Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee refuses to bow to pressure, and is openly stating that he is prepared to be jailed now that the Anti-Corruption Agency wants to investigate him over a case he was already questioned about five years ago.

He has become hugely unpopular among his BN comrades although SAPP is still with the coalition.

Statements such as “sack the SAPP” and “he has been offered the position of deputy prime minister by Anwar Ibrahim” are being pelted at him, but the 53-year-old former chief minister of Sabah has managed to answer all accusations showing his 25 years’ experience in politics.

“Kalau saya berdiam dan sokong BN, tidak ada kes (If I keep quiet and support the BN, there would be no case). When I fight, they want to arrest me… some people think that when we go against them, we have an ulterior motive such as trying to get positions.

“This is their mindset. This is political bribe. Let me go to jail, you go and stand in elections and continue with our struggles,” he shouted out in a community hall in Kampung Likas, about 15 minutes from Kota Kinabalu on Saturday afternoon during a hastily-planned meet-the-people session to “explain issues of the day.”

And as the rain continued to lash down on the tiny hall, about 500 party members and supporters largely from the Bumiputera community who had jostled in to listen to Yong an hour before he arrived, yelled back words of support and gave him a thunderous applause each time he brought up the failure of the federal government to address pressing issues.

It is fast becoming obvious that despite attempts by BN leaders to undermine Yong, and to pit his deputy Datuk Raymond Tan against him, he remains popular and is gaining fresh support.

At the end of his hour-long speech, supporters scrambled to shake his hand, and a frail elderly woman in a pink headscarf gave him a hug. Yong seemed to know each person who went up to him by his/her name.

“Although I am a supporter of the BN, I know what Yong is doing is right. Too many promises have been made, yet we have not seen any concrete solutions coming from the federal government.

“We gave the BN 24 seats in Parliament… we only lost one seat (Kota Kinabalu which went to the DAP) but still the federal government does not seem to care. I will continue to support Yong. I was his supporter when he was in Parti Bersatu Sabah and when he left, I did not abandon him,” Aishah, a housewife in her 40s, said after listening to Yong speak.

Another supporter said she may be uneducated but she knows what the true qualities of a leader are.

“Yong and his party leaders stick with the people. He comes to our home during the fasting month, he sends us prayer mats and he attends every funeral, birth and kenduri (feast) although we are of different faith,” a grandmother in her 50s said.

At the Gaya street fair in Kota Kinabalu, where SAPP has a community service booth, hundreds walked up to Yong on Sunday morning to wish him well, with some patting his back and telling him that he has their support.

A leader of a non-governmental organisation said while the government has done a lot for the people, there were issues that have yet to be tackled.

“I am not denying that the federal government has pumped in a lot of money to help Sabah but we are still paying more than our friends in the peninsula for a lot of items. We are plagued with the illegal immigrant problem, there are so many stateless street children and everyone is just wondering what is happening.

“I was hoping that Sabah would finally get the goodies it deserves after the BN won all but one parliamentary seat. I felt really sad when our leaders were given rather unimportant ministerial positions when we should have been given stronger portfolios, such as the Home Ministry and Rural and Regional Development.

“Then I thought that the demands Sabah leaders were making would finally hit home with the federal government. I waited in anticipation to read the newspapers on June 1, a day after the prime minister came to Kota Kinabalu to deliver his bag of presents.

“Imagine my disappointment when the only thing Sabah saw was the abolishment of the federal development department and the appointment of a Sabahan vice-chancellor for Universiti Malaysia Sabah. These are things that should have been done a long time ago,” the NGO leader said.

General conversations at coffee shops, sparked by front page headlines about SAPP’s daring move, are mostly in favour of Yong. Though some question SAPP’s true motive, the same skeptics admit that federal leaders must listen to demands from Sabah instead of turning a blind eye.

“Where is the Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants that we have been asking for? We don’t want another Cabinet Committee on illegals. It has not worked in the past, and it will not work now. We want to see commitment.

“I am also glad that SAPP is asking for a 20 per cent oil royalty payment, compared to the five per cent we are getting now. There are so many poor people in Sabah, and yet money from our soil is being used to fund huge projects in the peninsula.

“It actually hurts to see the Petronas twin towers. We just want to be treated as equals, not as lesser citizens. I will support SAPP if it chooses to opt out of the BN and stand for elections,” a business owner said.

Newspapers in Sabah are filled with reports on SAPP, with fair coverage to the party and its critics, allowing readers to be the judge. But as one observer pointed out, the more television stations and the mainstream peninsula papers go against the SAPP, the party will gain more ground.

Blogs, including the one SAPP runs, are abuzz with words of encouragement, with some labelling Yong a hero for standing up for the rights of Sabahans.

“I have never heard of your party and I know that it is just a small one, but you have done the right thing,” one entry read.

As SAPP faces new battles ahead every day, the only thing that will keep the party going is support from within and outside.

Whether SAPP will be able to survive in the stormy waters it has thrown itself in still remains to be seen, but as one party leader put it, “It’s time to do or die!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sabah people will continue to remain poor. Make the change now!
Or be sidelined forever.