Professor Wang Gangwu, the illustrious living legend of East and Southeast Asian history, in the introduction to “Malaysia: A Survey”(Pall Mall, London and Dumbow) published in May 1964 makes two pertinent points about the then newly formed nation. The first is that after fighting Communism for two decades ” through Malaysia, it hoped to find a more permanent solution to this threat. There is thus the question of the survival of the state, of a set of political values and of a political identity.”
The revered professor concludes the introduction with a reference to the concept of Malaysia, ” not as ‘Melayu Raya,’ but as a strictly political decision to find a more permanent place for democratic institutions in South-east Asia.”
These quotes are invaluable in attempting to understand the hot and humongous election campaign currently being mounted in Sabah. With the rather forced elections scheduled for September 26 there is extremely biased coverage by the mainstream media of the political platforms of the various candidates and the opponents of the caretaker chief minister, Dato Seri Shafie Apdal.
Consequently, the powerful and peaceful message of Shafie, his poignant plea for peace, unity and reasonableness is not getting the coverage it richly deserves.
Brief Tenure As Chief Minister
To start with, this was an extravagant and extraneous election forced on Shafie in the twenty seventh month of his 60-month term. Shafie came to power on May 12 2018, not with complete reliance on popular mandate or his small Warisan party, but because the country was on an inexorable momentum of escaping from the crippling clutches of both corruption and kleptocracy.
He effectively brought to an end the stranglehold of a 24-year-old asymmetrical UMNO-dominated and controlled state government. Kuala Lumpur was clearly complicit in the corruption and detriment of that BN government. Shafie’s tenure seemed unshakable initially as the chief minister he succeeded was engulfed almost instantaneously in allegations of corruption and money laundering. Lately these charges were dropped.
New Government & Covid-19
At the capital in Kuala Lumpur at the end of February 2020 a legitimately elected government led by the seasoned El Supremo, Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself collapsed through political intrigues involving rabid race and religious issues. Drawing invidious inspiration from these changes UMNO, with its largely tainted leadership attempted to foist a similar backdoor realignment exercise in Sabah. Shafie preempted that eventuality by dissolving the Legislative Assembly.
This election is being held in the sixth month of the Covid-19 pandemic when the ravages of unemployment, a contracting economy and a clampdown on business, tourism and trade are taking a heavy toll on the nation. Sabah is deeply affected by a fall in tourism and external receipts and no sane head of government would want to test his or her popularity in this situation. However Shafie has had little choice.
His campaign themes can be summarised in simple terms- its essence is that of protecting and preserving the intrinsic indigenous political identity and integrity of his state- the very same foundational fundamentals – so presciently stated by Professor Wang Gangwu in 1964. Shafie is pleading for a mandate with his people and the leadership of the peninsula for appreciation and understanding to uphold the following principles:
1. Identity: In 1960 the population of Sabah was 454,000 and that of Malaysia (excluding Singapore) was￼￼ under 7.5 million. Today Malaysia’s population is 32.7 million while that of Sabah is approximately 3.9 million. Sabah’s population has increased nearly ninefold while that of Malaysia has only had an under fivefold increase. This is something abnormal. Shafie’s plea is to utilise more of the resources of the state for his people, not to import foreigners and distort and disturb the balance that exists in Sabah.
2. Income: Sabah contributes substantially to the federal coffers with their oil, timber and palm oil production. Shafie’s plea is to allow the state to keep a larger share of these proceeds…