Current Affairs

Rising Storm

Sabah’s penchant for political change in the past has not been lost on the observers. The slew of negative news for BN from the state lately has pundits busy predicting the casualties for BN here in the next general elections and its implication for nationwide political scenario. How many seats are in play here? Will their fall usher in the victory storm in PR’s favour?

CM Liability

With the crossovers of two BN backbench Members of Parliament to being PR-friendly and encouraging turnouts in PR ceramahs across Sabah, has the wind of change come to Sabah?

Opinion polls conducted in September seem to indicate this trend. BN’s popularity amongst the Sabah people dropped by 12 percent to 54 percent from 2009’s 66 percent, with the biggest drop coming from the Muslim Bumiputera category, BN’s support base in Sabah.

In addition, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman’s popularity also took a plunge, dropping 15 percent in 2012. In fact his popularity is below that of his party, 45 percent compared to 54 percent.

“This is a sign of concern for UMNO’s leadership, as Musa is becoming a liability to BN. In fact, he is increasingly being likened to Taib Mahmud who stands for corrupt leadership in Sarawak. The spate of news on his alleged corruption is giving the news mill plenty of fodder,” Jimmy Wong said.

Electoral Schism and PATIs

Sabah has a history of seesawing power structure between the non-Muslim and Muslim natives that has seen several change of state governments. However its inherent instinct for political change is now being subverted and thwarted by the presence of the huge number of illegal immigrant (PATI) voters, whether ‘legal’ or phantom.

Dr Edwin Bosi explains why the previously politically dominant Kadazan-Dusun-Murut (KDM) and Chinese communities are ruing for political change this time.

“The KDMs were in the position of power in the previous state governments’ tenure. Together with the Chinese, they were able to control the state government. The BN federal government realised it didn’t have the numbers to control the KDM and Chinese communities’ voting directions.”

“As a result, many illegal immigrants (PATIs) were brought in and recruited as citizens and voters to subdue the influence of the Chinese and KDMs.”

“The sidelining of the KDM residents in the civil service and government projects that began in 1994 is affecting their livelihood. The appointment of Peninsular Malaysians to important federal department posts in Sabah is causing further friction,” Bosi elaborated.

Chan offers a different view. “Often political parties from both sides of the fence had played up the racial card to win the votes. BN has exploited this successfully and kept power the last 18 years.”

“In order to overcome the KDM and Muslim native’s zero-sum game mentality, PR’s task is to communicate that it is only with good and fair governance instituted at all levels that every communities will benefit and not be sidelined. Hence this is why PR’s Buku Jingga and Kuching Declaration came about to rectify Sabah’s aspiration for change of the better,” Chan said.

Old Obstacles

In addition, there is the perennial issue of vote buying and coercion. “Vote buying is rampant in Sabah. Even the relatively affluent Kota Kinabalu residents are being offered goodies such as 1Malaysia Pads. But they are well-informed; their votes are still with us,” Jimmy said

“I have received information that in the previous GE, BN had spent around RM 1 million for each state seat to campaign. This time the figure is expected to reach RM 10 million per seat.”

“In their zeal to dish out goodies, corruption is going on. For example the 1Malaysia water tanks. The tanks cost around RM 400-500 each in open market procurement; yet the government is buying at several times that price. Who gets the difference? Cronies,” Jimmy added.

“Voters are coerced into voting certain parties by threatening those who have family members who are working in the civil service or on scholarship. This is especially prevalent amongst the native voters,” Bosi added.

Despite the onslaught, the people’s positive respond for PR is growing. “Nowadays, we are seeing enthusiastic turnouts in PR’s ceramahs and functions. DAP registered a record attendance in a ceramah dinner in Sandakan in September where we collected a record of RM 60,000 in donations.”

“However, I must caution that big turnouts may not translate into votes as we saw in the Batu Sapi by-election in November 2010. Perhaps some enjoyed the ceramahs for the entertainment value,” Bosi chipped in.

Wildcards in the Pack  

As Sabah is the battleground and kingmaker in the next general election, BN is fighting for its life to retain the seats in Sabah. Opinion surveys show that the Chinese and KDM voters are leaning towards PR. The accompanying table shows the seats that PR has the best chances for electoral victories at the parliamentary level.

Comparison Results for Selected Parliamentary Seats


 No of voters

 Number of votes







Kota Marudu       31,938





Kota Belud       43,071





Tuaran       40,761





Sepanggar       39,251





Kota Kinabalu       43,714





Penampang       35,281





Beaufort      26,788





Ranau       30,810





Keningau      35,578





Tenom      20,874





Pensiangan*        19,712





Sandakan      32,847





Tawau      42,560





* BN won without contest in the 2008 GE

How many seats can PR realistically win? “We have good prospects in 14 parliamentary seats including Labuan. We are targeting to deliver eight seats; in the other four seats, BN has the slight advantage,” Jimmy explains.Besides the PR parties (PAS, PKR, DAP), Sabah’s political situation is complicated by the presence of PR-friendly parties (APS, PPS) and Sabah-centric parties (SAPP, STAR).

In particular the SAPP and STAR’s Sabah-centric agenda is muddling the scene.“Sabah people who want enduring change for the better, need to choose a national or peninsular-based opposition party to overcome this BN juggernaut and establish a two-party system in the country,” Chan explains.

“Sabah-centric parties who try to form state government on their own will not survive the federal government onslaught and its political machination. In the past the BN federal government has used all means, fair and foul to marginalise Sabah,”

Jimmy added.“At the state level, BN is still dominant; it will be challenging for us to unseat BN at this juncture. Our main aim is to contribute the parliamentary seats at the federal level in order to win Putrajaya.”“In order to ensure a one-to-one fight in all the winnable seats, we are working to resolve the issues with all the other parties.”

“If PR forms government in Putrajaya, the BN state government will not last long as the past corruption cases weighing on the state leaders will catch up with them. They will be brought to justice.”


Native Inroads

DAP’s attempt to attract native citizen’s support in Sabah is showing encouraging progress. According to DAP state organising secretary Jeffrey Kumin, Sabah DAP now has more than 30 percent native citizens in its party membership roll. Seven of its 20 state committee members are native. Both are the highest figures of its kind for DAP throughout Malaysia.

“DAP has witnessed a big growth of KDM members in its ranks the last few years. We have natives holding important positions such as state secretary and organising secretary. In Sabah, BN can’t pin us as a Chinese-based party,” Jimmy enthused.“DAP is emerging as the party of recognition and choice of the natives. It’s a sign that the natives want an alternative party that will fight for them.”How did DAP gained such acceptance with the natives in Sabah?

“For years, DAP was maligned as a Chinese and Peninsular party to be avoided by Sabah people,” Bosi said.“In the PBS days (1985-1994), many of the KDMs, including myself were hoodwinked into believing Joseph Pairin Kitinggan was fighting for us. When PBS rejoined BN, it all came to light as to who were defending us. We didn’t realise Kit Siang and DAP has been fighting for Sabah since the 1960s.” – The Rocket

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