Political think tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) opines that the people of Sabah and Sarawak must give themselves the opportunity for themselves to bring a significant change to their lives.
This is based on several factors.
The first factor revolves around the controversial Project IC or Project M that was claimed to award blue identity cards to foreigners in such as Filipinos, Indonesians and Pakistanis. It is said the total amount of foreigners is as much as 1.7 million for a state with only 3 million citizens. Both Sabah and Sarawak have seen a dramatic increase in citizens. Similarly, according to a former senator at the Dewan Rakyat and state assemblyman, Chong Eng Leong, until 2012, 700, 000 citizenship to foreigners were given under Project IC and 200,000 of individuals are listed in the electoral roll. The total voters in Sabah, until 2012, are approximately 926,638 voters.
Also, Datu Agbimuddin Kiram, the self proclaimed Sultan of Sulu whom was also responsible for the Lahad Datu intrusion in last February was also said to have been a former public servant of Sabah but did not hold a blue identity card. The question that must be asked is if Kiram was not given the blue identification card, how is it possible for Kiram to be elected as a public servant?
The question of the Project IC have haunted the people of Sabah whom have to compete with foreigners who have enjoyed better benefits than the local citizens while the locals have had their rights as Malaysians to obtain the Malaysian identity card shoved to the side. The locals blame the BN government and particularly the former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir for the implementation of the Project IC. Yet, until today the BN government has no desires to take any actions against neither Dr Mahathir nor the individuals responsible for selling the rights of Malaysians to foreigners at a discount. This is even though Dr Mahathir has admitted that the act of giving citizenships to foreigners was a legal act and denies any knowledge of any considerations that was political.
The second factor is that the poverty rate in Sabah and Sarawak until today remains unchanged although the BN government have governed both states for 56 years. Until 2010, as much has 1.8 million from the 3.225 million Sabahans live in poverty. This number is approximately 60 percent of all Sabahans living in poverty. The minimum wage in Sabah and Sarawak too are lower than that in the Peninsular Malaysia even though the cabotage policy that was implemented by the BN government. It is to be reminded that the poverty line in Sabah is RM1,048 and in Sarawak, it is RM912. It is also confirmed by the Department of Statistics, Malaysia that both Sabah and Sarawak are the poorest and second poorest states respectively.
The Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud gleefully states that Sarawak is the third richest state in Malaysia. Sabah on the other hand is responsible for churning out as much as 192,000 barrels of crude oil a day, helping Malaysia become the third highest oil produder in the Asian Pacific region, after China and India. Taib Mahmud is worth USD$16 billion and yet the citizens in Sarawak remains as the second poorest in Malaysia.
The third factor is the oppression of the native land rights in Sabah and Sarawak. Even though Sabah and Sarawak are amongst the richest states Malaysia, proven by the abundance of natural resources such as oil, timber and palm oil, the native land rights of both states are systematically abused by the greed of the state governments in Sabah and Sarawak. In a case in Beluran, Sabah, the locals claimed that their village chief had allowed his signature to be used by outsiders to steal the lands of the villagers in the 1980s. Those lands were then sold off to the plantation companies with the authorities deciding no actions were to be taken against the said company.
Until 2013, there are approximately 200 court cases still unsolved with regards to the violations of the native land rights in Sarawak. In the case in the district of Tongod in Sabah, 16 villages are fighting to stop their 38,000 acres of land from being developed into an agropolitan project. This follows the decision by the state government that deem that the villagers have no right on their own native lands.
In a nutshell, the rights of the natives in Sabah and Sarawak have been sidelined by the BN government while the foreigners are swimming in the rights of the rightful locals. The riches that belonged to the natives in both states are stolen by their state governments. Meanwhile a Suhakam report with regards to the issues concerning the native land rights has been suspiciously withheld by the BN government even though it was completed before the dissolution of the Parliament. The release of the report was stopped as it contained evidence of abuse of power and fraud that ultimately affected the natives. However, an unsanctioned published of said report was published by Sarawak Report.
The fourth factor was the planned construction of 12 dams in Sarawak planned by the BN government in 2008. Those 12 dams were to be constructed in Ulu Air, Metjawah, Belaga, Baleh, Belepeh, Lawas, Tutoh, Limbang, Baram, Murum and Linau. The Batang Air dam would also be expanded. The 12 dams would increase the electricity supply to 600 percent with the additional electricity of 2,400MW by the Bakun dam. It was only after the fierce resistance by the locals that the Sarawak state government backtracked by saying that Sarawak will only construct only four out of the 12 planned dams.
In 2012 the contractors involved in the construction of the RM3billion Murum Dam in central Sarawak were slammed by Sarawak Assistant Minister for Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagang for the poor treatment of Penans and Kenyahs displaced by the project. Approximately 350 Penan men, women and children camped out blocking the roads to the dam site. Also with regards to the construction of the Bakun dam, it attaracted as much as 200 legal suits. Even the resettlement in Sungai Asap that was opened after the construction of the Bakun dam have gained the infamous reputation of becoming a ghetto worse than of the original settlements of the Penans.
As for the construction of the Murum dam, the resettlement plans of the Penans involved the Penans moved to the fringes of a palm oil plantation in which this stops them from opening their own farms and generating their own income. For the first two years, each family would be paid RM850 per month and RM500 per month would be paid for the following two years. After four years, no other payments would be made to the Penans. Even the 14 hectares of land given to the Penan are not only bad in quality; it was also taken by the oil palm plantation company.
The last factor is the corruption of both Chief Ministers of Sabah and Sarawak,
In 2012, it was found that the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Aman had an offshore account at the Swiss Bank UBS in Hong Kong worth USD$29.6 million. This follows the arrest of the Michael Chia (Chia Tien Foh) in 2008 for the attempt to smuggle SG$16 million or (RM40 million) in cash from Hong Kong to Malaysia. However, a joint investigation between Hong Kong and Malaysia was prematurely denied by the Malaysian Public Prosecutor, Abdul Gani Pattail whom was allegedly a close colleague of Musa Aman. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) have cleared Musa Aman from any allegations of corruption and money laundering of the RM40 million, in which according to MACC, the money was intended to be used by Umno Sabah.
This shows that the Sabah state government even though is one of the richest state in Malaysia, the purpose and source of said money still remains as an unanswered question. The Sabahans are reeling from poverty and the state government with glee and no feelings of guilt channelled as much as RM40 million for party use although in actual fact, the money belongs to the people of Sabah and not the state government nor the Umno.
As for Sarawak, for 32 years, Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Seri Abdul TAib Mahmud had gained riches worth USD1$5 billion, making him one of the richest man in Malaysia. After the infamous Global Witness video was published, Malaysians saw the family members of the Taib Mahmud family and the family lawyer clearly committing graft, yet, Taib Mahmud has arrogantly stated that he would not cooperate with the MACC as according to him, MACC is a dishonest and naughty body. MACC then took the decision to not take any actions against Taib Mahmud, his family nor his lawyer. So, is the disappointing silence of BN government and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Individuals like Musa Aman and Taib Mahmud believe they are not subjected to the law of Malaysia. The law is only applicable to them when it benefits them. The people of Sabah and Sarawak have the opportunity to rise against the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak.
The natives of Sarawak have risen to fight the construction of the 12 dams in Sarawak in which it resulted in the Sarawak state government agreeing to construct only four of the 12 dams. The Sabahans too have risen up to fight againts the injustices caused by the Project IC committed by the BN government.
Although it may be a tough objective to achieve but it is not an impossible task. Both states of Sabah and Sarawak are amongst the richest states in Malaysia with the abundance of natural resources. Let the people of Sabah and Sarawak taste those wealth and not individuals such as Musa Aman and Taib Mahmud. GE13 is the most pertinent time for the people of Sabah and Sarawak to take back what is theirs, but they will have to take a leap of faith in order to make a change for themselves and also the future of their children.