The Sabah Crisis

By batsman

I must confess straightaway that I am no expert on Sabah affairs. I have never even set foot on the good earth of Sabah. However for better or worse, Sabah affairs have a direct impact on peninsular politics and vice versa. That in a way gives me some say in the matter. So, if you want to hear an ordinary person’s non-expert view, read on, otherwise go somewhere else. 

Sabah finds itself in the same predicament as native peoples everywhere. It is in danger of being isolated and wiped off the face of the map – not geographically of course but in terms of its humanity which needless to say is worth less than its geographical value in the eyes of greedy people. 

As with native peoples the world over, their land is being stolen and their population is being replaced by non-natives. How can the people of Sabah protect themselves? 

I would say that that depends on their own level of sophistication. For the American Indians (both north and south), they were completely isolated and without allies. Not only that, they quarreled amongst themselves, with one tribe working with the invaders and killing off other tribes, only to find themselves the victims at a later stage. This is not the only problem – foreign diseases, foreign technology, foreign cunning and foreign methods completely evaded their understanding and they were completely at the mercy of genocidal murderers. At their demise, they probably believed that the foreigners were gods who were punishing them for some sin or other. 

At the next level of sophistication, the foreigners are no longer seen as gods but devils. This was where the Chinese people were at. The sad thing is that they probably saw themselves as superior to the invaders in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The fight split into one of those who cooperated with the invaders and those who fought them, but here the difference with the earlier scenario manifested itself. The invaders found the fight tough going and never really manage to completely overcome the natives. This means that those who sided with the invaders won a reprieve, for the invaders now permanently needed their help. They became indispensable and thus escaped genocide. Not only that, they enjoyed exceptional fortune from the rewards of cooperation. 

In time, the Chinese increased their level of sophistication, accepted modern ideas, systems and methods and became more or less equal in terms of economic and military strength with the foreigners. They thus regained their independence or at least less bothered by the foreigners. I think at this stage the fight is not over yet and if the Chinese relax for one small bit they will find they will be back in the same old predicament. Their struggle now is to match the mental and philosophical strength of the invaders in terms of organisation, discipline and systematic approach to things. As it is I think the Chinese are still pretty messy in this area, indulging in chauvinism, self-deception, superstition, waste, continuing to brown nose the foreigners and things like that. 

At an even higher level of sophistication, we find the Malay predicament. They got over their relative weaknesses by allying with strong allies. For example, the Malays allied themselves with Islam which was imported from the Arabian peninsular as many people are fond of pointing out. They also allied themselves with the foreigners when the foreigners imported shiploads of immigrants to live in this country. Granted  there were isolated voices of dissent, but in general the Malays stuck to their allies, so that when the imported labour started to give problems, the British became permanently dependent on the Malays for their help. This was not because the British liked the Malays – on the contrary, the British looked down on the Malays and wished to have nothing to do with them and in fact neglected the Malays for long periods of time, but since the imported labour was giving problems, they had no choice but to depend on the Malays. 

The efforts of the Malays to protect themselves did not stop at these measures. They were prepared to inter-marry and bring new blood and fresh talent into their society. They adopted many foreign words into their language – mostly English and Arabic, but also Tamil as well as a sprinkling of Chinese. They accepted the imported labour as citizens. Granted not all of this is done without opposition from within the Malay community itself. That is why concepts such as Ketuanan Melayu was created to appease the opposition and the racists. 

The question now is; are all of these efforts good enough? Again everyone has his own view. The world does not sit still and wait for natives to wake up. Just as the Chinese are capable of backsliding into being a neo-colony, so also are the Malays, or they can just be self-satisfied with the progress thus far – which can be dangerous or not dangerous depending on your point of view. 

Natives have to be objective and not create a dream world where they imprison themselves. They have to take into account all the forces acting upon their lives and their society and use these to best advantage, even if this means accepting modern ideas and values and discarding obsolete ones, accepting other friendly races and allies as part and parcel of their society and maybe even accepting a person of a different race as a leader as long as this means native society survives genocide. 

The Chinese have a long history of doing this. Many non-Han dynasties were formed and they were not only prosperous but eventually accepted as Chinese themselves. So also have the Malays although the history does not go as far back. So, there will be opposition from within the community itself, but this is also part and parcel of history. This come mostly from racists who cannot accept other human beings into their society. 

There will be those who refuse to let go of even one small part of their traditions and ideas. This could mean that natives are left behind as the world continues to move on. However it could also mean that natives lose their identity. So it becomes a struggle between keeping one’s identity and going with the flow of the rest of the world. I am not saying the flow of the rest of the world is in the right direction. If one is not happy with the flow of the rest of the world, one needs to swim at right angles to the flow rather than against it. That way, one hopes to retain one’s own destiny as well as survive the ravages of history. 

This is the predicament of Sabah. The Sabahans can be completely insular and reject all outside influences. To do this, they must be absolutely strong and street wise. They must also be completely united, since they choose to go directly against the flow. 

As it stands, they have been hoodwinked left, right and center and stabbed in the back to boot. The saddest part is that their past leaders have hoodwinked them as the chase for money and glory overtakes their loyalty to their own community. Their leaders have quarreled incessantly over private interests and private glory. Even brothers no longer trust each other and belong in opposite camps. In such a situation, it is too easy to get angry and lose direction, retreating into an insular dream world. 

It is time to find friends and allies of a common struggle. If you think your future lies with UMNO, so be it. After all, your future is yours and completely in your hands as far as decision making is concerned. I just hope that you take into account outside forces when you make these decisions. 

I am also not saying one has to be completely and permanently loyal to one’s friends and allies, but it is necessary to be loyal to the objective of the common struggle – that is to survive genocide. 

So Sabahans, your survival depends on your sophistication. How sophisticated are you?