A Deputy Premier from the Borneo States?

By Mohd Jefri Radius

THE Book   “ The  Politics  of  Federalism  ” written by Bruce – Ross Larson published  way back in 1976  outlined  some description about the  political roles / contributions of the  late  Gunsanad  Samuel  Sundang , better  known as   G.S  Sundang , who was primarily   instrumental in forming  The  United  National Pasok – Momugun Party ( Pasok Momugun ) , which  later posed  a challenge to the  late  Tun Fuad Stephens’ United  National  Kadazan Organisation (  UNKO ) over the  non – Muslim indigenous communities comprising  the Muruts and  Dusuns in the  Interior Residency .

Historically , Pasok – Momugun was set up as a  consequence of  Sundang’s dissatisfaction over  UNKO’s  inclusion of  Muruts into the  group “ Kadazan ”, which the then North Borneo News carried  as  its  headline on the eve  of the maiden political development .

The fact is the Muruts and the Kadazans differ both culturally and dialectically . The memories of the late   Sundang still  linger in the hearts of many ethnical Muruts in the Interior , saluting  him for his firm stand and precise  argument as far as  the ‘ racial swapping ’ move was  concerned .

Nevertheless , those rows of misunderstanding over  the move was  amicably settled in subsequent years , when  the  two leaders  managed  to secure  a  compromise , which eventually resulted in the amalgamation of the two  non – Muslim native parties into  one political entity after a series  of meeting .

It was just before  the first  indirect  State  election was  due to be held  in June 1964 , the combination of Fuad Stephens and Sundang’s  vision  led to the  creation of  a new  political  organisation  known as  “ United Pasok – Kadazan Organisation ” ( UPKO )  become reality .

Allocations for seats were conducted  within the  framework of  the Sabah Alliance through the inter- party negotiation . The United  Sabah  National  Organisation (  USNO ) the  Muslim bumiputera  party led by the  late Tun Mustafa was  given 14 seats ,UPKO 11 , the  Sabah  Chinese  Association ( SCA ) 7 , while  the  four nominated  seats  seats were given to each of the existing political  parties then , including  the  Sabah Indian Congress  ( SIC ) whereas  two of the remaining  nominated  seats  were  reserved  for the speaker  of the  Legislative Assembly and a government  servant  pensioner  not a member of  any political party  respectively .

Subsequently , UPKO’s President the late Fuad  Stephens while  representing  the  State  in the  Federal Government as  Minister  of Sabah Affairs , once questioned  the  attitude of top Federal leaders  when he was  not consulted  in major decision making .

The  separation of  Singapore , which was  later  approved  by Parliament  in 1965 is a  case in point . This  disappointment  led  Fuad  and the  late  Datuk Peter  Mojuntin , the Secretary General  of  UPKO , to embark  on a State wide  tour  clamouring for the  re-examination of the  Twenty Points , upon which  the  conditions of  Sabah’s  entry  into  the Federation had been spelt out.

Analytically , one could  rationalise that  UPKO could  not have  existed as  a  political organisation without  the instrumental  roles of  Fuad  neither could he have  achieved his political vision fruitfully  without the significant and smart partnership of   Sundang.

On May 15th , 1967  UPKO  opted  to be  in the Opposition when its  leaders ’ claim for power sharing of  three  ministerial  State  Cabinet  port polios in the  newly  formed  Alliance  Government  under Tun Mustafa  was not entertained  or fairly considered by USNO  leaders .

In the 1967  First  Direct  State  General  Election  USNO won 14 , UPKO 12 , SCA 5 and Independent 1 out of the  32  State  Assembly seats .

A  paragraph  quoted  from  “ The  Politics of  Federalism ” could  be interpreted  as  one of the  fundamental  reasons  UPKO  was not  welcome to  be  a component  in the  then Alliance  –  USNO  led  State  Government .   

“  Mustafa  was  aware that  UPKO  had many  well – educated  people  than USNO and would  be  better  able  to articulate  their arguments  on the  floor of the  assembly .He was  aware  of the influence of many  high – ranking expatriates who in  collaborating with UPKO , would  make ruling tenuous and  cabinet  meetings embarrassingly uncomfortable   and  he was  aware  of his  personal limitations  – with  little education, he felt ill equipped to administer  the details  of  government  in the  face  of such  opposition. “ Mustafa  needed  help in the  immediate  battle with UPKO and  he knew this would not be forthcoming from those  in his  own party or in the  SCA . Consequently , he wanted Syed Kechik to  stay  in Sabah to help him eliminate UPKO and  the  expatriates as threats to his  leadership and power  ”

On Dec 28th 1967 ,UPKO  was  dissolved by the  party congress .The party leaders were forced  to make this crucial decision in the  name of  bumiputera  unity .

After  32 years of  hibernation UPKO appeared  ready to make  a fresh endeavour in the new millennium ,when it was  legally  revived and  chosen as  an alternative to Tan Sri Bernard Dompok ’s Parti Democratik Sabah  ( PDS ) . The name changed  was officially announced  on Aug 8th 1999 , thereby making Dompok possibly as the  first  politican in the  country to have  successfully  reactivated a dormant party .

Upon revival in the following year , the  credibility  of  the new UPKO leaders were thus put to test  on whether  they could  restore  the glory  of the party  once achieved  by the  predecessors  judging  from one sole factor :-

The  political environment and the  mentality of our indigenous people in the  past are  incomparable to the  present  day  situation .In those  days , UPKO  was  the  sole choice through which  the non – Muslim rural natives could  affiliate  with as the  mean of expressing their political rights.

Presently ,Sabah  has  several active political  parties registered  either  as racial  or multi racial based  parties . The Kadazan Dusun Murut  ( KDM ) communities along with other  races in the State are  found as members not merely in the KDM based parties  namely PBS , PBRS and UPKO but   in the nation’s backbone  party UMNO as well maybe some in Gerakan or LDP and even in the   opposition  camp  SAPP , PKR ,DAP , PAS  ,Sabah People Front (SPF )  formerly Bersekutu   & Malaysian United People Party ( MUPP /Bersama ) initially known as Parti Setia   etc.

In theory  and practice ,a party  that tends to  focus on the older generation voters  for support during any poll in the  midst of  the current situation , dominated by  a number of  existing  political parties  , would  be making a major blunder , as  this  strategy appears outdated judging from the growing statistics of  younger generation voters , who may have outnumbered  the older generations unlike 40 years ago .  Some say ,  even if  PDS  did not change it political status quo including its  name /initials, the party could still warrant memberships  irrespective  of races  and  social beliefs etc.

The   image and popularity of any party would depend upon the backgrounds and  fine reputation of its leaders , whose  credibility  would be assessed  by the people from time to time  as  to whether  such leaders are  worthy of  support from the people either during pre or  post  election days.

Ideologically ,the option made by former PDS leaders of going back to communal politics is  rational indeed for a definite  and sensible reason,   as it is  still being viewed  as  a realistic  political system ,whereby each community can express their political rights ,but cooperate with  other racial based  parties through the concept of power sharing as practised by the BN nationwide  for  over  a  decade .

Retrospectively ,on the  broader  screen no one could deny that  Parti  Bersatu  Rakyat  Jelata  Sabah (  BERJAYA )  once led by  Fuad  in just less than a  month’s time  before his death in the Double Six 1976 Sembulan Air crash Tragedy and Datuk Harris ( now Tan Sri ) took over the  Chief Ministership position   until the party’s downfall  in the  1985  State  Election  , was the only political  organisation known so far  that  truly  made  multi – racialism worked  for the  benefit  of all  races in the  State when it took the helm of administration for  almost ten years  ( 1975 – 1985 ) .

PBS emulated the concept for a while , but its  nine year administrative period   did expose the true colour  of its leaders , who did not really practised what they preached .

The party’s so called multi racial policies turned out to be  discriminatory especially  when it  stayed put  as opposition mostly during its administrative  period . This  explained the factor   why UMNO was strategically invited by the late Tun Mustafa to enter and intervene  into Sabah’s  politics  with  the blessing  of former UMNO President cum PM Tun Dr Mahathir then.

In 1994 , USNO was  dissolved sacrificially by the party supreme council  upon getting  the green light from  Mustafa thus paving the way for    UMNO’s entry to  accomplish its sole mission of  ‘ putting things right where PBS  had  put it  wrong  ’ on Sabah soil.

Previously , a group  of  politicians  had thought of   reviving   the  defunct  USNO    , but  looks like those  effort  may  take  a  time consuming  process , before they could see light at the end of the tunnel ,as  the Registrar of Societies ( RoS ) would definitely conduct ‘ microscopic examination  ’ with reference to relevant federal leaders   including studying the points from every angle  whether  there is justification to revive   this  historic  dormant  political  party.

Back on to the current political  scenario ,during UPKO’s 13th triennial delegates conference held in Penampang   recently , the party’s resolution had called for BN second Deputy Prime Minister from the Borneo States ( Sabah & Sarawak ) as the means of ensuring more balance in  the implementation of  development policies  between the Borneo States in question and the Peninsular , by virtue of  the ‘ equal partner ’concept adopted during the incorporation of Malaysia in 1963 , apart from  aiming at  invigorating  BN’s  power sharing concept , whereby every  component member  could play significant roles in the coalition.

The paradox is  in the words of  Deputy Premier Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin who was invited to  officiate the function  advised the delegates  ‘ It was  better  for the matter designed to see whoever is appointed is made a Second Deputy Prime Minister  be discussed at Supreme Council . Any proposal can be brought before the top leaders . We  have a  council where all leaders sit and submit any matter that  they want  to . Normally a decision is reached by consensus  ’ (  The  Daily  Express  25th Sept 2011  ).

Certainly , there are  other factors  that need  to be considered  before  the resolution in question could be realistically  materialised   although it may appear  excellent  in the name of  national  integration .

Other  BN component parties  based  in the Peninsular  ( GERAKAN , PPP , MIC and MCA  ) will surely  support  the  idea upon sensing  the feasibility  that they could as well be considered to  fill  one of  the  slot   to spin the wheel of DPM rotation if the  situation warrants them  to  do  so  alternatively  ,whereas  UMNO will certainly be  given one of the  deputy premier  slots  for the Malay community  as  set  by its political tradition since  the dawn of independence , unless  the party’s Supreme  Council is willing to abolish  the quota via  amendment to its party’s  constitution .

The proposed Rotation System of  DPM  maybe identical  to  the  concept of  the two year  CM post  as  implemented  in Sabah  during  the era of  Mahathir Administration ,specially designed  with the  political missions and  visions of  unifying the people of  Sabah , following  UMNO’s success  in taking over  the reign of  the  State  administration from PBS nine year  rule in 1994 , before  it was  scrapped  in 2004  after  having being in practice  for ten years ,leaving some quantum of ‘  hangover ’ haunting most Sabahans with the realisation that ‘ Rotation  was a  curse ’.

The  Rotation  practised in Sabah also  created  history in our local Malaysian politics ,  as  the concept rendered  the opportunity to every BN State Component  including the  party that  won only one State  seat to become the Chief Minister of  Sabah (  Former  President of  LDP Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat ). it  appeared rather amusing indeed  and run counter to  the context of  democratic principle , but  that  was  the strategic  move and  decision made on the domestic  political chess board by  someone who had the full  authority ,discretionary power and command in the country’s administration at  that material time .

In the event that  this proposal is accepted  by every BN component , Malaysia will possibly be the first  nation in the South East Asian Region  to  have two or three  deputies  to assist  the  Premier  to run the  country .

This  concept  would also make  Malaysians  in  Sabah and Sarawak  proud that  their leaders  had  fairly being appointed to represent  their respective States to  fill  the  slot in the Nation’s second highest administrative position   for  certain period of time .

The appointment  that  had never been spelt out within the terms and conditions of the Twenty Points of Sabah & Sarawak entry into the Federation of Malaysia neither  had such a  resolution ever being brought  forth  by any  BN component parties  in the  coalition  before  this  , but the  bold driving force for highlighting  the  transparent resolution hailed from the  initiatives of the  present  leaders of UPKO, the political  entity which was created  from the combination of two masterminds ( the late Fuad Stephens and late G.S  Sundang respectively ) at  the  dawn of  Sabah’s Independence .

  Present  UPKO’s President Tan Sri  Bernard  Dompok was   quoted  as saying ‘ UPKO allowed its members to tackle difficult issues even at the risk of being  labelled as opposition party . Dompok also reiterated calls by  the party for a Royal Commission of Inquiry ( RCI ) to look into the problem of illegal immigrants  in Sabah and the  possibility of the oil and gas industry  never getting off the  ground in Sipitang ’ ( The Sunday Star 25th September 2011 ).

Many Malaysians  in Sabah  are  looking  forward  to  see  that  the calls  made  by our  State leaders  would  become a reality  one  day for  the benefit of everyone regardless  of their  races , creeds , social  belief  , religion or political  affiliations etc . in the Land Below The Wind .

Abraham Lincoln , the 16th US  President 1861 had left behind a famous quotation for the living generations to ponder  universally , thereby guiding us to be on track transparently with the principle of democracy at all  time ‘  Let the  people know the facts ,the  country will   be safe  ’ .