Sabah 2013: Opposition making same mistakes 

Sabah politics is, as I keep repeating, complicated.

But as the next general election comes around, Barisan Nasional’s “fixed deposit” seems secure as the Opposition has learnt nothing about winning the state during the last few elections.

There is one key demographic that has changed the tide for Sabah before and one that PKR has wilfully ignored, every single time.

That group is the non-Muslim Bumiputeras.

Sabah was an opposition state before, under Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) headed by maverick leader Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

Pairin is often rubbished by PKR and opposition leaders in west Malaysia because they do not understand how he works or how the tribal elements in Sabah have an influence, especially among rural voters.

Pairin is perhaps the last of the few visionary politicians Sabah has produced in the last 50 years, among them the late Tun Fuad Stephens.

Both Pairin and Fuad were conferred the title “Huguan Siou” or paramount leader, by the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA), an organisation that is the de facto body that upholds the cultural traditions and spirit of a people. It is a title not given easily; one that, unlike datukships, cannot be bought but must be earned by deed and merit.

Unlike Fuad, however, Pairin has struggled to appeal across voter factions as BN has consistently used religious sentiments to paint Pairin as a threat to Muslim influence in the state.

But Pairin achieved something extraordinary with PBS ― he managed to capture most of the non-Muslim Bumiputera vote while swaying over the fickle Chinese demographic.

The Chinese in Sabah are a group that, unlike the Chinese in the Peninsula, are not as alienated from the local Bumiputera. Intermarriage between Chinese and local natives is so prevalent, they have become their own demographic ― the “sinos” or half-Chinese. This demographic is one that can swing either way as unpredictable as the winds that gave Sabah its nickname of “land below the wind.”

Only in Sabah, should a Chinese man marry a Bumiputera woman, his child will still be entitled to Bumiputera status on condition that the parents apply for a Sijil Anak Negeri for the child. As long as one parent has native rights, the child retains those native rights.

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