Harris Salleh looked into the wrong crystal ball

The opposition in Sabah is too fractionalised and quarrelsome to win in the coming general election.

Joniston Bangkuai

In reference to FMT’s article dated Nov 1, I think Tan Sri Harris Salleh got the wrong crystal ball when he said Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) will have a reduced number of seats and that BN will lose the federal government in GE14.

Just look at the fractionalised and quarrelsome opposition in Sabah, consisting of Gabungan Sabah, Pakatan Harapan and Warisan.

Gabungan has no credible leader. These parties have not produced any solid action plan, and are only good at slogans.

In Pakatan Harapan, DAP has gone into self-destruct mode with resignations by leaping frogs and on-going infighting between its current Sabah chairman Stephen Wong and former chairman Jimmy Wong.

Sabah Pakatan Harapan and its PKR head have a RM557 million land grab court judgement hanging over their heads.

Tun Mahathir Mohamad knows in his heart that he treated Sabah badly during his time as PM. Sabahans would not want to see Mahathir back in power and will give his party, PPBM the cold shoulder.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has done a lot more for Sabah and Sarawak in the eight years since he assumed the premiership in 2009 compared to the 22 years Mahathir was in power.

Under Najib, Sabah and Sarawak had more than 10 federal ministers, of whom six are from Sabah, unlike in the Mahathir-era where Sabah only had one or two federal ministers.

In contrast to Mahathir, Najib also understands the sentiments of the two east Malaysian states as evidenced with his bold decision to declare Malaysia Day on Sept 16, a national holiday soon after he became PM.

It is obvious to most Sabahans that Mahathir is now using Shafie Apdal’s Warisan as his proxy in a futile hope to dent BN’s fixed deposit.

All the leaders in the opposition want to be chief minister but lack the credentials. Shafie has craved to unseat Musa Aman for many years but was unable to make any headway because of a lack of support. His influence has always been confined to Semporna, even after many years as a federal minister.

Lately, there has been a lot of hype that Shafie and his party, Warisan were gaining political momentum and that he was getting sympathy after his arrest. The reality is, who would want to support a leader under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for alleged misappropriation of RM1.5 billion from rural development projects in Sabah and who has done next to nothing for Sabahans? Even his hometown folks in Semporna have been neglected in all the years he has been in politics.

Shafie had more than a RM7 billion budget given by Najib for Sabah. What has he done with the money? He has been blaming Musa for not giving him the co-operation to implement projects in Sabah. Now that he is under investigation by the MACC, the truth has come out.

Let us focus on his leadership record. What has he done for Sabah? He was an absolute political nobody in Usno. Then he hooked on to Umno and got himself elected as an MP. From then, he was appointed to one political office after another, the last being that of Minster of Rural and Regional Development.

If not for Najib extending a hand to lift him up for political high office, Shafie would have remained a political nobody up to today. It was Najib who supported him for his election as Umno vice president and gave him ministerial posts. Ultimately, the political high office and perks got to his head.

Shafie has claimed support from Muslim Bumiputeras and has used Darell Leiking to lure the Kadazans/Dusuns. However, the Bumiputeras in Sabah are now better educated and appreciate true and genuine leadership.

When Shafie was in Umno, he praised the party all the time. Never did he mention anything about Sabah losing its rights or Sabahans for Sabah. Now that he has been sacked, he has become a turncoat.

Such a man has no principles. His party wanted Sabahans to pay for his bail money of RM100,000 when he is being investigated for RM1.5 billion by the MACC. Yet, all the while he and his party officials are flying business class.

In his more than 30 years as a political leader, his record of service for Sabah has been shameful. He has done nothing  for Sabah and especially for Semporna.

Thanks to Musa’s initiatives in tourism, Semporna is booming with tourists, no thanks to Shafie. How can people in Sabah trust him to become their next chief minister if he cannot even bring any development to his own hometown?

To say Shafie can get the support of Sabah’s Muslims in East Malaysia is looking at the dynamic of the Muslim Bumiputera in an over-simplified manner.
The Muslims in Sabah comprise of Bruneians, Bajaus/Suluks, Bugis, and Kadazans/Dusuns.

Shafie may get some support among the Bajaus/Suluks in his hometown but that is all he can get. His influence is limited as his record of economic development for the people of Semporna is very poor. The people of Semporna have nothing to thank him for.

Beyond Semporna, even in nearby Kunak, Shafie’s support has dwindled into insignificance, as this is strong Umno country with YB Datuk Nilwan, a local man being very close to his people since Mustapha’s time.

Further down south to Tawau, the number of Bajaus/Suluks is not significant. Here the Bugis dominate. Being very good at business, they know they cannot put their future in Shafie’s hands.

Up north in Kudat, Shafie has no relevance. To them Shafie only became known after the MACC’s RM1.5 billion investigations. Shafie is now well known for the wrong reasons. People are drawn to Shafie’s rallies because of a combination of free food and curiosity.

In the West Coast, the Bajaus/Suluks are solid supporters of Umno. To them, Shafie is a distant political figure. The Bruneians are widely spread, with the biggest concentration in the West Coast. With the ongoing MACC investigation, they know their future is not with Shafie.

The Kadazans/Dusuns are mostly Christians of various denominations with a sizeable number of Muslims as well. There are mostly converts. Irrespective of their religious beliefs, they would not accept Shafie as their leader.

Their loss of the majority race is not easy to forget. They know who has played a major role in relegating them into a minority race. Already, many Kadazans/Dusuns are expressing grave disappointment with Darell, their hero in PKR until he left and teamed up with Shafie.

This anti-Shafie sentiment among Kadazans/Dusuns must be very strong as Darell is always cornered to justify his joining Shafie in Warisan.

The Chinese in Sabah have this attitude towards Shafie which can be summarised with these questions – what has Shafie done for Chinese education, Chinese culture and to facilitate their business?

All members of the Chinese Chambers have expressed support for Musa openly. Shafie has no credible Chinese leader with him. Junz Wong is from DAP and wet behind the ears.

The Chinese will not trust their Chinese education, their Chinese culture, and their business with Shafie and Junz Wong.

People in Sabah will return to BN Sabah under Musa with a bigger majority because of what he has done for all of them irrespective of race and religion.

Mahathir has been forced to apologise for Ops Lalang. His apology is tainted with reluctance and insincerity and spiked with political intent. He did not want to take responsibility for it and has been trying to push the blame to the police.

In his 22 year-rule, Mahathir has done many things he should apologise for. It was Mahathir who showed the greatest disrespect to the sultans by shrinking their authority and making them lose face.

Malaysians will remember it was Mahathir who abused the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 which took away education freedom and sent the standard of Malaysian education down into a black hole.

Because of Mahathir, many graduates are struggling with unemployment today. The much-less-than-expected attendance by all races at Padang Timur is a sure sign of opposition fatigue of Mahathir.

Mahathir cannot undo his 22 years of suppression overnight and make himself into a hero with a magic wand. It is therefore presumptuous that Pakatan Harapan will take over Putrajaya.

Joniston Bangkuai is Sabah Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club Deputy Chairman and Kiulu assemblyman.