Proposal to nominate a Pas represenative to Sabah state assembly sparks disquiet

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Photograph: Free Malaysia Today

Few in their wildest dreams would have imagined the day would come when Pas might walk into Sabah. Will that ominous day soon be upon us, unless a miracle happens, Jem wonders.

Was it the tweet from Barisan Nasional secretary-general Annuar Musa proposing that a Pas representative be among the six people appointed to the state cabinet that sparked outrage among Sabahans? 

That outrage grew louder when Selangor Pas leader Roslan Shahir Mohd Shahir said Pas was qualified to receive a nomination to the Sabah State Assembly as it was in the victorious coalition in Sabah. “Like it or not, that is the reality and Sabahans are entitled to accept a Pas representative in the government to be assessed and for familiarity.”  

This statement reveals the party’s arrogance, utter ignorance and absolute indifference towards the people of Sabah. It was distasteful and condescending. Why should Pas be a part of the state government when it did not take part in the recent state election? Roslan deems such a nomination as Pas’ right because his party is a ‘vicarious member’ of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah, which formed the government after the state election.  

Since when did the Sabah government have to accept a political party that did not contest in the election as part of the state assembly or the state government? Why must a BN official stick his nose in where he is not wanted in matters pertaining to Sabah? 

Who is running Sabah? Is this what the new Sabah state government is all about? Have we now become a vassal to Kuala Lumpur? Such insensitive remarks from politicians in the peninsula are disrespectful to the government and the people of Sabah.

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Naturally, various sectors in Sabah have objected. Netizens have created an online petition objecting to any move to allow Pas into the state cabinet. The petition has collected almost 20,000 signatures.

Sabah DAP women’s chief Jannie Lasimbang pointed out Pas’ ideology goes against the very ethos of Sabah and its people. She challenged the Kadazan Dusun Murut leaders in PBS and Star to take a stand against the proposed appointment of a Pas representative in the state assembly.  She wondered why the two parties, which once strongly opposed what Pas represents, have now fallen silent – because they know the people of Sabah are against this.  

This begs the question, has power and position become so important that it pales against the interests of Sabah and its people, especially in this serious situation?

Sabah PKR chief Christina Liew said Pas’ ideology does not bode well for the multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural harmony of Sabah, where the peaceful coexistence of so many ethnic groups has been a hallmark. She pointed out Pas had never never won in any of the previous elections held in in the state, and this should be seen as “a clear-cut rejection of the party by the people”.

PBS president Maximus Ongkili reminded the chief minister that Pas should not be given any state post as Sabah “practises strong mutual respect, understanding and tolerance among all races and religions in this state”.

Jeffrey Kitingan, the new Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, brushed aside talk that a Pas representative would be appointed to the state assembly and given the law and native affairs portfolio. He described this as a “rumour and fake news” aimed at spreading disharmony in the state.

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But then, why did the Sabah Council of Churches write a letter to Kitingan on 2 October expressing concern? In their letter, the church leaders reminded him that mutual respect, honour and acceptance have been the hallmark of Sabah. Having a Pas representative in the state assembly would further polarise the different communities and corrode religious and racial harmony in the state, they said.

Sabah has been a shining light of unity in diversity in Malaysia, and this matter should not be taken lightly. The church leaders pointed to Pasir Puteh MP Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh’s contention that the Bible was distorted and his refusal to apologise for what he had said. 

Will Kitingan be able to use his voice to stop any such moves from happening? Will he ignore the sentiments expressed by the Sabah Council of Churches?

What of the opposition party Warisan? There have been no comments by Shafie Apdal and his party so far – or is it still early days? Before the election, Shafie had spoken about an inclusive nation. Though he was not called to form the government, his party did win 29 seats – the most by a single registered party. 

Shafie’s inclusive message probably did not have anything to do with his loss. People had more or less already made up their minds, and the spike in Covid-19 cases did not help. 

But what is Shafie’s stand on Pas being in the state cabinet or in the state assembly? He must be aware of the amazing unity and harmony in Sabah. Will Warisan work with the people of Sabah to stop the disunity, fear and divisive views that will probably seep in if Pas gains a foothold in the state?

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The new Sabah Chief Minister, Hajiji Noor, must look into this seriously. It has been said he is very much for the people. Hopefully, he will be able to stand up and not be coerced into making decisions detrimental to the public interest. 

This is a reminder to all Sabahans: we have, all our lives, been able to live harmoniously with all religions, races and cultures, making Sabah the envy of other places. Please do not let the patronising and overbearing attitude of others destroy what we have achieved. The voices of the people are strong and, if we are loud enough, we can move mountains and make a huge difference. So make some noise!

Jem, an Aliran reader, still cares deeply about Sabah, despite having lived in the peninsula for some time

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loyal malaysian
loyal malaysian
8 Oct 2020 2.46am

Jem, I read your concerns with interest.
Perhaps I have missed your point but the way I see it is – Sabahans have given the mandate to GRS to rule the state.
If Hajiji is to nominate a Pas member into the state assembly, who is to blame?
What can Warisan do? Yes, perhaps, as you pointed out, Warisan should make make some noise but will it amount to anything?
More crucially, Sabahans should see in the coming days if PBS will again sell them out for a song -or is it the Sabah Deputy Chief Minister post?