Speech (2) by Lim Kit Siang at the Sabah DAP forum “Malaysia – Towards A New Era” at Kian Kok Middle School Hall, Kota Kinabalu on Tuesday, 16th September 2008: 

“916″ symbolised the yearnings of Sabahans for a new Malaysia where they enjoy full citizenship status and benefits as Malaysians

“916” this year has added significance, as it marks not only Malaysia Day but also the yearnings of Sabahans for a new Malaysia where they enjoy full citizenship status and benefits as Malaysians.

In the past 45 years, Sabahans have been denied their full citizenship rights – which is symbolised most vividly by the government failure to declare Malaysia Day on September 16 as a national public holiday.

After 45 years, Sabah’s problems are more than a basketful.

Sabah is a rich state with vast natural resources but the people of Sabah have been denied an equitable share of the wealth of the state.

Not only hard-core poverty, but poverty, should have been eradicated in Sabah by now. Instead, poverty in Sabah is the worst in the country.

Last year, I raised in Parliament the tragedy of the suicide of a 11-year-old Dusun boy from Kinarut, Donny John Dion, because of acute and desperate poverty of his family by hanging himself at home at Kampung Suangon in the Papar parliamentary constituency.

It is a state and national disgrace that in the 21st century, 11-year-old Donny could be driven to suicide because of the poverty and deprivation suffered by his family 45 years after the birth of Malaysia.

The Sabah Chief Minister should have resigned in shame and disgrace at a scandal like Donny’s suicide but there had neither been moral stirrings nor sense of responsibility by any of the Barisan Nasional leaders whether at state or national level for Donny’s tragedy.

Secondly, there is the problem of an equitable share of Sabahans in the “black gold” in the state.

A Pakatan Rakyat federal government will ensure that Sabah will get 20% of the oil royalty from Petronas and not just 5%, so that greater resources can be devoted for the development and empowerment of ordinary Sabahans.

Thirdly, the long-standing rampant corruption in Sabah. The state tops the list of states in the country in terms of corruption.

Fourthly, another long-standing problem of illegals with Sabahans reduced to strangers in their own land – completely overwhelmed by a larger population of foreigners in the state. Sabahans have a right to demand the return to the old days when they can feel safe not only in the streets and public places, but even in their homes when they could leave their houses open without fear of becoming victims of rampant crime.

Fifthly, the marginalisation of the Sabahans, particularly the Kadazan-Dusun-Murut community, depriving them of the full fruits and benefits of Malaysian citizenship.

In the flurry of “goodies” after the March 8 “political tsunami” to ensure the allegiance of BN MPs in Sabah in view of their sudden “kingmaker” role in ensuring the survival of Umno hegemony and Barisan Nasional government in Putrajaya, among the measures announced by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi were the appointment of a Sabahan to be Vice Chancellor of Universiti Sabah Malaysia and to head the federal development department.

However, what Sabahans want are not just two “one-off” appointments made more for their immediate political effect but a systemic change of mindset where Sabahans are given fair treatment in civil service and political appointments, both in the state and at the federal level, not because of any tokenism or “one-off” show effect but because of their entitlement as full Malaysian citizens.

At the Sabah state level, the Kadazan-Dusun-Muruts (KDM) have been marginalised to become the new underclass in Sabah and Malaysia – a point I had stressed in the last Parliament.

All civil service and political offices, including that of Chief Minister, should be open to all Sabahans regardless of ethnicity or religion, based on meritocracy, competence or public support.

When for instance was the last time that a Kadazan or Dusun was appointed the Yang di Pertua Negeri in Sabah?

Similarly, at the federal level, a Sabahan should have an equal right to be promoted to the highest reaches of the civil service, whether Secretary-General of Ministries, departmental directors or even Chief Secretary of Government!

There are three Federal Ministers from Sabah. Sabahans are most unhappy with their appointments, as one is in charge of museum, another in charge of the planetarium, while another is in charge of “everything and nothing”!

Why can’t a Federal Minister from Sabah be entrusted with heavy-weight portfolios like Education, Defence or even Finance?

These are pointers to a new Malaysia that Sabahans and Malaysians want from the political changes to emanate from “916”.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor