Sabah’s RM3.3 billion Water Department corruption scandal latest shocking example explaining why in half a century, Sabah has become one of the poorest states in Malaysia despite its vast rich resources

Sabah’s RM3.3 billion Water Department corruption scandal, where 60 per cent of the RM3.3 billion earmarked in the Tenth Malaysia Plan to improve the supply of clean and treated water in the state, was siphoned off into private pockets of a corrupt few, is the latest mind-boggling example explaining why in half a century, Sabah has become one of the poorest states in Malaysia despite its vast rich resources.

In half a century, Sabah has been reduced into a land of sharp and shocking contrasts – the poorest state, with socio-economic conditions of the poor even worse than Kelantan but yet the most kleptocratic state with among the wealthiest politicians in the country!

I am reminded of my speech in Kota Kinabalu at the 37th DAP anniversary dinner on 4th July 2003 where I said that the 40th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia by Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore was an appropriate time for an assessment of the successes and failures of nationhood and political development in the previosu four decades in Sabah.

I had quoted the following comment by a national leader which I said could serve as a verdict of 40 years of nationhood and development in Sabah:

“The management of Sabah’s resources, civil service and political situation are among the factors contributing to the state’s lackluster economic performance. Sabah was once a wealthy state but it has reached a point of no return and is now in the same economic league as Kelantan.”

In my speech in Kota Kinabalu in 2003, I said:

“This indictment of 40 years of development of Sabah did not come from the DAP or the Opposition but was made by an UMNO national leader who would have been the country’s Finance Minister if he had not lost the 1999 general election – Datuk Mustapha Mohamad, now the National Economic Action Council executive director at a dialogue at Universiti Malaysia Sabah in Kota Kinabalu in February this year!

“Sabah has reached such economic doldrums not because of inefficient and bungling Opposition rule – but after nine years of Barisan Nasional government with its special brand of rotation of the post of Sabah Chief Minister.

“Sabah is a special state and has a long list of ‘firsts’, though many with dubious honour, in Malaysia.

“One such dubious ‘first’ is in having the most number of Chief Ministers in the past 40 years as compared, for instance, with Sarawak – both of which joined together to form Malaysia 40 years ago. In the past 40 years, Sarawak had four Chief Ministers but Sabah had as many as 13 Chief Ministers!

“Having so many Chief Ministers should be a blessing and a boon to the people of Sabah, in particular seven Chief Ministers in the past nine years, if Chief Ministers competed as to who can serve the people and state better – but it would undeniably be a curse for Sabah if so many Chief Ministers in so short a span of time only resulted in the competition as to who could serve themselves and their cronies better at the expense of the people and the state.

“Barisan Nasional’s rotation of the Sabah Chief Minister system has proved to be a double disaster for Sabah. It was introduced by the Barisan Nasional as a gambit to wrest state power from the PBS of Datuk Seri Josteph Pairin Kitingan, allegedly to prove a higher commitment to the principles of multi-racialism and political pluralism.

“It has not worked out as promised as in the past nine years, there had been four Chief Ministers from UMNO, two Chinese Chief Ministers claiming to represent the Chinese community, while the Kadazandusun community had only one Chief Minister who lasted only 14 months!

“The system of rotation of the post of Sabah Chief Minister has left the people and state of Sabah even more worse-off with every rotation.

“When I came to Sabah in the seventies, I highlighted three burning issues close to the heart of the people – the issues of illegal immigrants, corruption and democracy!

“In all these three issues, the situation today is even worse than they were three decades ago. In fact, democracy in Sabah had gone back by some 20 years, with the Sabah State Assembly reduced to a one-party chamber where the voice, grievances and aspirations of the ordinary people could no more be heard! To restore democracy, the people of Sabah have to go back 20 years to the ‘Spirit of Tambunan’ in the Tambunan by-election in 1984 marking the the beginning of an awakening and commitment to end unpopular rule, corruption and misgovernance in the state.”

In my speech 13 years ago, I said:

“A survey and assessment of the political development and nation building of Sabah in the past 40 years reminds one of the imagery of swarm of locusts laying barren a rich and verdant land – that in the past 40 years, Sabah had been had been laid bare by swarms of ‘political locusts’ downgrading it from a ‘once wealthy state to the same economic league as Kelantan’ reaching ‘a point of no return’!”

Since 2003, the rotation of the post of Chief Minister had been stopped, denying fair play to the Kadazandusun and Chinese communities to have equal chances to the Chief Minister’s post before the end of thel system.

For the past 13 years since 2003, Sabah had Datuk Seri Musa Aman as the Chief Minister.

Has politics changed in Sabah in the past 13 years, where the welfare of the people of Sabah are the top priorities of the government of the state with an end to the phenomenon of “political locusts” in Sabah?

If so, Sabah would not have become the poorest state in Malaysia, and formerly Pitas and now Nabawan in Sabah won dubious repute as the poorest place in Malaysia!

Yesterday, I officiated at the “earth-breaking” ceremony for the Impian Sabah Keningau Water Project in Bunga Raya district of Keningau.

It was a double shock.

Firstly, that 20 km from Keningau, the fifth largest township in Sabah which for some four decades had been the state or parliamentary constituency of the leader of PBS, who had at various times been Sabah Chief Minister or Deputy Chief Minister, there are villages without clean piped water in the year 2016!

Secondly, the thought of what could have been achieved for rural Sabah in the past half a century, if the state had good governance instead of “political locusts” for the past five decades.

The Impian Sabah’s Keningau Water Project is the most expensive Sabah Impian project so far, costing RM250,000 to build gravity-fed water system to bring clean piped water to five villages, which will benefit some 300 households or 1,500 people.

If 60 per cent of the RM3.3 billion – or some RM2 billion – meant for rural water infrastructure projects had not been stolen by corruption and kleptocracy, it would be able to fund 8,000 projects like Impian Sabah Keningau project to provide gravity-fed water system to bring clean piped water to rural homes for the benefit of 12 million people, i.e. 8,000 x 1500 people (which is some four times of Sabah’s present population).

There is no reason whatsoever why almost every household even in the rural areas in Sabah could not be provided with clean piped water, not just in 2016 but some two decades ago by the nineties, if there is no corruption and kleptocracy in the State.

DAP State Chairman Steven Wong announced just now that Sabah DAP will field candidates in Keningau and Pensiangan in the 14th General Elections as part of our programme to represent Sabahans and Malaysians regardless of race, religion or region for a better life.

National DAP will give full support to Sabah DAP to continue to forge ahead with our Malaysian Dream to ensure that politics is the highest vocation to serve the people and not become green field for “political locusts” to wax rich at the people’s expense.

This is why DAP will continue to be in the forefront to combat corruption and money politics, and also why all Sabahans and Malaysians must unite to cleanse and purge Malaysia of the infamy and ignominy of being regarded world-wide as a “global kleptocracy”!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah