I have received a memorandum on Sabah poverty from former Sabah Chief Minsiter, Harris Salleh and I am prepared to visit his pilot project in Balung, Tawau
I have received a memorandum on Sabah poverty from Tan Sri Harris Salleh, the sixth Sabah Chief Minister from 1976-1985.
We have had a very rocky relationship in the seventies and eighties, when Harris was the Sabah Chief Minister and abused his powers by banning me from entering Sabah for legitimate political activities.
The most notable episode in my clash with Harris Salleh when he was Chief Minister was when he denied me entry into Sabah to accept his political challenge to repeat my speech in Parliament without parliamentary privilege and I was bodily carried up to the waiting aircraft at the Kota Kinabalu Airport to take me back to Kuala Lumpur on August 24, 1984.
The photograph of this episode was later misused by the producers of the film “Tanda Putera” as a pre-release advertisement campaign to show that I was in Kuala Lumpur during the May 13, 1969 riots when I was never in Kuala Lumpur at any time during the May 13, 1969 riots.
Despite these very rocky history between us, I am prepared to listen to Harris’ view as to the most effective way to eradicate poverty, especially as it has become a very “hot” issue after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, said last month that Malaysia had not eradicated poverty as claimed by the previous government and that Malaysia had undercounted the number of poor.
Eradication of poverty irrespective of race was one of the two objective of the New Economic Policy (NEP) implemented in 1971.
According to government statistics, Malaysia’s official poverty rate fell from 49 per cent in 1970 to just 0.4 per cent in 2015, but Alston said there is “significant poverty” in the country, with an estimated one in six people considered poor and that the Malaysia’s official poverty rate was “extremely artificial”, relied on outdated measures, did not reflect the cost of living and also excluded vulnerable populations.
Alston said analyses done by independent groups suggest that the true poverty rate was about 15 per cent.
In his memorandum, Harris said although Malaysia had been successful in its programme to elevate poor people under previous programmes, particularly FELDA, “However, all there were gone under the last ten years of Barisan Nasional government”.
He said poverty in Malaysia is still very high particularly in Sabah and called for a new strategy and programme to settle and eliminate poverty, particularly in the rural areas.
Harris has prepared for Sabah a Proposal for Economic Elevation of the Rural and Coastal Communities.
He said that Sabah poverty can be divided into two areas; (i) coastal and (II) rural (interior), suggesting different programmes for each.
As Harris has established pilot projects for both areas and invited me to visit them, I am in principle prepared to visit Harris’ pilot projects, one in Balung, Tawau and the other in the Kuala Penyu district outside Kota Kinabalu.