Not quite right to say Sabah doing nothing – PBS


KOTA KINABALU: Recent moves by Sarawak to engage Putrajaya in talks over the devolution of powers and issues related to Sarawak’s autonomy under the Malaysia Agreement has led to coffee shop talk that the Sabah government lacks the political will and commitment to demand the same for the state.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) secretary general Datuk Johnny Mositun when addressing a meeting of PBS Kadamaian division Youth and Wanita leaders.

“That is not true. The state government has already responded to the Prime Minister’s request for us to forward our recommendations to Putrajaya. It is just that our approach is a little different from that of Sarawak’s, but the points of discussion are very much similar and differ only in the details because our two states did not inherit a uniform administrative system upon the formation of Malaysia,” said Mositun, who is also the Deputy Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly.

According to him, negotiations, if it could be called that, between Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur were more subdued and not publicized at every point because these were more ‘in house’ in nature since the state BN administration is also headed by Umno.

“It goes without saying that our negotiations with Putrajaya will be less volatile and much more cordial. Both the Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Musa Aman are senior Umno leaders, which makes it much easier to discuss matters without rancour or mistrust. Issues are not taken out of context and therefore there is less speculation and politicking. That is why there is less publicity,” he said.

Mositun added the main thrust of these discussions centred on restoring the state’s autonomy as per the Malaysia Agreement, revenue sharing, the devolution of decision-making and administrative powers, Borneonization of the civil service and avoiding arbitrary imposition of new legislations, if and when this becomes necessary.

“It can be summed up as ‘decentralization’ on a larger and more meaningful scale that will give the state a bigger say in managing our own economy, planning and implementing development projects and public spending,” he said.

He stressed that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is fully committed to upholding his promises to Sabah and Sarawak and advised Sabahans not to be unduly influenced by negative and speculative reports in the alternative media.

“To be sure, there are many rumours and plenty of speculations on the Internet, but that is nothing unusual. But my advice to the people, especially the younger generation, is to exercise discretion and caution on unverified reports based on speculation, especially those taken out of context and used to discredit the government,” he said.

On the recent call by PBS deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili for the BN leadership to come up with a clearer and more consistent power-sharing formula for the ruling coalition, Mositun said he fully supported the call.

“This is not really new. Although there is good cooperation within the BN family, there is definitely a need for clear guidelines on power-sharing, particularly at the grassroots level. For too long the absence of clear cut guidelines, the lack of coordination and consultation and different interpretations of ‘consensus’ have caused unhappiness and even ‘quarrels’ within the BN family,” he said.

Mositun said the nation is currently facing many uncertainties and difficulties on the economic front, and conceded that public confidence in the government was quite unsatisfactory.

“With GE14 not far off, and the generally difficult economic outlook, the BN government must rise to the challenge and arrest the decline in public confidence. All BN component parties, including PBS, must go down to the grassroots and explain issues clearly to their members. We need to discipline ourselves and think with our heads, not our hearts,” he said.

Mositun also opined that it is not good for BN unity when each time it came to the distribution of seats, appointments to local government positions like Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) and even accepting those who won seats on opposition tickets into BN caused acrimony and heated debates within the coalition.

“All this happen because the guidelines are either absent, vague or simply not observed. PBS wants proper guidelines and observance of these guidelines, so that BN will not become embroiled in ‘quarrels’ within its ranks. Kadamaian is a good example of this kind of thing. This is a PBS seat. When we lost it to the opposition, other BN components try to sell the idea that they can do better in the next election and should be given this seat. To complicate matters, the opposition candidate who won applies to join BN after defeating the BN candidate, which is not fair to those who voted for him, not to mention the insult to PBS. Such issues can be avoided only with proper guidelines on power-sharing and other matters within BN, as proposed by our deputy president,” he said.

Mositun also touched on the question of Labuan losing out from the move by the federal government to downgrade its duty-free status, pointing out that this proposal was strongly objected to by the island residents as it would affect the Labuan business community very badly.

“Then again, we have the case of FELDA, which was given huge parcels of land by the state government for settlers, but FELDA took in only about 2,000 or so settlers, stopped taking in any more since a few years back and turned the rest of the land into commercial plantations,” he said.

Mositun said it was unfortunate that such things were happening even now, to the point that former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh, who had turned Labuan into a Federal Territory and allowed FELDA into Sabah, had on occasions stated his dissatisfaction at how things had turned out and how he felt betrayed.

“This is why it is important that we should ensure the BN government remains strong and stable so that the Prime Minister‘s agenda to restore Sabah’s rights and decision-making powers is not side-tracked at this critical juncture,” he said.