KOTA KINABALU: Like an Exocet missile locked onto its target, the focus uppermost in Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal’s mind is the people’s well-being and strengthening of the Sabah economy.
The chief minister said various political parties have administered Sabah over the last several decades but much remains to be done to assist Sabahans, especially those in the rural areas.
Mohd Shafie said he is saddened to see some rural folk mired in poverty and without adequate infrastructure facilities.
Although the political landscape in Sabah and at the federal level is now good, the agenda to uplift Sabahans is all-important, he said.
Mohd Shafie, 62, shared his thoughts during an hour-long courtesy call recently by Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) CEO Nurini Kassim and Editor-in-Chief Datuk Mokhtar Hussain at his office in Likas here.
“Have to look after Sabah’s economy first. That is our priority,” he stressed at the meeting.
Mohd Shafie, who is also Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) president, was appointed as Sabah’s 15th chief minister after the 14th general election (GE14) in May 2018, which saw the end of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional rule in the state as well as at the federal level.
The BN administration had sacked the Semporna MP as a minister, along with current Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who was then the deputy prime minister, because they had spoken out against the 1MDB scandal which earned Malaysia the dubious label of a kleptocracy.
Mohd Shafie said the new government in Sabah under his leadership, which has been in power for just one year and nine months, is on the right track to strengthening the Sabah economy.
He noted that the state government was able to settle debts totalling RM1 billion owed by the previous government, in December last year.
Mohd Shafie had also declared Dec 24 as an additional public holiday for Christmas in Sabah to facilitate Christians in observing the major celebration.
“It has never been done before by the previous governments under Barisan Nasional and Parti Bersatu Sabah,” he said.
Mohd Shafie is also seen as someone who has a vast family and acquaintance network both in Sabah and the peninsula.
His wife, Datin Seri Shuryani Shuaib, is from Kedah.
He has six children – five sons and one daughter. Three of the children have spouses from Kelantan, Johor and Selangor. One spouse-to-be is of Chinese-Melanau parentage from Sarawak.
Touching on the Kimanis parliamentary by-election in the state last month, Mohd Shafie said there were many lessons to be learned from it.
This, he said, would put the state government on a good footing to face the next general election.
In the by-election on Jan 18, BN retained the seat after its candidate Datuk Mohamad Alamin, 48, defeated Warisan’s Datuk Karim Bujang, 67, by a majority of 2,029 votes. Mohamad polled 12,706 votes while Karim secured 10,677 votes. – Bernama