Sabah sidelined, under-represented


Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin

KOTA KINABALU (Dec 3): Sabah leaders have expressed disappointment that only two members of parliament from the state have been appointed to the Federal Cabinet.

Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin is of the opinion that Sabah is under-represented in the Federal Cabinet under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The Deputy Chief Minister claimed that the two ministerial posts given to Sabah were not reflective of the support given to the unity government by Sabah MPs.

Anwar had announced on Friday night incoming Upko president Datuk Ewon Benedick and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah’s (GRS) Papar MP Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali were appointed into his Cabinet as the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister as well as the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) respectively.

This is in comparison to Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), which has five ministers. They are Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof (Deputy Prime Minister),

Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi (Works Minister), Datuk Sri Tiong King Sing (Tourism Minister), Datuk Sri Nancy Shukri (Women, Family and Community Development Minister) and Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang (National Unity Minister).

“It seems that Sabah has been sidelined in the formation of the Cabinet in the new unity government. There is not even one representative from BN Sabah in the Cabinet compared to Sarawak which has five,” he said in a statement.

The Kinabatangan Member of Parliament stressed that while he respected the decision of the Prime Minister, it was necessary for Sabah to be represented equally in the Cabinet to show that the Federal Government was serious in ensuring Sabah rights and development are on its agenda.

“I am worried. Does this mean that Sabah will also be left out of the development?” questioned Bung Moktar.

Of the 25 parliamentary seats in Sabah, BN Sabah won the most in the 15th General Election with seven, GRS (six, Pakatan (five), Warisan (three), Independents (two) and one seat each from Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat and Perikatan Nasional.

Bung Moktar congratulated the two new Sabahan ministers but stressed that it was important for Sabah to be given portfolios that would benefit the state.

“People picked for the job must be well-versed in the issues of Sabah rights and the state’s needs.

“Sabah needs a strong voice in the Cabinet to make sure development funds for our schools, roads and electricity among others, need to be addressed quickly without any further delays,” he said.

Bung Moktar said he hoped all the new ministers will prioritise Sabah issues so that the state will not remain on the back burner.

“We don’t want Sabah to be left out again in terms of development, especially infrastructure which is vital for the people.

“For instance, the Pan Borneo Highway project must be continued and expedited. We do not wish to see the project disrupted again like what happened when Pakatan became the government in 2018,” he said.

The new Cabinet comprises members from PH (15 seats) through PKR, DAP, Amanah and Upko; BN (6) through Umno; Gabungan Parti Sarawak (5) through PBB, PRS and PDP; and GRS (1) through Sabah Bersatu.

Religious affairs minister Datuk Dr Mohd Na’im Mokhtar does not belong to any party.

Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) deputy president Datuk Arthur Joseph Kurup said Sabah is the biggest loser in the cabinet.

He said Sabah got only two ministers which is very disproportionate when compared to Peninsular which has 21 ministers including the Prime Minister and one Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), and also disproportionate compared to Sarawak which got one DPM and five ministers.

“Twenty-four out of 25 Sabah MPs support this unity government with BN Sabah being the highest contributor of seven MPs. Unfortunately, Sabah was only given two ministers and none is from BN Sabah,” the Pensiangan MP said in a statement on Saturday.

He said Sabah is in dire need of more development and representation.

“Sabah is the state that needs the most development but we are given the least representation in this new government. I hope this is not a signal that the welfare and development of Sabahans will be sidelined in this new government.

“We remember back in 2018 when the then PH government cancelled or delayed many much needed development projects such as the Pan Borneo Sabah. They also reduced or cancelled many aids that was meant to help the rakyat. We hope this will not repeat again in this new government,” said Arthur whose party is a component member of Sabah BN.

Political analysts also opine that Sabah should have been given more than two ministerial positions to reflect the support given by Sabahan MPs for Anwar to form his unity government.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, pointed out that 24 out of the 25 MPs from Sabah supported Anwar to form his unity government compared to 23 from GPS.

“Sabah should have at least four ministerial positions,” he said on Saturday.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior lecturer Dr Romzi Ationg concurred that Sabah deserved more prominent positions in the government.

“Since Sabah is the state where most poor districts are located, we need more ministers from here. But we may have more deputy ministers (later),” he said.