By : JOE FERNANDEZ
NEWS Umno Supreme Council member and Kinabatangan MP, Bung Moktar Radin, has lashed out at Star chairman Jeffrey Kitingan, for repeatedly linking his party and other Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties in Sabah with the issue of the regional imbalance of seats in Parliament and the possibility that it may worsen.
“The Star chairman should accept that the question of ‘Parti Parti Malaya’ lording it over in Sabah does not arise,” he said. “All the leaders and members of Peninsular Malaysia-based parties in Sabah are locals like him concerned about the welfare of the state.”
He assured that locals will continue to be fielded by his party and other Peninsular Malaysia-based BN component parties in Sabah whenever General Elections were held. The question of fielding Peninsular Malaysians in Sabah does not arise, he added. “We will also not take orders from outsiders.”
He was commenting on Jeffrey’s fears that Peninsular Malaysia-based parties in Sabah, both from the BN and the opposition, would snap up the additional seats when the 65 : 35 balance in Parliament is restored as proposed by a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC).
At present, Sabah and Sarawak have 57 seats including Labuan or less than 35 per cent of the 222 seats in Parliament. Many of these seats are held by Peninsular Malaysia-based parties operating in Sabah and Sarawak.
The PSC has proposed that Sabah and Sarawak hold 35 per cent of the seats, as envisaged by the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, to deny Peninsular Malaysia a two-third majority. However, it did not suggest that these seats be held only by local parties.
The Kinabatangan MP did not touch either on Jeffrey’s oft-repeated line that only local parties should hold the 35 per cent in Parliament.
Moktar, continuing, pointed out that that the local leaders in the Peninsular Malaysia-based parties in Sabah have been instrumental in bringing much development to the state, especially since 1994, through the provision of additional funds directly from the Federal Government. The alternative, he said, would be to rely solely on state funding for development projects especially badly-needed crucial infrastructure.
Reaching across the political divide, Moktar suggested that regional imbalance in Parliament not be made an issue in Sabah. The Star chief should not stoke local sentiments on the so-called parti parti Malaya in Sabah worsening the imbalance, he stressed. “It’s not fair to continue to harp on this theme.”
Instead, he readily agreed that more seats be carved out of places like his Kinabatangan for example which was as large as Pahang state but had only one MP and two state assemblymen. Pahang in contrast, he noted, had 14 MPs and 44 state assemblymen.
“We do not deny that my party, like other parties in Sabah, are from Peninsular Malaysia but we will continue to take up local issues,” said Moktar, side-stepping Jeffrey’s fears that the additional seats proposed would be snapped up as well by Peninsular Malaysia-based parties in the state.
The Kinabatangan MP did not touch on Jeffrey’s central theme that the locals in Peninsular Malaysia-based parties in Sabah are merely proxies of politicians on the other side of the South China Sea. He also skipped over the issue of Peninsular Malaysia parties adding to their strength in Parliament at the expense of Sabah and Sarawak.
The Star chief continues to allege that it’s pointless if Sabah and Sarawak are given even 50 per cent of the seats in Parliament if the bulk of them are held by Peninsular Malaysia-based parties.
“The political autonomy of Sabah and Sarawak makes no sense if we are going to be represented in Parliament by Peninsular Malaysia-based parties,” said Jeffrey, currently on the campaign trail, in an immediate reaction to Moktar’s statement. “Only local parties can fight for and preserve the political autonomy of the two states.”
Jeffrey conceded that it would finally be the voters who would have to decide among themselves who they want to select as their representatives in Parliament.
However, he expressed the hope that voters would realise that Peninsular Malaysia-based parties are only in Sabah and Sarawak because they can no longer add to their strength in their own place. “When we give a seat to a Peninsular Malaysia-based party, we are weakening ourselves while at the same time adding to their strength at our expense,” theorized Jeffrey.
The Star chief alleged that all local political parties in coalition with Peninsular Malaysia-based parties in Sabah “are doing it for their own, selfish and narrow personal interests”. However, he has nothing against an alliance - not coalition - of genuine interests across both sides of the South China Sea.
Umno took over the reins of the Sabah state government in 1994, on the back of defections, from the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) within a month of the state elections which saw the local party winning for an unprecedented fourth time but by a razor thin majority of two seats. PBS came in with 25 seats compared with 20 for Umno and 3 for its local ally, the Sabah Progressive Party (Sapp), a PBS breakaway.
The Peninsular Malaysia-based opposition parties in Sabah and Sarawak comprise the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Pas the Islamic party, the Democratic Action Party and Kita.
Dap has a parliamentary seat and a state seat in Sabah, two parliamentary seats in Sarawak and several state seats in that state. The Chinese in particular in Sabah and Sarawak appear to be rallying around Dap. - Sabahkini