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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sabah: Land Below the Winds of Change


The voting trend speaks for itself: within East Malaysia, dissatisfaction against BN does not necessarily translate into a swing for PKR – unlike Peninsula Malaysia, the party will have to do more than win on 'protest votes' here. 
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER 
Shashi Karu

Over the online media, the atmosphere is palpable and almost sweating with suspense. As we near election day, bloggers, commentators and the occasional pundits are beating with increasing intensity to the same rhythms of change: “it’s now or never”, “ubah”, “ini kalilah” and of course, how could you not forget, “ABU!” [Asalkan Bukan Umno].

Analysts alike are expecting a repeat of the March 2008 Tsunami, but this time it’s back with revenge: Peninsula Malaysia is expected to see bigger gains to Pakatan Rakyat - with the bastions of BN in Negeri Sembilan, Pahang and Johor finally caving in to the 'winds of change'. As the tides of politics continues on its charging path, Anwar Ibrahim inches ever closer to Malaysia's first "opposition" Federal government. 

And yet, despite the inevitability of change, many anticipate that these electoral gains may not be enough to provide that much needed parliamentary majority. In pursuit for these last remaining seats, analysts and political strategists believe that the final frontline will be won, or lost, in Sabah - the last fortress of BN's 'fixed deposit'.

Winds of change sweeping Borneo?

As the political oven continues to heat up, we are increasingly seeing the battle fought openly in the sleepy state. Issue that irate Sabahans continue to pervade the news, blogs, and coffee shops: PATI (illegal immigrants), UMNO, underdevelopment, timber corruption, state autonomy, and the list goes on. The unfortunate Sulu incursion and RCI of Project IC has further 'activated' dormant voters, who were otherwise indifferent or fatigued to the politics of the state. It's no surprise then that, with an electorate ripe for change, victory is firmly within the grasps of Pakatan Rakyat - or is it?

Despite the solidified angst against BN, history suggests that this may not mean an easy victory for PR. If the 2011 Sarawak state election is to go by anything, the packed ceramahs, sloganeering crowds and near unanimous aggravation certainly does not translate into votes for the opposition. 

A Sarawak down memory lane

Looking back at the recent 2011 Sarawak state election, the much vaunted expectations fell embarrassingly short on election day: opposition gained a total of 15 of the 71 state seats - 12 of which were delivered by DAP and a paltry 3 by PKR. Although DAP saw significant gains in the urban areas, PKR suffered a major blow, losing over 46 of the 49 seats it contested. This is despite an election occurring within three years of the March 2008 Tsunami - with anticipations of that very Tsunami finally arriving in Sarawak. Justifiably, the question that should be asked is 'Why did this happen?' and given the shared geography, history and voter preferences: 'Will this trend continue towards 2013 elections in Sabah?'

Many factors have been flagged but a key reason for the upset, as touted by Pakatan Rakyat leaders, was the failure to agree upon seat allocations; this resulted in multi-cornered fights, allegedly 'splitting' and 'diluting' opposition votes that resulted in a BN victory. However, closer analysis of the voting results shows an overlooked fact: even if multi-cornered fights did not occur, the vote counts indicate that Pakatan Rakyat, namely PKR, would still have lost all but 1 seat in Sarawak. Similar trends were seen in the 2008 Sabah state elections, where PKR failed to come close to any victory in all but 3 seats contested.

A further look at the results show that in many of the multi-cornered fights identified, PKR candidates were out-voted by DAP, local opposition parties and independent candidates - suggesting that the party may be a poor voting alternative, even within opposition. The voting trend speaks for itself: within East Malaysia, dissatisfaction against BN does not necessarily translate into a swing for PKR – unlike Peninsula Malaysia, the party will have to do more than win on 'protest votes' here.

Banking Locally 

And yet, there is hope for the party. The few gains made by PKR, provide an insight into how the party may achieve its goals in the Eastern front. In both the Sabah and Sarawak State elections, results indicate that voters were won over by the candidates’ ties to their communities, rather than PKR's brand and struggle.  In Sarawak, the election of Baru Bian, See Chee How and Ali Anak Biju, were achieved through their long-known activism in Native Customary Rights and land rights.

Similarly in 2008 Sabah Election, the only PKR candidates that came close to victory (Daniel John Jambun, Awang Ahmad Shah and Jeffrey Kitingan) were supported by their familiarity as long-time serving leaders and activists within their communities. The result show potential - and PKR has the potential to win, but only through banking on the history and community ties of its local leaders.

The PKR Brand

However, looking forward to the 13th General Election, one thing is for certain: the PKR brand by itself does not hold up its weight in East Malaysia. Given the strong parochial and 'regionalist' sentiments of Sabah and Sarawak voters, PKR continues to be viewed as a 'Federal Party' or 'Parti Malaya', especially within the local bumiputera communities. 

Indeed the actions of PKR's Head Bureau, sidelining local leadership choices and decision making of its Sabah Branch, has not gone unnoticed: as one independent Sabahan columnist, Erna Mahyuni, opines: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attempted to parachute another West Malaysian in to lead Sabah PKR like he did with Azmin Ali. What next? Azmin Ali as Sabah chief minister? If that happens, I am surrendering my passport and moving to the Philippines.”

The perception of Sabah PKR as a "toothless body helpless to even choose its leaders" adds fuels to the perception of PKR and Anwar Ibrahim himself is continuing another ‘Parti Malaya’. These sentiments may continue to grow, as allegations and aspersions of Anwar's role in Project IC and the establishment of Sabah UMNO continues to resurface. Looking forward, Anwar Ibrahim realises that PKR (and even his own) brand and struggle will not be sufficient to swing votes in Sabah; it comes as no surprise then, that the de-facto PKR leader has opted to pursue an alternative (some might say risky) strategy to Putrajaya.

Hot Cross BNs

Since re-entering the political arena, Anwar Ibrahim has undertaken a major political exercise to resurrect the careers of former Sabah UMNO politicians. The re-entry of these players provides that much needed 'established community history and local leadership experience' that is lacking amongst its existing candidates. The clout of these leaders and their affinity with the local community may reverse PKR's dismal performance in Sabah and Sarawak, particularly in Muslim Bumiputera areas.

However, even this may not provide the sufficient number to reach Putrajaya; as a last remaining arsenal, Anwar Ibrahim is currently engaging with existing Sabah and Sarawak BN politicians to cross over to Pakatan Rakyat. Already 4 MPs have successfully defected, with more anticipated. Indeed mutiny is simmering within the state, as Sabah UMNO's own Salleh Said Keruak (current Speaker of the state's legislature) boasting ‘between 8 and 14 BN MPs (out of Sabah’s 25 seats) would leave BN’¹. 

The strategy is risky, and if successful, will secure Anwar Ibrahim the comfortable majority to form Federal Government; on the other hand if the strategy is unsuccessful (as seen in the Perak 2009 debacle), the crossovers will back-fire disastrously - it will certainly be defining the point of Anwar's political demise.

Reformasi-compromised

Already, the negotiations have soiled PKR's reputation in East Malaysia - they are reminiscent of Anwar Ibrahim own involvement in the infamous 1994 cross-overs, that resulted in the fall of Sabah's independent PBS government - and importantly, UMNO’s entry into Sabah. In Peninsula Malaysia, the cross overs may signal that the BN ship is sinking; however, here in Sabah, they conjure up the nightmares of a previous decade. 

No doubt with a successful crossover exercise, Malaysia will see a new Federal government - a final victory for more than a decade long struggle for Reformasi. Pakatan Rakyat supporters have argued that the Reformasi goal is so vital, that accepting BN politicians into the fold may be an essential means to a long awaited end. However, from the view of Sabahans and Sarawakians, the cross overs will mean one and one thing only: the same players of BN’s long standing politicians will continue to remain within their clout and power over East Malaysia. Yes, the Reformasi dream can be realised federally - but Sabah and Sarawak must be sacrificed under the yoke of its politicians.

Heading towards a PR disaster?

The political exercise has not sat well with local Sabahans, leading to the up-in-arms exit of its crucial local leaders, including the previously mentioned heavyweights Daniel Jambun, Awang Ahmad Shah and Jeffrey Kitingan. Furthermore, the strategy may be inadvertently doing the opposite of it's intent, strengthening the possibility of an ironic 'protest vote' against PKR; recent surveys conducted by Merdeka suggests this may be likely, particularly within Bumiputera communities and younger, professional-working Sabahans.²

If the cross overs are successful, it will place immediate pressure on the remaining Sabah and Sarawak PR politicians:
Are they willing to fully embrace BN politicians and parties as equals in Reformasi? 
Are they willing to ally and work, with those who they have fought their whole political lives against?
Will they be able to put the party's interest, above the Rakyat's interest?

Already we see murmurs within the coalition, with Penang DAP politicians pressing forward an "Anti Hopping Law" and Karpal Singh's ever untimely comments (“The DAP has always been against party hopping”). We may even see local politicians leaving Pakatan Rakyat in protest - as one Sabah DAP State Leader ominously decried: "Why should anyone sacrifice for Anwar's ambitions?"³ Indeed, rather than being the answer, Sabah is turning out to be the source of many questions and doubt for both Pakatan Rakyat and Anwar Ibrahim. 

- Shashi Karu

1. US Embassy Cables (Jun 2008, Wikileaks)
2. Public Opinion Survey for Parliament Kota Kinabalu & Penampang (March 2012).
3. US Embassy Cables (Jun 2008, Wikileaks)

18 comments:

  1. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Pembangkang di Sabah kelihatan berada diambang perpecahan terbesar dengan Parti Maju Sabah (SAPP) dan dua sekutu baru Pakatan Rakyat (PR) dalam peperangan mulut yang boleh menggagalkan impian mereka merampas negeri itu pada Pilihan Raya 2013. Dengan Datuk Yong Teck Lee dari SAPP di satu pihak, dan bekas orang kuat Barisan Nasional (BN) Datuk Seri Wilfred Mojilip Bumburing dan Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin di pihak yang lain, kedua-dua puak secara terbuka berperang mulut dan salah menyalahkan, dengan setiap pihak menuduh yang lain tamak politik dan enggan bersatu menentang BN.

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  2. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Bumburing dan Lajim, kedua-dua ahli parlimen, kini masing-masing memimpin Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS) dan Pertubuhan Pakatan Perubahan Sabah (PPPS), dua pergerakan politik mesra PR - dibentuk tahun lalu selepas meninggalkan jawatan dalam BN. Yong telah menyamakan Bumburing dan Lajim seperti kerbau yang dicucuk hidung, mendakwa kedua-duanya melobi kawan baru PR mereka di Semenanjung untuk bertanding dalam pilihan raya.

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  3. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Bekas ketua menteri Sabah itu juga menuduh kedua-dua lelaki tersebut memberikan hadiah mahal seperti udang galah, udang harimau dan sarang burung kepada pemimpin PR di ibu kota “semata-mata untuk terpilih sebagai calon”. Yong juga menambah mereka tidak berupaya untuk mempertahankan Perjanjian Malaysia 1963 dan memperjuangkan autonomi Sabah — kunci perjuangan bagi kempen politik SAPP.

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  4. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Pengarah Informasi dan Komunikasi APS Lesaya Lopog Sorudim mengatakan Yong bukan sahaja menghina kedua-dua Bumburing dan Lajim, tetapi Sabah secara umum, dan sebahagian besarnya orang-orang Kadazandusun dan Murut (KDM), dan masyarakat Melayu, yang beliau melihat kedua-duanya sebagai “pembawa bendera”.

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  5. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Terdapat ramai pembangkang di Sabah, dan menjelang pilihan raya umum ke-13 ini, mereka berebut jumlah kerusi dari 60 kerusi dewan undangan negeri yang dipertandingkan. PR, pakatan pembangkang yang ditubuhkan di Semenanjung selepas kekalahan teruk BN dalam Pilihan Raya 2008, melihat ini adalah peluang untuk menjatuhkan gabungan pemerintah itu dari kubu mereka di Sabah.

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  6. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Tetapi penduduk Sabah mula bersifat kenegerian apabila pembangkang di negeri itu mula menggunakan slogan “Sabah untuk Sabah”, yang menyebabkan rasa benci ke atas Malaya oleh penduduk tempatan. Seperti SAPP, Parti Pembaharuan Negeri (STAR), yang diketuai Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan berkata pentadbiran negeri harus dikuasai parti Sabah.

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  7. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Kedua-dua PR dan SAPP masih belum berbincang dengan Jeffrey yang mahu meletakkan calon di majoriti kerusi atau semua 60 kerusi negeri. Tetapi dengan SAPP yang masih mahu bertanding di sebahagian besar kerusi, dan PR masih tidak mahu berganjak, ia dilihat bakal menjadi pembangkang yang rapuh dalam menghadapi gergasi BN untuk merebut Sabah pada pilihan raya akan datang.

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  8. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Yong tidak menolak bahawa partinya menunggu PR membuat keputusan bagi menentukan formula kerusinya untuk tiga parti, Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS) yang diketuai Bumburing dan Pertubuhan Pakatan Perubahan Sabah (PPPS) yang diketuai Lajim. Tetapi, dengan SAPP sudah bertembung dengan PR dalam rundingan kerusi untuk pilihan raya, peperangan mulut terbaru parti itu dengan Bumburing dan Lajim boleh membawa kepada kebuntuan dan boleh menyebabkan pertandingan tiga atau empat penjuru semasa pilihan raya.

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  9. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Memberi respon tentang ini, Sorudim merasa terkejut Yong dilihat menghalakan serangannya kepada rakan pembangkang di Sabah berbanding BN. “Sepatutnya mereka menyerang BN dan Umno, menghairankan SAPP memilih untuk menyerang rakan-rakan pemimpin pembangkang Sabah. “Ini hanya membuktikan bahawa matlamat utama SAPP dan objektif adalah untuk mendapatkan kuasa politik untuk diri mereka sendiri.
    “Ini juga menunjukkan mereka tidak lagi berminat dalam apa-apa bentuk persefahaman pilihanraya dan pakatan dengan kumpulan pembangkang lain di Sabah pada PRU 13 akan datang,” katanya.

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  10. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Pakatan pembangkang tidak mampu mentadbir Sabah dengan baik kerana tiada kesepakatan antara parti politik dalam gabungan itu, kata Timbalan Ketua Menteri Sabah, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan. Beliau berkata, perkara itu terbukti apabila Parti Maju Sabah (SAPP) dan Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) di negeri ini dilihat gagal mencapai kata sepakat dalam perkara sebagai pembangkang di Sabah sekali gus menunjukkan mereka tidak boleh dipercayai untuk memegang tampuk pemerintahan.

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  11. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    “Oleh itu rakyat perlu membuat penilaian yang betul terhadap segala usaha dan pendekatan kerajaan Barisan Nasional (BN). “Hanya kerajaan BN mampu membela dan meningkatkan taraf ekonomi rakyat berdasarkan pengalaman melaksanakan pelbagai program tranfsformasi,” katanya.

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  12. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Beliau yang juga Presiden PBS berkata ini, pakatan pembangkang berbeza dengan BN yang lebih menumpu perhatian terhadap keperluan untuk berkhidmat dan memberi yang terbaik kepada rakyat. Dalam pada itu beliau menyerahkan kepada kepimpinan SAPP untuk berfikir mengenai kesudian mereka untuk kembali menyertai BN kerana sebelum ini parti yang bertindak keluar dari BN.

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  13. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Janji pakatan pembangkang memberi kuasa autonomi kepada Sabah mula dipersoalkan berikutan tindakannya meminggirkan parti tempatan dalam berdepan Barisan Nasional (BN) pada Pilihan Raya Umum Ke-13 (PRU-13). Pemberian autonomi penuh kepada Sabah adalah satu daripada janji pakatan diumumkan Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim pada September 2010 jika berjaya mengambil alih Putrajaya.

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  14. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Pengerusi Parti Reformasi Negeri (STAR) Sabah, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, berkata pihaknya sangsi dengan keikhlasan pakatan pembangkang membabitkan Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), DAP, PAS, Pertubuhan Pakatan Perubahan Sabah (PPPS) dan Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS).

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  15. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    “Tindakan mereka (meminggirkan parti tempatan pada PRU-13) bererti mereka tidak ikhlas dan tidak menghormati autonomi Sabah, yang kononnya menjadi satu daripada asas perjuangan di negeri ini. Apa yang menjadi matlamat utama mereka ialah mahu menawan Putrajaya. “Akhirnya janji memberikan kuasa autonomi kepada Sabah tidak dilaksanakan dan ini merugikan rakyat negeri ini. Parti tempatan seperti STAR masih berpegang kepada perjuangan mengembalikan kuasa autonomi kepada Sabah dan kita akan bekerjasama dengan pihak yang menyokong perkara ini,” katanya.

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  16. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Penasihat PKR, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim mengumumkan pakatan pembangkang tidak akan bekerjasama dengan parti tempatan seperti STAR dan Parti Maju Sabah (SAPP) pada PRU-13, walaupun sudah mengadakan perbincangan sejak sekian lama. Kegagalan membentuk kerjasama itu dipercayai berpunca daripada perebutan kerusi di sesetengah kawasan yang turut menyebabkan pertelingkahan sesama pembangkang.

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  17. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    Antara kawasan yang menjadi rebutan parti pembangkang berpangkalan di Semenanjung dan tempatan ialah Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) Elopura, Tanjung Papat dan Parlimen Sandakan. Mengulas lanjut, Jeffrey berkata, perkembangan itu bakal menyaksikan pertembungan tiga kumpulan pada PRU-13 di Sabah dan pihaknya akan memberikan tentangan hebat.

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  18. PEMBANGKANG BAKAL KALAH TERUK EKORAN SIKAP TAMAK PRESIDEN PARTI MASING2 YANG LEBIH PENTINGKAN KERUSI BERBANDING DENGAN AGENDA MENUMBANGKAN KERAJAAN BN

    “STAR kini berbincang dengan SAPP, beberapa pertubuhan bukan kerajaan (NGO) dan Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Sabah Bersatu (USNO) Baru, yang menyatakan minat berjuang bersama kita berhubung pembahagian kerusi. “Kalau pakatan pembangkang ‘serang’ kita, kita akan ‘serang’ balik,” katanya.

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