Friday, September 11, 2020

Sabah sovereignty should be main election issue

Last Tuesday, the Court of Appeal decided to dismiss the appeal by Tan Sri Musa Aman and the 33 state assemblymen against the dissolution of Sabah state assembly by Governor, TYT Tun Juhah at the request of Chief Minister, Dato Seri Shafie Apdal. 

His appeal will have implication on the constitutional power of the ruler. Sabah Governor status is considered as representative of the Council of Rulers. 

Musa is still attempting to stop the poll through the court for his pending appeals in his tussle with Shafie. However, the practical expectation is to resume the Sabah snap election as earlier announced by Election Commission (EC) for nomination tomorrow, September 12th. If decisions had or turned up otherwise, EC would still apply to the court to continue election as scheduled. 

Musa can continue his legal bid to salvage his pride. It was his mistake to call for the press conference that set off alarm for Shafie to immediately dissolve the asssembly. 

Going back to the people for new mandate is the solution. More so, political parties began to announce the number of seats they are contesting and their candidates.  

Shafie's move to dissolve the state assembly is anticipated. It was surprising and unbecoming of both Musa and Dato Hamzah Zainuddin to miss that. 

Also anticipated is Phillipines repeating their claim on Sabah. 

It seemed to recur during state elections in Sabah. 

The last time Philippines made such claim was prior to GE14. Former Foreign Minister, Dato Anifah Aman outrightly rejected Phillipines last claim in February 2018 with the strongest message that it will be ignored. 

In 2015, it was merely a plain rejection from Anifah.

Feedback from Sabah indicate political wave against Warisan is on tsunami alert. It partly explains Warisan's refusal to Anwar's request for PKR to run in 25 seats to keep his waning Sabah for Sabahan crying call alive. 

The Philippine demand is bolder this time around thus raising the suspicion they are indirectly helping Shafie to rile support from Sabahans formerly of Philippine citizenship or with Filipino roots.   

Illegal immigrant 

Shafie is expected to reuse again the Sabah for Sabahan slogan used at GE14 and first used by PBS during their heydays. However, general sentiment in Sabah is that Warisan's real slogan is Sabah for Semporna or Sabah for Filipino Suluk. 

Shafie's nepotism is widespread that practically all important and strategic positions in Sabah state government are held by unqualified family members or those from Semporna.  

And, Shafie is revered by Filipinos, Sabahan of Suluk or Bajau Laut roots to the isles of Sulu Sea, and both illegal immigrants and stateless Filipino benefiting from massive state initiative to legalise their status using Pas Sementara Sabah (PSS).

PSS was a census program initiative by former PH Deputy Home Minister, Dato Azis Jamman from Warisan to document the illegal immigrant and legalise their presence. 

Sabahan generally suspect PSS is a ploy with the ulterior motive to whiten the mostly Filipino illegal immigrants, and the first step to secure citizenship enmass.

Indirect support

Warisan, who is facing several corner opposition and intense character attack on Shafie from BN, PN, and PCS, is heard planning to counter this sensitive issue by using the race and religion cards to pick on UMNO and PAS as bogey to stem the waning KDM votes. 

KDM is the commonly used abbreviation for the Kadazan, Dusun, Murut and including Rengus ethnics. Indication points to KDM outright rejection of Warisan. Though Warisan strength lies along the East Coast of Sabah, it could not hold fort without the KDM voters segment. 

Shafie and his bagman cum Warisan VP cum incumbent assemblymen for Melalap, Dato Peter Anthony face the prospect of a barrage of charges for MACC related offenses and long term imprisonment for his widespread corruption and swindling of state fund as Minister of Rural and Regional Development and short tenure as Chief Minister. 

The bold Philippines claim on Sabah leads to the suspicion Shafie is desperate and need the help to indirectly drum up statewide support from Projek IC recipients. 

Projek IC was the codename for mass issuance of Malaysian identity cards during Mahathir-Anwar BN government intended to oust PBS state government in the 1980s.  

The Phillipines Foreign Affair Secretary, Theodoro Locsin Jr announced to revive the previous office dedicated to reclaim Sabah

In July, Theodoro said Sabah "is not in Malaysia". Phillipines' house foreign committee claimed Sabah is part of their Economic Exclusive Zone. Foreign Minister, Dato Hishamuddin Hussein Onn immediately responded to call on the Philippines Ambassador to explain.  

Philippines aggressive stand has political nuances as Theodoro claimed opposition parties in Malaysia offered bribes to past Philippines Presidential hopefuls to drop Sabah claim. 

Diplomatic oversight

Their aggressive stands may have been encouraged by Shafie's naivety to send Sabah state legal officio and ex-officio as observer to attend an event on their claim on Sabah. 

Anifah lambasted Shafie as reckless and ignorant to reveal he had agreed to bring the matter for arbitration in an international court

In his August 26th statement, he revealed Shafie send a team to defend Sabah sovereignty at the International Court in Spain, in which could only be expected of state level legal officer to lose and the ruling favoured Philippines. 

To cover-up for the cock-up and Anifah's earlier critic for Shafie's silence on Philippines claim, Shafie blame Anifah as not doing anything as Foreign Minister to address the Philippines claim. 

Anifah persistently pursued Shafie for the gross diplomatic oversight.   

It was futile for Shafie and Azis Jamman to attempt cover-up with blame game. 

They were bombarded with critics from analyst Abdul Jalil Gani, PCS Youth Chief Haziq Mursidi, Women Chief Dr Regina Lim, and Treasurer Terence Simbun

In diplomatic and Spanish legal language, Shafie's actions acknowledged Phillipines claim

All along their demand has no relevance since United Nation recognised Sabahans choice to join Malaysia in September 1963 as determined by a referendum carried out by the Cobbold Commission under auspices of United Nation.

Empowering Suluk 

Shafie's foolish action may have been motivated to seek political glory as the Sabah leader to finally addressed the longstanding illegal immigrant problem and Philippines claim on Sabah.  

However, there are reasons to believe that Shafie is not as naive as Anifah had criticised him for. 

There is a widespread believe that Shafie was born on the Philippine island of Tawi-Tawi near Palawan and informed sources claimed his father worked as policeman in Zamboanga. He was upset with allegations on his ancestary.    

Shafie overzealousness to seek immediate resolution to the illegal immigrant problem stemmed from his long held ambition to be Chief Minister at all cost, and revealed intention to dominate Sabah politics by empowering the Bajau Laut or Suluk ethnic and drastically enlarging the number of voters.  

Under Mahathir-Anwar administration, the Projek IC offered citizenship to illegals and the presence of widespread new voters systematically weaken PBS. During the RCI on Projek IC, only Shafie expressed caution on any drastic action to be undertaken by the authorities. He was noticeably defensive of illegal immigrants. 

During his 26 months as CM, he has aggresively embarked on Projek IC II and complimented it with social programs that favoured those intended for naturalisations. Naturally, Philippinies favoured Shafie for taking potential problems of their shoulders. 

Since the fall of PH, PSS has been cancelled and Hamzah has reinstated IMM3. It is still not acceptable to original Sabahans. 

Anifah said there are better and more effective solution in other countries that have not been explored to address illegal immigration problems. 

Sabah sovereignty

In an interview published by NST on August 10th, Anifah stressed that current economic and political uncertainties, and MA63 as part of an economic solution will not be possible, "if we don't have peace and security, as well as a government to claim our rights as enshrined in MA63".

The extreme interpretation to Anifah is that problems and solutions to Sabah will not be met should the state is lost to other country.  

Issues to be raised against the incumbent Warissan-led government ranged from the poor performance of economy, handling of Corona Covid pandemic assistance, Semporna nepotism and rampant and blatant corruption. 

Warisan is likely to paint the opposition as party Malaya, racist and religious bigots, spin allegation against BN's past including digging up dirt on Musa's administration, relentless blame game, and falsify claims they resolved most of the MA63 issue.  

Still does not compare to losing their sovereignty. 

Aside from the Philippines claim, Shafie has seceded Sabah interest to China economic control. This is the explanation to his and other Warisan leaders confidence to claim Sabah do not need federal budget to carry several ambitous mega projects. 

This adds to the threat of China's frequent encroachment into Sabah water. Sabah is Malaysia's frontline state to any possible military aggression by the superpower. During the nationwide Corona pandemic lockdown, there was a several incidences of China navy incursions revealed in July.  

The other political parties should be united take up this issue against Warisan as it concerns Sabah future existence. Sovereignty issue far exceed any concern on Sabah right under MA63, certain autonomy status, and illegal immigrant problems. 

The threat seemed far fetch to those not keeping up with developments. It is real and not intended to be alarmist. All political parties, NGOs and community leaders should raise the risk of Sabahans losing their state. It should not be left to smallish party PCS to take up this concern, 

Contrary to earlier predication that PCS could only secure 3 seats, Anifah announced an ambitious plan to run in 72 out of 73 contested seats yesterday. PCS is destined to run against coalitions of PN, BN and Warisan Plus.  

Anifah has a long held position that Sabah and Sarawak has only 56 seats in Parliament and need to have a harmonious relation with the Federal government. 

That's another political problem lurking as there is the rising possibility of rampant multi-corner fights that will only improve Warisan's chance. The post-election horse trading to form the next government will be interesting. 

In the meantime, how will the parties stack up against each other and the deployment of resources for their campaign under Corona Covid pandemic health restriction. 

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