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Standing ovation for turning Sabah around
Published on: Sunday, April 02, 2017

By Datuk John Lo
THE MUSA Lecture “My Vision for Sabah”, organised by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu [RCKK] was held on 26th March 2017 at the Shangri-La’s Tanjong Aru Resort and Spa.

The function was a black-tie dinner, attended by cabinet ministers, senior federal officials, captains of industries, prominent people in business, bankers, professionals, women leaders, leaders of NGOs and major news media.

The outstanding features of the attendees:

[a] Without exception, all were well qualified professionals, entrepreneurs, executives and graduates.

[b] Relatively young, mostly in their 30s, 40s and some in 50s and beyond meaning in the prime of their lives and careers.

[c] Also without exception, they are middle class or better.

[d] As Sabahans and as parents, they have their own concerns about their future, their business and their children. [e] No doubt about it, this “high power” group also has a collective keen, critical, independent mind that is not easy to convince. Little interest in politics. To them, economic issues dominate.

This is the profile of the 400 plus audience that Datuk Seri Musa presented his lecture.

It is not necessary for me to go into details of his lecture as Daily Express, as media partner of RCKK, printed the full text of his speech on 28th March 2017 and is running a series of articles on the lecture.

All major newspapers covered the event in English, Chinese and Bahasa extensively.

Please allow me to give some reflections on the lecture. Many of the attendees and by extension, the general public, have always known and perceived Musa as a politician, as the Chief Minister.

We all know his preference for quiet diplomacy, especially in the critical area of Federal/State relationship.

That night, on 26th March 2017, Musa gave a rare glimpse of his hitherto unknown side which was a pleasant surprise to all. He spoke with passion, his love for Sabah and concern for all Sabahans when he declared to resounding applause “I am Chief Minister for all Sabahans irrespective of race or religion”.

In his own words that night, he was speaking “not so much as a politician, but as a Sabahan and a patriot who has a deep love for our beloved State, a fellow Malaysian and above all, as a father who is anxious for our future generations to have a bright future”.

Musa went into considerable details in his hour-long lecture, giving many instances how and what he has gone through “thick and thin” to protect and fight for Sabah’s interest, his successful attempt in getting 25pc equity for Sabah for onshore oil and gas which is considerable higher than the 5pc for offshore deposits.

Most of these have became public knowledge for the first time.

A great leader is one who has the courage and humility to admit failures. He named a few which he has experienced. More poignantly, he expressed his great disappointment over the now infamous “Watergate” case in the Water Department.

Many in the audience have been sceptical about the future of Sabah. Many more have been lamenting the lack of employment and business opportunities.

Now that they have heard from Musa personally, their confidence level must have improved as they have heard that many hurdles and obstacles to economic progress have been or are being progressively resolved.

While Musa has endeavoured his level best since 2003 to bring Sabah to where we should be, we should temper our expectation, at least for the time being, for a simple reason. Our economy, Sabah’s financial position and administrative machinery in 2003 needed extensive and arduous revamp. Same were the policies, especially economic ones.

Overcoming the initial economic drags and inertia require tremendous herculean efforts, imagination and, most importantly, political courage to push the economy into momentum.

Signalling Sabah having emerged from the back water, Musa is sending a clear message to all Sabahans that he has succeeded in restructuring Sabah’s economy from basic commodities like timber and CPO to value-added products [POIC], downstream in oil and gas [SOGIP] and services especially tourism [SICC].

Musa has set the stage for an exciting economic scenario and urged all Sabahans to take up the opportunities.

It is correct to say now that Sabah has reached the take-off stage. Sabahans now in their 20s and 30s will have an exciting time! These guys are lucky!

Turning around Sabah requires much political courage as many politicians and officials needed to be sorted out and weaned from corruption and poor work ethics.

Musa must have intended his lecture that night to be an economic message, not a political one, for him to reach out to all Sabahans.

Reason being that he has not chosen a political party platform or a political event to share “My vision for Sabah” with Sabahans. He has omitted politics in his entire lecture. He has accepted invitation of the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu, the oldest [65 years] Rotary Club in Sabah with unparalleled service record to the community to do so.

Through a non-political platform like Rotary, he has shared his inner thoughts of how he will drive Sabah’s economy to a higher plane, his focus on the future and his action plan to achieve his economic goals for Sabah.

Musa was in his element on 26th March night. Using facts and figures, videos and impressive photos, he kept the audience spell-bound for the full hour.

Dealing with substantive economic and business issues in tourism, oil, natural gas, infrastructures, etc. and his assurance of solutions, he has captured the total attention of the audience.

Those who have attended can testify that the atmosphere was electric. There was complete silence as the audience took in every word from Musa. A senior executive said at the end of his lecture, “I could hear a pin drop”.

No better way to summarise the lecture is the appreciation shown to him by the 400-plus highly educated apolitical audience with their rapt attention, their many applauses.

The best is reserved for the last – they gave him a spontaneous standing ovation.

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