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Can Sabah’s opposition offer credible econ vision?
Published on: Saturday, September 23, 2017

By Datuk John Lo
I WROTE about my concern that the Sabah parties in opposition should put their act together on 20 August 2017 and in my open letter to Tun Mahathir on 17th September 2017.

I hope these parties will permit me to say a few words again in the hope they will act in a positive manner with due haste in view of the imminent GE14.

From my vantage point, the Sabah opposition, as a group, does not seem to be ready for GE14 which can be called anytime now. Many Sabahans will want to know when they will be ready.

The opposition in Britain is called “The Royal Opposition” and “the Opposition Leader” is recognised officially as such in Parliament and Government for good reasons. He is paid for this position.

Usually he commands respect from all the opposition political parties and their MPs.

The opposition has these very basic duties as “The Royal Opposition”: -

[a] Oppose the government.

[b] Act as checks and balances.

[c] Act as alternate government by offering competitive and credible ideas, programmes and plans.

Let us deal with these duties in the context of the opposition in Sabah.

Oppose the Government: The first question for the leaders of all opposition parties to answer is this – is there effective unity in the opposition camp to face the GE14? Only they can answer this question truthfully.

To the world outside of opposition politics, the situation looks pretty chaotic as I have described in my open letter to Tun Mahathir. There are “political blocks” and other parties outside these blocks.

They quarrel within their blocks, within their own parties [including PH parties] and condemn other parties.

With due respect, I cannot see much unity in the opposition as is obvious in the fact that the “official opposition leader” has failed to command respect from the other opposition parties and their YBs.

Without this unity, they will fight among themselves and will be unable to “perform” their duty as “The Royal Opposition”. Without cohesiveness, the opposition parties are opposing for the sake of opposing, churning out inconsequential platitudes. Have yet to see any substance so far.

Act as checks and balances: The opposition’s lack of cohesiveness has a direct bearing on its performance in its role of “checks and balances”. Quite often, their statements in this regard have little substance and lack “punch”.

Individual parties have limited “brain power” and financial resources to undertake in depth research which are essential for the production of credible economic policy statements. Worse will come when each opposition party will come out with their own plan. If they continue with their present disconnected relationship, they will deluge and confuse ordinary Sabahans with too many meaningless plans and statements, no doubt some will also be in contradiction with others.

Alternate government by offering competitive and credible policies, ideas, programmes and plans: Looking at the present scenario, “knocking the opposition party heads together” to create a credible alternative government out of the opposition is farfetched. The lack of unity will have a direct negative impact on the ability of the opposition to provide an alternative government much less a credible one. First question is – how many presidents of the opposition parties want to be Chief Minister? Can they now reveal their intention to the voters?

2nd question is – which political block or party think they can win sufficient seat to form the next government on its own?

What constitutes a credible alternative government? First thing first, who among the opposition party leaders, is acceptable by the majority of Sabahans to become the Chief Minister? They must be a few of them with this ambition but are they acceptable by the voters? Who are they and what sort of track records they have?

Some of them seem to have difficulties in managing their own personal finance or have been found guilty in court for breach of fiduciary/professional duties. Some parties are plagued by “frogs jumping” YBs, weakened by internal squabbling and resignations. These parties need to convince the voters this will not happen again.

The opposition parties are mired in a whirlpool of “bad blood”.

As GE14 is near, Sabahans’ reluctance to accept “political promises” from all quarters with a pinch of salt is understandable. Too muc political talks now. We must distinguish those with proven performance records from the “electioneering prophets with many birds in the air”. Sabahans, for our future generation, should seek out sensible, realistic and logical economic vision and plan. If a leader has a poor performance record, he will not make good his promises to us after GE14.

The biggest issue is credibility in management of the economy and government finance.

No political block or individual parties in opposition have come out with a creditable economic vison and plan for Sabah– only promises of high political offices for politicians. These do not put food on our tables.

Nor has there been any idea in financial management, budget planning and administration.

For example, what is the plan for Sabah’s reserve of more than RM4 billion that have been painfully saved up in the last ten years?

It was quite surprising that Datuk Shafie has allowed YB Junz Wong to release his very elementary “road map” on 14th September 2017. I hope Datuk Shafie will return his “road map” to the drawing board and come up with an improved version.

A viable economic vision and plan from the opposition is important as Sabahans do not wish and cannot afford to lose what we have built up now. We need to be convinced that they know what to do with the economy.

Shouting recovery of “lost rights” will not attract investments or give gainful employment.

We have suffered tremendously when PBS was in government. We want to move on. The opposition must produce a realistic and concrete economic plan for Sabahans to consider – a plan that is better than we have now.

If not, why should we give them the vote?

My request is for all political parties in Sabah to refrain from using emotive issues like race and religion or “lost rights” for campaigning. We all know the undesirable situation in W Malaysia when race and religion are being exploited for political agenda.

My greatest esteem to Datuk Rahim Ismail, the Sabah BN Chairman of the Back Benchers Club for coming out strongly to defend the Christian Churches in Sabah for their neutrality in politics. The academic from UUM is talking out of sheer ignorance in his ivory tower about Sabah’s uniqueness in racial relationship.

Datuk Rahim Ismail is absolutely right in saying that many families have Christians and Muslims in one family in Sabah. The UUM academic cannot be blind to the fact that only a few days ago Tan Sri Musa distributed his annual grants of RM31.4 million to churches, temples and independent schools.

He has done this every year, election or no election. This is Sabah style and we Sabahans are proud of it.

Sabahans must never ever let people like this academic to destroy our culture of acceptance, love and harmony. The parties wishing to use “lost rights”, please come down to basic and state exactly what are these “lost rights” and what they can do to regain them. How come we have lost them? Were they taken away from us?

Why those who used to be in power have not raised them before? Why now when they are no longer in power?

How to regain these “lost rights”? Succinct answers to these points will take away the emotive elements of the “lost rights” issue so that the real debate can begin.

My apologies if I have caused political offence to any opposition party or politician and I wish all parties in opposition well.

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