KOTA KINABALU: With the approach of the 13th general election, various issues in Sabah once considered too hot to handle by the Barisan Nasional government are being picked up without inhibition by the same leaders, triggering questions of sincerity.
First came the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the dramatic increase in the population of Sabah, an issue the federal government had shied away from for decades.
Now hot on its heels is the sudden readiness of state BN leaders to ask the federal government to raise the pittance it is paying for the state’s oil wealth to a fairer level.
Both issues were ignored by Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman until recently and opposition politicians are asking, why now?
State Reform Party (STAR) Sabah chairman Jeffrey Kitingan fired the first salvo by questioning Musa’s sudden about-turn on the 5% oil royalty issue when he had previously been adamant that it was not an issue as the federal government was pouring money into the state in other ways.
Jeffrey said he hoped that the review Musa was asking for was not a mere election gimmick to hoodwink the voters in Sabah.
MP for Sepangar Eric Majimbun agrees with Jeffrey. He said suddenly the state government leaders seem to be panicking and paying attention to the Sabah electorate’s grievances.
Majimbun, who is also Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) deputy president, said the timing of these climb-downs by the state government was suspect.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will be in Sabah next month and Majimbun believes that he will announce the federal government’s commitment to study the proposals to calm Sabahans who are said to be turning away from the ruling coalition in droves.
Speaking to FMT yesterday, he said: “In view of the coming 13th general election, doesn’t this look like a bit of `sandiwara’ (soap opera) in action just like the government’s announcement on the formation of the RCI on the illegal immigrant problems in Sabah?”
“Najib might even announce the government’s approval in principle to increase the oil royalty to 20% as demanded by the oppositions or even to 30%” to buy and help the state governments get re-elected.
According to Majimbun, as chief executive of the state government, Musa could have just made a demand for an increase in the oil royalty without first tabling such a demand for approval from the State Legislative Assembly.
“Going through the State Assembly is just an excuse. Musa, as Sabah Umno and BN chief, is just not bothered or worried about the well-being of the people of Sabah,” he said.
He said Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud was way ahead on the matter compared to his counterpart as he did not bring the matter to the assembly because as he is the chief minister it is his responsibility to shoulder the demands of the people.
“Musa should just do likewise,” Majimbun said.
He pointed out that Taib was even willing to put politics aside by having discussion with state leaders from both sides of the political divide and strike common ground on the issue for the good of the people of Sarawak.
Majimbun said his party had been vocal about this for years and its resolution was long overdue.