Thursday, June 19, 2008

Stale, Boring, Anti-climax

SAPP's sudden outrage over the presence of Filipinos, Indonesian, East Timorese and Pakistanis is therefore amusing at best and a blatant bluff at worst. Illegal immigration is an issue as fresh as stale bread here in Sabah, so why has SAPP suddenly run of patience with prime minister famed for his indifference and ignorance?

After a much publicized and anticipated press conference, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) announced that it is moving a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when Parliament resumes session on Monday, June 23rd 2008.

The main reason cited behind the party’s proposed move was the Barisan Nasional’s failure to sincerely tackle the issue of illegal immigration in Sabah.

For a party that has been part of BN/UMNO coalition ever since its existence, the cited reason for SAPP’s sudden, radical plan is at best hypocritical, stale, boring and anti-climatic.

Former Sabah Chief Minister Yong Teck Lee was himself a beneficiary of votes cast by Project IC citizens, a fact that was proven and authenticated by the courts in the 1999 Likas election petition.

The party’s sudden outrage over the presence of Filipinos, Indonesian, East Timorese and Pakistanis is therefore amusing at best and a blatant bluff at worst. Illegal immigration is an issue as fresh as stale bread here in Sabah, so why has SAPP suddenly run of patience with prime minister famed for his indifference and ignorance?

Politics is very much about making the right friends at the right time and setting sail to where the wind is blowing. SAPP is but just another Malaysian political party that knows fairly well where the pot of gold lies.

There is sufficient reason to suspect that SAPP is anything but sincere over the well being of Sabah-land. It took them – a self-proclaimed Sabahan organization – fifty years to find a voice over the long-standing issue of illegal immigration. Lim Kit Siang, a true-blue Peninsular Malaysian has been writing and yelling about illegal immigration in Sabah for decades already.

That seems to be the usual case with Sabah and Sabahans anyway. They don’t seem to have a voice of their own. They don’t seem to have the guts to right the wrongs in their land without an inherent fear of angering their UMNO political warlords. They seem to have an innate inability to take the initiative and inspire a change for a better Sabah.

Up till now, the most pressing issues about Sabah are mostly brought to surface by West Malaysian leaders who have little to gain from a better Sabah.

Even in restless political times as these, the SAPP has only raised the increasingly stale issue of illegal immigration and Project IC. It only shows how shallow and out of touch these self-professed patriotic Sabahans are.

I have lived in Sabah for less than five years and can effortlessly compile a list of urgent issues affecting the common man (and woman) this very moment.

The electricity supply went kaput in the hospital last week – Monday and Tuesday. The sun sets at by 6.00 pm here in Sabah. By 6.30 pm, the damned hospital was mostly lingering in eerie darkness, except for the scattered areas where the emergency lighting was powered by a backup generator.

My nosy and busy-body traits got the better hold of me. I took a relaxing stroll around the hospital, from the flooded casualty to the leaking basement, from the foul-smelling third class wards to the relatively comfortable V.I.P wards.

A 16-year-old boy from Kudat with a broken femur blocked my course upstairs. He was carried on a stretcher all three floors up to the orthopaedic ward.

A local lady living in the nearby squatter settlement followed not far behind me. She was having dinner when the landslide buried her home. She was extricated and sent to hospital with the hope of receiving medical care. Instead, she was sent on a bumpy journey by stretcher to the wards – all six floors up.

An elderly couple was on their way to visit their ill son. Their backs were hunched from osteoporosis and their knees bent by the deformity of longstanding osteoarthritis. A walking stick in the left hand and a clumsy fruit basket souvenir in the other, they painstakingly made their ascent up the lightless, treacherous flight of stairs, their occupied right hand barely able to grasp the sidebars of the staircase.

The staff of the operation theatre meanwhile had a day off – all non-urgent surgeries were postponed till a later date while only the most life-threatening emergency surgeries were permitted to proceed.

In the wards, the utility of power was kept to a bare minimum. It means that the patient on a ventilator might not get his regular suction of chest secretions. It means that warm and cooked drinking water might be temporarily unavailable. It means that if a patient dies unnecessarily, doctors can declare the cause of death as power failure.

Power blackout and infrastructure failure are not once-in-a-blue-moon events for Sabahans or the hospital. The Sabah Electrical Sdn Bhd (SESB) monopolizes power supply in the state of Sabah and knows fully well that the people have no alternative utility company. It is the reason why SESB, a subsidiary of the equally incompetent Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is so utterly arrogant and pompous beyond redemption. The referral hospital of Sabah Borneo languishes in semi-darkness while the SESB headquarters stands adorn with sparkling neon lightbulbs from roof to basement. SESB goes after bona fide consumers who are late with their monthly payment while power theft by the ingenious illegal immigrants goes unheeded.

I’m surprised that the BN political parties of Sabah have yet to pressure SESB to improve its services. After all, a more consistent supply of electricity augurs well not only for the local Sabahans but UMNO’s prized Project IC citizens as well.

Roads and Transportation
I’ve driven from Kota Kinabalu to Kota Marudu, Kudat, Kota Belud and Kuala Penyu. The roads are anything but safe. It’s not because there are Mat Rempits or stampede buffalo crossings. They are hazardous because they are unlit and un-tarred along many stretches. Coupled with the omnipresent potholes and acute angles, a young child traveling in the humble family car in the form of a Perodua Kancil will be lucky if she escapes with Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Sabahans are really pleased to tell West Malaysians that there are no toll booths in Sabah. I wonder what is there to so proud of when the roads are in miserable condition, upgraded every five years in time to canvass for votes from the gullible local folk.

SAPP and other Sabah political parties do not need to be heroes by demanding for Badawi’s resignation. They can prove much more by simply constructing better roads for the rural folks to travel on.

Drainage and Irrigation
A mother of six brought her eldest daughter after a whole week of high, spiking fever. The young girl had been deteriorating by the day at home. The doctors were furious and annoyed with the mother’s obvious delay in seeking medical help for an ailing child. The young child died with a diagnosis of rheumatic fever.

That’s not the point however. The reason behind the apparent delay is.

You see, the child was ill and the experienced mother was fully aware of it. It had been raining heavily however and they have not stepped foot out of their stilt house for days. The flood waters were receding to level just enough for the family to travel to the nearest district hospital. An unexpected guest was awaiting their exit however. It was a hungry six-foot crocodile that had been washed inland by the rising river just behind their home. It was more delay and an increasingly intense battle against limited time. In the end, death won and a mother lost her eldest daughter.

We can ascribe such calamities to divine fate and a mere series of unfortunate events; or we can own up to manmade chaos.

If there is one thing both urban and rural Sabah shares in common very regularly, it is none other than floods. One does not need to be an environmental scientist to comprehend the cascade of overzealous logging and unchecked development culminate in soil erosion and flash floods.

We should blame God when God is responsible but spare Him when He is not. Heaven does not have a Department of Irrigation and Drainage or policies dubbed as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Sabah state government has both however, and it is doing a lousy job in both.

The UMNO cronies harvest logs and build mansions on higher grounds, the commoner stays grounded and wade regularly in a cocktail of rain and sewage flood waters. It’s that simple, actually.

Education, Employment and Sabah’s Lost Generation
There will be a time in every student’s life when they will just “sit at home” and do nothing. The exams are over and there is yet to be an attractive part time job offer. In times like these, one is idle true to its very meaning, reading the same news daily repeatedly in attempt to pass the day more quickly. School will resume soon enough though and the routine cycle of classes and homework and exams will set in.

Young Sabahans are unique in this sense though. The state of being idle has no foreseeable end and this is especially true for the youngsters in the rural areas. They received little or no formal education. They have no marketable skills. They were not raised to be tough and buff like their Filipino counterparts clamoring for every minuscule job opening. The world as they know it is a world of simplicity – a daily habit of just sitting around and doing nothing.

It was reported recently that one third of schools in Malaysia have no power supply. Perhaps we should isolate the statistics for Sabah. It wouldn’t be shocking if half the schools in the districts of Sabah have no power, no water supply, no furniture, no books and no classrooms. After all, it is adverse circumstances like these that allow the exhibitionistic politicians to demonstrate their generous deeds and goody two shoe acts of community services for the front pages of local dailies.

The young Sabahans in Kota Kinabalu are of course better off in some ways, but they are hardly representative of a state with 2.5 million residents.

There are dire consequences should the young people of Sabah continue to stay out of sight and out of mind of the federal government. There will soon be farms without owners, harvest without labourers, homes without tenants and job vacancies without suitable candidates. The possibility of the indigenous folks ending up marginalized in their own birth place is real and palpable.

Sabahans can never lead Sabah efficiently by themselves
A common theme after the 12th Malaysian general elections went along the lines of Deng Xiaoping's "No matter whether it's a white cat or black cat. It's a good cat so long as it catches mice".

Sabahans have been far too close-knit among themselves in order to be capable stewards of their land in an age of globalization. Their chief ministers, one after another, have failed them miserable although these kingpins were all local Sabahans. From Osu Sukam to Musa Aman, Bernard Dompok to Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the lot of the less endowed Sabahans have changed little over the years.

Rather than demanding for greater autonomy, perhaps it is time they take a break from being Sabahan to being Malaysian.

Sabahans may never be capable of leading Sabah effectively and efficiently by themselves.

And I hope I'm totally wrong about this.


Anonymous said...

We should blame God when God is responsible but spare Him when He is not. Heaven does not have a Department of Irrigation and Drainage or policies dubbed as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Sabah state government has both however, and it is doing a lousy job in both.

You made me laugh with your witty comments at a sad sad situation.... I remember in Penang GH 14 years ago we had new double doors to the library (rumored to cost thousands) but nurses had to scrounge for bed sheets to cover the stained mattresses for the new admits. How I wish somebody like you are in the director's chair. God willing, someday. reading from halfway across the world.

MO HKM said...

This is so true !
The trunk road to northern district - K marudu, kudat and pitas is the worst ! what more the smaller roadsin these districts .. The poorest ppl of sabah are from these region. On the contrary, you also have Dewan Speaker and Minister of Sc and Tech from here . Ironical ? The bad roads are one of the reason most ill patients will not make it to KK. Most even cant afford to go to KK for treatment, unlike our speaker or minister. Most will end up being treated by mediocre MO ! It's high time to place a permanent specialist in the northern region, rather than spending money saving UR at KK/Likas and of course providing writing material for POTS....haha. They - the true natives of sabah deserve MORE !! what dou think ?

hmm.. you sure your boss reading this ?

Gan said...

It's an absolute sin to deprive the common people of so much to allow a few individuals to prosper.

I am sure it takes a toll on you to witness such heart wrenching situations knowing fully well life could be so much better for all if greed of a few individuals does not prevail.

Anonymous said...

Your long list of ills troubling Sabah (and the country as a whole) is accurate, but you underestimate the illegal immigrant issue.

You have been long enough in Sabah to see the problems that illegal immigrants bring. I'm not blaming them on a personal level, (like blame the sin but not the sinner!) cos all they are doing is seeking a better life for themselves in their own way; and many of those involved are children who were not able to make any choices for themselves.

However they certainly cause a drain on our already limited resources, eg precious hospital beds. And the social ills they create, like crime and lawlessness, child exploitation/labur, have a far wider significance than just the immediate impact.

I think SAPP here is showing some guts in doing what they are doing. It's not true that they have been keeping silent all this time. They have bringing up the issue, with increasing frustration as the federal authorities continue to ignore the issue.
So they feel that this is a good time to force the issue. Perhaps they have miscalculated, but we have to admire them for taking this risk. One doesn't make any progress in life without taking risks, otherwise one just marks time in one particular spot.

If the SAPP leaders were interested in personal gain they would have just continued to stay mum, just like the other Sabah parties who are now showing their true colours ie a spineless yellow.
PBS for eg is shameful in not adding their voice to SAPP's.

Billy Graham once said that "Courage is contagious; when a brave man makes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened". However in this case PBS and the other Sabah parties don't even have s spine to stiffen!

kittykat46 said...

Agreed, its very late for Yong Teck Lee to get worked up about Pak Lah and BN's mistreatment of Sabah. Obviously there is political opportunism involved.

But does being late mean he has lost his right to speak up now ?
That can't be right.
Its never too late to speak up against a wrong.