After my latest visit to Sabah and three-day “DAP UBAH tour” of Papar (Kg Tamui), Kota Belud ( Kg Nahaba), Inanam, Matunggung (Kg. Pinaurat) and Kudat, with Sabah DAP leaders, it is clear that the Pakatan Rakyat Sabah’s RM7.28 billion Alternative Budget 2013 announced last month has “hit the marks” and put intense pressure on the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Aman and the Barisan Nasional Sabah leaders.
For instance, Musa was reported in the Sabah newspapers on Friday of handing over funds totaling RM30.9 million to 140 non-Islamic religious bodies and 266 schools including Chinese independent and missions schools in the state – made up of RM18 million to religious bodies including churches, Chinese temples and other non-Muslim places of worship and RM12.9 million to the schools.
Although Musa said that “the large allocation for non-Islamic religious bodies was reflective of the Barisan Nasional government’s commitment in upholding religious freedom in the country”, it was clearly in response though weak and inadequate to the fourth of five thrusts of Pakatan Rakyat Sabah’s Alternative Budget 2003 on “Empowering Local Communities”.
However the Sabah BN government has fallen far short of what the PR Sabah Alternative Budget proposed.
The “Empowering Local Communities” thrust of the PR Sabah Alternative Budget proposed allocation of RM50 million for vernacular, religious, government-aided and independent schools but the Sabah BN government has responded only with a RM12.9 million allocation.
The PR Sabah alternative budget proposed RM50 million to non-Muslim religious organisations (and RM100 million for Muslim organisations including RM3 million for funding Haj pilgrimages by 300 people at RM10,000 per person) but the Sabah BN government has only come out with RM18 million for non-Islamic religious bodies.
The PR Sabah’s fourth thrust on “Empowering Local Communities” have 13 specific proposals which Sabah BN government have yet to respond, including:
• Under Skim Graduan Anak Sabah, RM2,000 will be given to each student pursuing tertiary studies for households earning less than RM2,000 a month. This initiative is expected to cost RM14.4 million and is expected to benefit approximate 7,200 students.
• RM50 million to provide scholarships for all those who seek tertiary education in the state. Priority will be given to train doctors and teachers.
• RM20 million fund to showcase cultural diversity through innovation and creativity.
• RM40 million for the purposes of cultural and heritage preservation.
• Start up grant of RM20 million to set up Sabah TV for the purposes of making programs to showcase the cultural heritage and diversity of our state.
The other four thrusts of the PR Sabah Alternative Budget contained another 30 specific proposals to ensure that Sabah’s wealth is more equitably distributed, its growth reinvigorated and the marginalised in Sabah lifted out of poverty.
Although Musa and the Sabah BN state government have yet to give proper and commensurate response to the specific proposals of the PR Sabah Alternative Budget 2013, the Sabah Chief Minister and the Sabah BN have started a war of words against the DAP and Pakatan Rakyat.
Musa for instance reacted in a very irrational and most uncharacteristic manner when I pointed out the great difference between the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat when faced with the supreme challenge of the 13th General Election, which could see either BN returned to power or replaced by the Pakatan Rakyat in Putrajaya.
I had said that when put to the test as to which political coalition is prepared to put national interest above all other interests, UMNO and BN have in their desperate bid to hold on to power resorted to the traditional but divisive “Divide and Rule” tactics polarizing the diverse races and religions in the country, while Pakatan Rakyat parties of DAP, PKR and PAS have maintained a common theme and unifying message of “Unite and Rule” to all races, religions and states, underlining the need for all Malaysians to rally together as one Malaysian people to build an united nation with a common vision.
Another Sabah BN leader who has eyes on the office of Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, has also got into the act responding to the Pakatan Rakyat Sabah Alternative budget, calling for the rejection of PR’s promise to increase Sabah’s oil royalty receipts from five to 20 per cent.
Shafie has given the most ridiculous reason claiming that the increase of Sabah’s oil royalty to 20 per cent would cause a split between Sabah and the rest of Malaysia.
Shafie’s reasoning is flawed, as PR is not just asking for the oil royalty for Sabah to be increased from five to 20%, but for all oil producing states including Sarawak, Terengganu, Kelantan and soon, Pahang. Furthermore, there is the remaining 80% of the oil royalty receipts which could be devoted to national development.
So far Shafie is the only Sabah BN leader to openly oppose the increase of Sabah’s oil royalty from five to 20 per cent. Let everyone of the Sabah BN leaders declare their stand on this issue so that the voters of Sabah can decide whether they deserve support or repudiation.
Yesterday’s Sabah press carried headlines of the call by UPKO President Tan Sri Bernard Dompok: “PR’s promises ‘only good outside Sabah’”.
Bernard had not intended, but he was in fact conceding, that UMNO and Barisan Nasional are facing an uphill if not a losing battle for the hearts and minds of the voters in Peninsular Malaysia and that it is now left to the voters of Sabah to save UMNO and Barisan Nasional in the impending general elections.
Bernard is absolutely right and this is why I have stressed in my speeches during my UBAH tour of Papar, Kota Belud, Inanam, Matunggong and Kudat during the past three days that the Sabah voters are the “kingmakers” in Malaysia as they will, together with the voters of Sarawak and Johore, decide who will be form the next Federal Government in Putrajaya and who is to be the next Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak visited Kudat during his last visit to Sabah, but he did not travel by road to experience for himself what the common Sabahan had to experience – what I had previously described as the “worst road in Malaysia” – the atrocious and hellish stretch at Ulu Kukut.
Instead, Najib flew by helicopter, by-passing Ulu Kukut altogether, like the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in his previous visit to the area.
After my August visit where I tweeted about the seven-year atrocity of the Ulu Kukut road condition, the Barisan Nasional state government gave a public assurance that the three-kilometre road upgrading project at Ulu Kukut would be sealed and completed by the end of September.
However, when I travelled to Kg Pinaurat in Matunggong and Kudat on Sunday, time seemed to have stood still at the Ulu Kukut stretch in the past three months as there is no sign of any improvement in the atrocious road condition.
Even Najib dared not make any mention of the atrocious Ulu Kukut stretch during his visit to Kudat last month, and he chose instead to announce that a study is being carried out on a RM800 million coastal highway from Tuaran linking Kota Belud to Kota Marudu and to Kudat – bypassing Ulu Kukut completely.
Has the Prime Minister also given up on completing the upgrading of the Ulu Kukut road, which is believed to be a RM70 million project, and is Ulu Kukut going to be a living testimony of the failure of Sabah BN state government in the 13GE?