With Only Two Federal Ministers Politicians And Pundits Express Concern For Sabah S Pursuit Of Equality
Citing economic challenges, Anwar opted to merge several portfolios and run his Cabinet with only 28 people — himself included — compared to past administrations that saw up to 32 ministers. — Picture by Miera ZulyanaKOTA KINABALU, Dec 8 — To Sabahans and political observers, having only two representatives in the federal coalition Cabinet hits hard, especially when its Borneo sibling Sarawak has five, including the coveted deputy prime minister post.
While they acknowledge the limitations of a new “unity government”, pundits who spoke to Malay Mail said the imbalance would perpetuate the perception of unfair distribution of equity since Sabah has long seen itself as a step-sibling, and that unless addressed quickly, could affect future cooperation with Putrajaya under the leadership of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“Although we understand that it is not an easy task and that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim cannot please everyone, it does look biased towards Umno who has a big share of seats.
“Less voice or representatives in the Cabinet meeting is akin to denying Sabah’s aspirations,” Universiti Malaysia Sabah senior lecturer Lee Kuok Tiung said.
He said that the current federal Cabinet line-up is not reflective of the equal rights and Borneonisation agenda that Anwar and his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition leaders had talked about in the run-up to the November 19 general election.
Citing economic challenges, Anwar opted to merge several portfolios and run his Cabinet with only 28 people – himself included – compared to past administrations that saw up to 32 ministers.
From Sabah, he appointed Penampang MP Datuk Ewon Benedick from Upko as cooperatives and consumerism minister, and Papar MP Datuk Armizan Ali from the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) as minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Sabah and Sarawak affairs.
But Lee pointed out that while Armizan was in charge of Borneo affairs, the task of fulfilling the Malaysia Agreement 1963 was given to Second Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Fadilah Yusof, who is from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and also holds the plantations, industries, and commodities portfolio.
“So does that mean Armizan will have to refer to Fadillah even though both are representing the Borneo bloc? What is the point of the portfolio then?” he asked.
Other analysts also said that Sabah could lose out if it were under-represented in the federal Cabinet to fight for their various aspirations encompassing development, welfare, education and security.
Romzi Ationg said that Sabah has some of the poorest districts in the country and is in dire need for specific attention from the federal leaders.
“The more ministers from Sabah, the more the federal government will focus on its development agenda.
“All areas in Sabah have been sidelined for so long as compared to the peninsular states. Just look at the internet connection... even the state capital of KK has poor internet connection,” the Sabah-based analysts said.
Ationg believes the lack of representation is due to the divided nature of Malaysia’s political parties.
To move forward, he said all party leaders in Sabah should consolidate to achieve political harmony for the state’s best interests.
Like Lee, University Teknologi Mara political scientist Tony Paridi Bagang was surprised that Sabah only had people appointed federal ministers and said it seemed insufficient, though it was “acceptable” considering the current limits Anwar imposed on Cabinet.
“Taking into account the size of the Cabinet, it’s acceptable. Both are given full ministerial posts,” he said.
But Bagang noted that the appointments were only for the PH and GRS component parties and left out Warisan, a significant player in Sabah politics, which he felt should perhaps be given more priority.
“But the truth, it’s not just about representation by numbers in the Cabinet. Two ministers who can deliver is way better than many who cannot deliver.
“If the two ministers and the PM walk their talk and fulfil all the promises, then this is good enough for Sabah. It's time for Anwar to prove what he promised to Sabah, everything they outlined under MA63 and other promises of progress,” said Bagang.
Apart from Fadillah, Anwar announced four other names from Sarawak for his Cabinet. They are: Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi as works minister; Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing as tourism minister; Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri as women, family and community development minister; and Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang as national unity minister.
The December 2 announcement was met with some resentment from Sabah, most notably from its state Barisan Nasional (BN) chief Datuk Bung Moktar Radin and his state DAP counterpart Chan Foong Hin.
Bung, who is also deputy chief minister, said that the numbers did not reflect the state’s support for Anwar to be made prime minister and expressed anxiety that Sabah would be left behind again development-wise.
“There is not even one representative from Sabah Barisan in the Cabinet compared to Sarawak which has five.
“I am worried. Does this mean that Sabah will also be left out of development plans?” he asked.
Chan, who is also Kota Kinabalu MP, agreed that the Borneo representation in the federal Cabinet looked very lopsided at first glance between Sabah and Sarawak.
“As this is a unity government, we understand how difficult it is for him to bring all the parties together to form the Cabinet.
“But this situation is akin to 2018, when the then government appointed three full ministers from Sabah while Sarawak only one,” he said.
“GRS has one minister and PH has one too but in all fairness, to show political inclusiveness, a Warisan MP should have been appointed full minister,” the DAP leader said. - malaymail
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