KOTA KINABALU: The United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) has launched a new manifesto that aims to put Sabah in a more prominent position within Malaysia while strengthening ties with the Federal Government.
Its de-facto leader Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia said Usno has the same fighting spirit it had when the party was formed in 1961, but added that its new struggle is to place Sabah and its people on equal footing with those in Peninsular Malaysia.
"In 1961, Usno fought for North Borneo to be independent of British colonisers but in 2020 we want Sabahans to be given the same rights and privileges as those enjoyed by people in Peninsular Malaysia," he said at the party's manifesto launch on Wednesday (Sept 16).
He added that Usno's "new deal" with Putrajaya must not be based on the Malaysian Agreement 1963 (MA63) because he regards that as a "done deal" as the agreement's purpose was for the formation of a new nation.
He said part of Usno's new deal is to ensure that Sabahans play a more prominent role in the line of leadership on the federal level.
Pandikar, who is contesting in Pintasan in Kota Belud, said this would include having Sabahans or Sarawakians sit in senior positions in government such as sitting in the deputy premier seat or take on responsibilities as ministers in charge of finance or rural development.
"Why must these positions only be given to those from Peninsular Malaysia," said the former Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
He added the party will also fight to increase Sabah's seats in Dewan Negara from two to eight and have 33% of the Malaysian Cabinet be made up of leaders from Sabah.
Separately, Pandikar said the family of Usno founder Tun Mustapha Datu Harun, should be thanking new Usno leaders for reminding Sabahans of the struggle that he once led.
"We never intended to offend the family when we used his image in our materials. Our intention was to remind Sabahans of the sacrifices of past leaders. The family should be thanking us," he said.
Pandikar was responding to a statement made by Mustapha's son, Datuk Amir Kahar, advising the new Usno leadership line to not use any images of his father in the party's campaign materials.
Amir, who is contesting as an independent candidate in Banggi, said the family did not want Mustapha's image to be used for political mileage by others.