THE new Sabah chief minister has a big headache as he has to deal with Covid-19 and the targeted enhanced movement control order in certain areas in the state.
As Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor starts to draw up his state Cabinet list, he will have to consider the state’s delicate political equation seriously.
Umno has more state assemblymen than Bersatu of which Hajiji is from, and then there is the powerful PBS which keeps the state government intact.
But there is also another matter as for the first time, there is not a single Chinese representative from Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) after the recent election.
If there is any Chinese representation from GRS, then it is Sabah STAR’s Flovia Ng, a Sino-Dusun, who won Tulid, a Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) seat.
In short, the 127,000 Chinese voters, who comprise 12% of the electorate, voted themselves out of the state government and for the first time in over 36 years, it is almost certain the Chinese will not have a deputy chief minister (DCM).
There are already three DCMs – Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin from Umno, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan from STAR and Datuk Dr Joachim Gunsalam from PBS. A fourth DCM from the Chinese community now seems remote.
According to preliminary findings by political scientist Dr Bridget Welsh, in her study, 94% of the Chinese voted for Warisan Plus comprising Parti Warisan Sabah, United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko), DAP, Parti Amanah Negara and PKR.
Only 5% of Chinese voters supported GRS, which consist of Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional as well as PBS.
All the top Chinese leaders lost. Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai, the PBS deputy president, was beaten at Api-Api and Liberal Democratic Party’s honorary life president
Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat lost in a 10-cornered contest in Inanam.
All the four MCA candidates were defeated but interestingly, Datuk Chew Kok Woh, who made his first election appearance at Karamunting, garnered the highest votes among all the GRS Chinese contenders. Chew polled 3,215 votes in a seven-cornered fight.
The biggest winners were the six DAP contenders who won convincingly in urban seats where Chinese are the majority. A DAP candidate lost in a Kadazandusun seat in the interior of Sabah.
In comparison, the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut communities gave 56% of their votes to GRS led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and 27% to Warisan Plus.
For those of us who still talk about defections in Sabah, it is interesting to note that of the 19 state assemblymen who have defected since 2018,12 of them were re-elected this time.
Peninsula watchers, who have little understanding of Sabah politics and sentiments, had asked this writer whether PBS would join Warisan Plus to form a new alliance after the polls.
They did not understand that PBS and STAR had campaigned heavily against Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal on the illegal immigrant issues and that they had painted Shafie, a Bajau from Semporna, to be sympathetic to these foreigners.
It worked so well that Upko, a component of Warisan Plus, lost all the seats it contested except one. Even Upko president Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau was even defeated.
Project M, an exercise in the 1980s, to naturalise foreigners from the Philippines mostly, remains an emotional issue and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad continues to be blamed.
In fact, Warisan Plus politely asked Dr Mahathir not to come to Sabah during the election campaign for fear of getting hostile reactions from Sabahans.
Any move by PBS or STAR, whose base comprises the KDM, to work with Warisan Plus would be suicidal.
“In Sabah, you are either a ‘Sabahan original’ or a ‘Sabahan photocopy’, so it’s a very big issue. Tensions over illegal immigration continues, ” said Philip Golingai, a journalist from Sabah.
But having said that, it needs to be pointed out that Warisan did well in urban seats with Kadazan majority.
Welsh said Warisan probably also suffered from the lower turnout from the voters.
The turnout this time was 66.6% against 77% in the 2018 general election. It was a drop of 11% and this time, it was a classic case of every vote counted as 443 candidates from 17 parties and independents fought for the 73 seats.
It has been said that Warisan Plus core supporters saw the biggest drop.
The Chinese dropped 16% and even Shafie’s base of Bajau-Suluk saw a drop of 13%, she said.
Welsh said the concerns of Covid-19 among the Chinese was a big factor while there was discontent of Warisan Plus deliveries among Sabahan voters.
Chinese who were not happy chose to stay away from exercising their rights instead of voting against Warisan Plus, Welsh said.
If previously there were Chinese chief ministers such as Chong and Datuk Yong Teck Lee of the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), and even DCM, this time there won’t be any Chinese government representative.
The community can hope to have a nominated assemblyman, as allowed under the state constitution, but as of now, it is a guessing game.
The state constitution allows up to six nominated assemblymen.
The absence of a Chinese representative in government will have a serious impact as it means a loss in decision-making and access to resources.
The Chinese probably thought that the KDM would go along to support Warisan Plus, but when they reached the finish line, they found they were the only ones when they looked back.
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