No regrets calling for Sabah elections, says Shafie

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal has defended his decision to dissolve the state assembly and holding elections, despite this resulting in an upsurge of Covid-19 cases.

"Rather than handing over powers to those who believe in 'cash is king' due to the 'purchasing power' they have for assemblymen, I would rather die in the political arena. Not dying due to Covid-19 – but dying in the political arena for the rakyat.

"When the rakyat chooses who they want to be in power, then we must accept the decision," said the Semporna MP during his Budget 2021 speech.

Shafie had called for the snap polls after his long-time political nemesis Tan Sri Musa Aman tried to topple his government through a spate of defections.

Datuk Mohamad Alamin (BN-Kimanis) had asked if Shafie regretted advising the Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negri to dissolve the state assembly.

Shafie said the state election would not have been called if there was no interference from the Perikatan Nasional government on his former Warisan Plus-led state government.

Meanwhile, Shafie said Budget 2021 must be centred on nation-building and should also take into account the concerns of the private sector.

"Budget 2021 should be used for nation-building, not building a race or religion. This is the way forward for the country," he said.

Earlier in his speech, Shafie called for the government to beef up the health sector, as it not only required adequate funds, but also equipment and manpower improvements, particularly in rural areas badly affected by Covid-19.

He also said the government should also provide housing assistance for medical officers.

Shafie pointed out that the government had provided housing assistance and equipment for members of the Armed Forces and the police, who are also front liners, in the battle against Covid-19.

"If the same can be done for medical officers, I'm confident that in the long term, many problems can be solved and their productivity can be improved."

Shafie also proposed for the government to rent mini busses from local businesses in order to address the issue of ambulance shortages in rural areas.

He said this could revive the economy in rural areas.

Budget 2021 will go through another week of debates at the policy stage before it is put to a vote on Nov 25.

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