KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor (pic) received a tacit endorsement of his leadership when the Sabah state assembly unanimously passed a record RM5.138bil state budget amid a hazy political scenario post-GE15.
Members on both sides of the political divide gave the green light to the budget tabled by Hajiji, whose Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), which jointly runs the state government with Barisan Nasional, remains on shaky ground as the new federal leadership under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim takes shape.
Neither the assemblymen from Parti Warisan or Pakatan Harapan in the state Opposition nor the government bench objected to the passing of the budget – the largest by far in the state’s history – yesterday.
GRS secretary-general Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun believes the passing of the Bill is a “sign of political maturity” as assemblymen seemed to consider the positiveness of the budget and not political lines.
“I hope it’s a sign of political maturity, agreeing because of the merits of the 2023 State Budget as well as the need to reduce unnecessary political polemic,” said Masidi, who is state Finance Minister II.
Hajiji leads the GRS coalition comprising the Sabah chapter of Bersatu as well as Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) and Usno.
On the other hand, Barisan comprises Sabah Umno, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS), MCA and MIC.
GRS has officially backed the unity government led by Anwar but the position of Sabah Bersatu seems to contradict its national leadership headed by former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Bersatu is part of Perikatan Nasional, which is in the Opposition federally.
So far, local Pakatan leaders like Upko’s incoming president Datuk Ewon Benedick and Sabah DAP secretary Phoong Jin Zhe have indicated that they prefer Hajiji’s government to serve its full term until 2025.
Sabah Barisan and state Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, who had earlier voiced unhappiness over GRS’ move to support Muhyiddin as prime minister, has also indicated that it will not disrupt the state government.
During the budget debates, the assemblymen focused on the issue of state rights involving the Federal Government paying back the 40% of all revenue earned in Sabah to the state as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.
Hajiji, who is also state Finance Minister, in his winding-up speech, told the state assembly the RM120mil federal special payment was just an interim measure as the state continued to resolve the state’s 40% net revenue claim.
The state government signed a five-year agreement with Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Federal Government for the interim payment of the special annual grant due to Sabah. Under the agreement, the state will receive RM125.6mil annually for five years from 2021.
Assuring the assembly that the state government will not stop pursuing its rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), Hajiji, who is Sulaman assemblyman, said he had also brought up the matter with Anwar during their recent meeting.
“He has agreed to seriously consider our demands.
“Hopefully, this can be realised as this issue has dragged on for too long and continues to be voiced by our leaders and people.
“God willing, if I’m still the Chief Minister, I will bring up the matter again,” he said.
The issue of political stability took a humorous turn when Sindumin assemblyman Datuk Dr Yusof Yaacob (BN-Umno) told fellow assemblymen to unite and not “kacau” (disturb) the Chief Minister’s duty.
To this, Kemabong assemblyman Datuk Rubin Balang (GRS-Bersatu) interjected, saying he also supported the call not to disturb the CM but asked Dr Yusof: “Who are you referring to?”
State Speaker Datuk Seri Kadzim Yahya, however, cut them off and asked Hajiji to continue his budget winding-up speech.
Under parliamentary convention, the defeat of a fiscal Bill automatically forces the resignation of the government of the day.