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William Leong: The Burning Question

February 22, 2010

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

A Happy Chinese New Year and May the Tiger bring you joy, happiness, health and wealth. I am very happy to be with you tonight and I thank the organizers for inviting me to participate in tonight’s function.

The Burning Question

Forty-six years after the formation of Malaysia, many still ask whether Sabah should have joined Malaysia. Many still ask whether Sabah should have stayed out like Brunei or quit Malaysia like Singapore. After 46 years it is still a burning question and the burning rages with greater intensity with each passing year and with each passing day. It is burning question for every Sabahan why the 20 point agreement is honoured more in breach than in compliance. The worse fears of those who negotiated the Malaysian Agreement on behalf of Sabah have come true. After 46 years it is a valid question that demands an answer. It demands an answer and a solution today not tomorrow and certainly not another 46 years.

Worst Fears

I will take only one of the 20 points as an example. Point 11 of the 20 Point Agreement provides that North Borneo should have control of its own finance, development funds and tariffs. The Sabah negotiators foresaw that the State would have adequate financial resources to cater for its socio-economic development. In 1976, the Petroleum Development Act was enacted. Previous Chief Ministers, Tun Mustapha and Tun Stephens refused to sign the Petroleum Sharing Agreement to give away Sabah’s oil rights in return for a 5% royalty. This changed after the dramatic June 6th 1976 plane crash resulting in the death of Tun Stephens and many of the State leaders. The 5% royalty amounts to an annual average of RM 351 million. In 2008 during the record high oil prices, Sabah received RM720 million. With a daily average production of 200,000 barrels a day at USD73 a barrel Sabah would have earned RM 19 Billion if it had not signed the Petroleum Sharing Agreement.

It is estimated that since 1976 there has been a net outflow of funds from Sabah to the Federal Government amounted to RM2,633.18 million during the 3rd Malaysia Plan, RM4,817.46 million during the 4th Malaysia Plan. The Federal Government did provide allocations for socio-economic development for Sabah. In the 9th Malaysia Plan RM1.9 Billion was allocated for Sabah but this is a mere 8% of the national budget. To know whether this is equitable we need to know and to compare with what has been taken out of Sabah.

This is why it is a burning question for every household in Sabah trying to make ends meet because they should be earning more. Sabah’s GDP per capital is 50% of the national average.

This is why it is a burning question for every family in Sabah that has to go hungry because they should not. 24% of the households in Sabah live below the poverty line. The poverty rate is three times the national average.

This is why it is a burning question for every child that is illiterate because he should be in school. Sabah has one of the highest child poverty rates at 42%. One fifth of the population has never been to school.

Did Sabah in joining Malaysia to be free from the British entered into a marriage of convenience? Like many marriages of convenience has it turned out to be an inconvenient arrangement? Did Sabahans exchanged colonial masters from London with those from Kuala Lumpur?

Peninsula Malaysia

I wish to tell you that the people in peninsula ask the same question. Not whether Sabah should have joined Malaysia but whether we in the peninsula exchanged the yolk of colonialism from a foreign to a local task master. A task master that rule with an iron fist. It may not be covered in a velvet glove. It may be a batek glove. Whatever it is he rules with an iron fist. The constitutional safeguards and the check and balances promised when independence was negotiated were dismantled and set aside. Malaysia in 46 years has more amendments to its constitution than America in 200 years.

I wish to make it clear that the wealth taken from Sabah did not end up in the pockets of the West Malaysians. It did end up in someone’s pockets but definitely it is not those of the ordinary man in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.Take my constituency for example, Selayang, it is next to Batu Caves. It is on the fringe of the city. For forty years, the villagers in Kampung Cempedak, faithfully and dutifully voted BN. For forty years, they had no piped water! Kampong Cempedak is not separated from Kuala Lumpur by the South China Sea like Sabah. It is only 12 miles from Kuala Lumpur. It is within sight of the Petronas Twin Towers, once the highest building in the world. This is the Peronas that Sabahans had given its oil rights to but this did not provide piped water to the villagers of Kampong Chempedak. They finally got piped water 10 months ago. 12 months after Pakatan took over in Selangor.

In 1984, squatters were moved from Kuala Lumpur city center to Bukit Botak in my constituency. I have the distinction of serving a constituency with the second highest number of squatters in Selangor. The squatters were promised new homes when they were moved out of Kuala Lumpur. They have been waiting 26 years. One chief minister after another appointed one contractor after another but nothing happened. The state in the meantime paid out RM48 million to these contractors but not one of them, whether they were appointed by Mat Taib, or by Abu Hassan or by Khir Toyal, could complete the project. The squatters waited twenty six years many are now in their sixties. Finally, last March 2008 they voted Pakatan and on 1st February, our Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim provided a holistic solution to the 1,467 families. The state will provide each family 2,200 sq ft of land with a build-up area of 870 sq ft semi-detached house. The squatters will have not a multi-storey flat but a single storey semi-detached house. This is the difference between a BN and a Pakatan administration.

Racialism and the NEP

For 40 years, two generations of Malaysians, the people in the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak have been sacrificed on the altar of racial politics. In the name of unity, for the sake of peace and harmony, for the love of our country, our generation and the generation before us agreed to the NEP. We agreed to the NEP’s objectives of eradicating poverty and to assist the disadvantaged social-economic groups.

However, the NEP was abused. It spawned corruption and cronyism. It led to inequality and the rule of law was replaced by the rule of man. It was replaced by the rule of one man. The economy suffered. We all suffered. It caused mass migration of talent, a shameful waste of human capital. It destroyed the education system. Meritocracy was replaced by patronage and cronyism.

So my dear friends, we on both sides of the South China Sea, asked the same question. We, Malaysians, irrespective of which part of Malaysia we come from, irrespective of our race or religion, each and every one of us are victims of injustice, corruption and abuse of power.

The answer to the burning question is that we have to vote for change.

Pakatan States

The people voted for change in the 12th General Election and BN was ironically saved by Sabah and Sarawak. We in the Peninsula looked to Sabah as our model for courage. You had shown us the way in 1976 when you voted for a multiracial Berjaya to replace USNO. When Berjaya lost its way in 1985 you replaced Berjaya with PBS. You were our heroes but in 2008, when we in Peninsula voted for change you kept BN! I hope we can get our act together at the next election and vote to replace BN.

In 2008, Pakatan was elected the state government in 5 states. This includes Perak. No matter what the Federal Court may rule, it cannot change the fact that the people of Perak voted for a Pakatan government. In the next election, the people will show that it is not the courts but the people of Perak who elects the government and it will be Pakatan.

The Pakatan government has shown the difference between that Ketuanan Melayu and Ketuanan Rakyat. Pakatan has shown that it is a government that puts people before profit and not profits before people.

In Selangor:-

  • we have 20 liters of free water,
  • We have Mesra Usia Mas where the elderly is provided RM3,500 for bereavement expenses and the state is now looking at providing RM1,500 to use while they are alive;
  • The Selangor new born trust fund where the government pays RM100 each year in trust for each child to provide the child with a fund when he reaches 18 years old;
  • Each student from Selangor that is accepted in a university is given a grant of RM1,000.00;
  • Civil servants and GLC employees are granted 3 months maternity leave;
  • The State has started a plantation children education fund to assist the children of poor plantation workers;
  • The State has opened women’s crisis centers to provide a safe haven for those facing abuse, rape and harassment and to provide them living skills;
  • The State has honoured and respected indigenous people’s land rights by withdrawing the appeal by the former administration in the landmark Sagong Tasi court case;
  • Increase the salary for the Muslim teachers;
  • The State has established a RM 6 million fund for non-Muslim places of worship; and
  • A fund of RM 4 million each to assist Chinese, Tamil and Agama schools;
  • In the environment area, Selangor has in the past 20 months recovered 3,000 acres of forest and mangrove land.

The State Assembly is enacting a Freedom of Information Enactment. It forced the Federal Government to release the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide report which was originally kept secret under the Official Secrets Act. It is amending the Forestry Enactment to require the degazetting of forest reserve subject to a public hearing.

In the war against corruption, the Auditor General has given Selangor and Penang 4 star ratings while the BN states are still purchasing pen drives at RM300/= each, building bus stops on roads where no buses ply. The Federal Government has to bail out PKFZ which may cost us RM12 Billion, they are building stadiums and office towers that collapse before they can be officially opened, they buying submarines that cannot dive underwater. 2 Fighter Jet Engines have flown out of the military base and out of the country without the military being aware of it. Military secrets are sold to foreign embassies and those responsible are only given stern warnings.

In the past few months, it has been shown that One Malaysia is another empty slogan. So they have returned to the 3 R’s. They have resorted to their old strategy and old politics of race, religion and royalty. The battle for Malaysia is ongoing. It is not like the World Cup or Olympics where once in four or five years the people come out to vote. Liberty and democracy must be guarded, and fought every day.

Malaysians on Trial

On February 2, 2010, the battle for Malaysia moved into a decisive phase, the trial of Anwar Ibrahim. Although Anwar Ibrahim is in the dock, Malaysians are on trial. Do Malaysians want Ketuanan Melayu or Ketuanan Rakyat? Are Malaysians prepared to pay the price for change? Malaysians have to decide whether to act or allow our institutions to be perverted for political ends. Anwar was fully aware after his release that if he returns to the political arena they will lock him up again. Anwar could not let Malaysians lose their democracy. Anwar returned knowing he must be prepared to pay the price. Anwar will never surrender. The question is whether Malaysians are prepared to fight with him and not surrender?

Attempt to tar and tarnish Anwar

Anwar Ibrahim is in the dock for a second time because he wants to lead Malaysians out of the darkness of racial politics, religious intolerance and authoritarian arrogance. Anwar wants to lead us into the light of multiculturalism, mutual respect for religions and the rule of law. Our President is here tonight. She knows how terrible it is. She and her family have to undergo a heavy toll. It is a very unpleasant experience. They are prepared to face it because those in power are afraid of Anwar. Those in power dare not face Anwar one on one. They dare not face him and Pakatan Rakyat on a level playing field in open battle. They prefer to ambush him. They prefer to snipe at Pakatan from the cover of the bush.

They dare not face Malaysians in open debate. They prefer closed door meetings. They are so afraid they are continuously adopting ever increasingly extreme positions on race, religion and royalty to hold on to power. They want to tar and tarnish Anwar Ibrahim as a traitor to his race and religion. They want to make sure he will not be able to lead and to open the minds of those who have been closed by half a century of propaganda and misinformation.

Race, Religion and Royalty

It is no coincidence that before the trial, Muslims and Non-Muslims have to deal with such sensitive issues as the use of “Allah”, the burning and attack on churches and other places of worship. When the desired response was not forthcoming, suraus have been attacked. Malaysians were put to the test. I am proud to say that Malaysians passed the test. They showed Malaysians have the wisdom and the tolerance not to be provoked by these trouble makers. Anwar has made it clear that Muslims do not have a monopoly over the use of the word “Allah”. This is published in the Asian Wall Street Journal. Muslim scholars outside of Malaysia have found the “Allah” issue absurd and cannot fathom why it has sparked the protest and outrage. It is no coincidence that these mischievous troublemakers have been desecrating religious symbols after the 12th General Election. They stomped on cow heads and now resort to throwing boar heads. Boar heads wrapped in newspapers and plastic tied with a string so that the person throwing will not have to touch it. I have never come across a Chinese who hold a pig with a string!

It is no coincidence the special assistant to the Prime Minister calls Indians beggars and Chinese women prostitutes. Last year one of their leaders called Malaysians of Chinese descent “Pendatang”. It was a seditious statement. He was suspended as an UMNO member but it was Teresa Kok and a Chinese newspaper reporter that were detained under the ISA. It is no coincidence Kapal Singh is charged for sedition for insulting the King. It is no coincidence that Biro Tata Negara holds civics courses for civil servants that race and religion comes before the nation. It is no coincidence we hear the repeated cries that only UMNO can save the race and religion. Those that have tasted power and money that comes with it will not give up the power voluntarily. They will use all means fair or foul to stay in power. They have used the government agencies. They have used the institutions. They used the institutions to grab Perak government from its people. They are using all within their power to destabilize Selangor. They are now using all their power to lock away Anwar. Malaysians must fight back.

People want Change

All these happened because Malaysians want change. All these desperate acts are because Malaysians want fairness, justice, and the rule of law. Today we are tested again. We were tested 10 years ago. Too many of us then were afraid. Too many of us then knew it was wrong but we had property to look after, we had our business to think about, we had a wife and family. Let someone else protest. Let someone else demonstrate. We will cheer from the safety of our homes. We will stay on the sidelines out of harm’s way.

We failed. Ketuanan Melayu won. Ketuanan Mahathir won. Ketuanan wang won.

The system was perverted so they could put Anwar away. Anwar was jailed for 6 years but they damaged our constitutional institutions and took away our fundamental rights in the process. The police and enforcement agencies instead of protecting us became a danger to us. Kugan went into a police station and was found dead. Teoh Beng Hock went to the MACC office and was found dead. Altantuya went into a police car and was found blown into bits by C4. Malaysians did not go to jail with Anwar in 1998 but Malaysian paid the price for allowing the checks and balance to be dismantled. Malaysians allowed the institutions to be perverted. Malaysians are paying for it. Today the script is taken out a second time. Are we going to allow them to win a second time? Are we going to stay silent again? Are we going to let them take us down the road to perdition again? It is up to us to stop them.

It is not Anwar that is on trial. We, Malaysians are on trial. The world is watching us. John Kerry the chairman of the US Foreign Affairs Committee has called on Malaysia to respect the rule of law. Michael Danby and 50 MPs in Australia have called for Anwar’s release. Anwar is a victim of injustice. The trial is a political persecution. The trial is not Anwar’s fight alone. It is every Malaysians’ fight. We must stand up against corruption, abuse of power and oppression. We must not allow those who use racial disharmony, religious sensitivities and misguided nationalism to rob us. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The price of justice is constant action. Justice and liberty must be fought and refought every day. We must be prepared to pay the price before we can begin to enjoy the blessings.

Frustration and Despair

On March 8 2008, Malaysians voted for change. I know today many Malaysians frustrated, angry and in despair. The mainstream BN controlled media reports that the three parties in Pakatan Rakyat are bickering amongst themselves. Perak was lost because of three elected representatives jumped across. Zulkifli Nordin is running around and saying things that UMNO will say and not what Pakatan Rakyat MP will say. Zarain Hashim is the latest defector. What you ask is going on?

Firstly, if we believe in the freedom of expression, we must accept that just as some people will not like to hear what we have to say, we have to accept that these people will also have the right to say what we do not like to hear. Secondly, if we believe in the rule of law and the rules of natural justice, then we must apply the rule that no man is to be condemned unheard. The right to be heard is an important rule of procedure. If we believe in these principles then we must follow them. Party discipline will be instilled. Those who can explain and justify their actions will be excused those who cannot will be dealt with and punished in a manner that fits the severity of the offence. The party will cleanse the impurities and straiten the indiscipline.

Traitors

Keadilan representatives have been tested and are constantly being tested. Unfortunately, several have failed the tests. You have had the first hand experience of defectors in Sabah. If you are angry and frustrated, I am angry and frustrated one hundred times more than you. The problem of traitors and treason has been with us since history began. We will never know what lurks in the hearts of men. I take heart that they are only a few and that there are many leaders in Pakatan Rakyat who are loyal and honest. They seek to serve, to strive and they will not yield. We are walking on a tight rope from the 12th General Elections to the 13th General Elections. We have to focus on the rope in front of us. BN is trying to shake us and throw us off balance. Some of those whom we trust have fallen and some others may fall in the days to come. Nelson Mandela said it is a long walk to freedom. While we walk we must keep our faith and take heart that right and truth always prevail. We must take heart that if we hold on together we will overcome. It always has and always will.

Pakatan Common Policy Framework

Pakatan is stronger today than we were on March 8, 2008. We have applied for Pakatan to be registered as a political party. BN thinks that Anwar is the glue that keeps Pakatan together. They are wrong it is the people that formed Pakatan and it is the people that will keep Pakatan together. We have a momentum and it will take us to Putrajaya. We have been able to put together the Pakatan Common Policy Framework. This was unveiled on 19th December 2009.

Section 4 of the Pakatan Common Policy Framework, provides for the rights of states to make decisions according to their own requirements for development. The foundation of this right is to provide adequate financial allocation to states based on their contributions to the Federation and its people’s needs. Pakatan will guarantee state governments 20% royalty on petroleum income to eradicate poverty. It will return part of the tax collection to each state based on a formula for equitable distribution. It will increase capital grants.

For Sabah and Sarawak, the spirit of the Malaysian Agreement will form the foundation for a just relationship between the Federation and the two states in East Malaysia. Pakatan will restore the balance of power now concentrated in the central government. Pakatan will make a fair and open assessment of the principal issues that hinder political and social-economical development in Sabah and Sarawak. Pakatan will set up a royal commission to find the best solution in the immigrant issue. It will guarantee native customary land rights are not violated. It will stop immediate oppression against those living in the interior by unethical economical activities.

A Place in the Sun

We must not allow them to stir up fear and suspicion. We must not allow them to put a wedge between us. We are all anak Bangsa Malaysia. It was never a problem of Sabah and Sarawak against the Peninsula. You were sold and traded as the North Borneo Company. In the peninsula we were also sold and traded as part of the East India Company. We share a common historical experience. It was never a question of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazan Dusuns, Muruts and Dayaks. It was never a problem of Muslims, Christians, Buddhist or any of the religions.

It was always a problem of greed, corruption, abuse of power and cronyism. It was always the tactic of divide and rule. It was always due to them playing on racial, religious and geographical sensitivities. It was always due to those who create fear and suspicions to hang on to power. It was always a problem caused by misinformation and propaganda.

Today we see through their tactics. I am sure if we hold on together we will prevail so that all Malaysians have an equal place in the sun.

Thank you, xie xie, nandri vanakam.

William Leong Jee Keen

Member of Parliament for Selayang

Kota Kinabalu

February 20th 2010

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