Excerpts of the speech by United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok (pic below) at the party’s annual general meeting in Penampang, Sabah, on 11 Oct 2008.
In terms of elected representatives, we have four Members of Parliament (MPs) and six assemblymen and a senator. I know we can handle more if given the opportunity. But that is, I am afraid, the constraints of being a member of a coalition. You defend what is allocated to you…
However, the point that has to be made is this: Despite the smaller allocation for us, we have utilised it well, not just in terms of winning all of them but also in the post-election delivery to the rakyat on the floors of Parliament and the State Assembly and in the Cabinet meeting rooms.
Let me point out the important role we are to play in the aftermath of the last general election. The result of this election changed dramatically the political landscape of Malaysia and ushered in an emerging trend of a discerning electorate willing to look beyond the comfort of a government that had a proven track record of bringing post-independence development.
The electorate of today seem to say that there are very serious neglects in our national life, which growth rates at the national level alone will not be able to address.
For the Barisan Nasional (BN), the time has come to take stock of the situation; to identify these neglects and offer remedies that will rekindle the trust and high esteem we once held in the hearts of those who had given us the dizzying majorities in previous elections.
This is where Upko would play its role. During the past conferences of Upko, we have actually presented to the delegates most of the issues which in our view have remained unresolved and have pursued with the government either through Cabinet meetings or presentation directly to government departments or agencies.
Some of the issues we have taken up are local in character, those pertaining to the concerns of the indigenous communities, issues coming within the purview of state authorities and most importantly, those which are fully within the jurisdiction of the federal government.
The decision of the rakyat on 8 March 2008 seem to suggest that national issues, that is those that are directly under the purview of the national government, were the major cause for the big swing towards the opposition as the biggest casualties came from the national parties.
Today, the BN would not be able to form the national government without the MPs from Sabah and Sarawak.
It is to no one’s surprise, therefore, that the people of East Malaysia now want the federal government to pay serious attention to the many grouses which have been brought to their attention and which have so far received unsatisfactory responses from them.
Soon after the 8 March election results and the formation of the Cabinet, the prime minister visited Sabah and Sarawak to ascertain the views and the unhappiness of these two states.
Discussion was held by the prime minister and leaders of [BN component parties]. Upko was represented by me as president of the party, Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Bumburing as deputy president and Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau as secretary-general.
(© Benjamin Earwicker/sxc.hu)We informed the prime minister that action on the problems faced by Sabah with regards to illegal immigration is long overdue and the government must now muster the political will to finally address this subject.
We reiterated Upko’s call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to address this perennial problem. We followed through our stand at subsequent meetings both in Cabinet and committee meetings convened for the purpose. Indeed we were not alone in asking for urgent action. The sentiment was shared by almost all [BN component parties].
Delegates assembled here today would be aware that the government has decided on a course of action which would, if implemented fully and sincerely, flush out all foreign nationals without valid documents. Those who remain in Sabah would only be those who are allowed to work here after obtaining work passes issued by the Immigration Department.
I have also pointed out that there is another category of foreigners who should not be here but somehow managed to secure valid documents. This is the most serious of the cases of illegal immigration, as foreigners are by the stroke of a pen conferred citizenship and may even join the ranks of the natives of this country.
We cannot be in denial on this matter as there are proven instances where people who had been in Sabah illegally were actually given identity cards that should only be made available to bona fide citizens of this country.
This confirmation has come to the Parliamentary Select Committee which I chaired, where the National Registration Department (NRD) admitted that what was claimed in a newspaper report, of two foreigners having in their possession valid Malaysian identity cards, was indeed true.
The committee’s further attempt to go deeper into the matter ran into a brick wall as government departments under the Home Ministry subsequently refused to appear before the committee.
Eventually, I had to resign from the chairmanship of the committee as I felt there was no further purpose in continuing to be chairman when integrity issues within the relevant departments cannot be addressed.
I am sure that all of us in this party are utterly disgusted at the complete lack of commitment by government departments to guard the integrity of their office.
I feel today that we should reiterate our call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into illegal immigration in this state as that inquiry would also cover how the relevant agencies discharged their duties.
The NRD is a department that has a lot to answer for. The recent case of a Sabah native, a voter in this country and who owns land under native title, being deprived of her citizenship, again by the stroke of a pen, speaks volumes of the lackadaisical attitude of a bureaucracy that has the temerity of then advising her to apply for citizenship!
Yong Lee Hua has now become a household name in Sabah. The reinstatement of her citizenship puts to rest a case that should never have happened. It is sad that the NRD is now claiming that she had always been a Permanent Resident when she had been a voter in past elections.
Implications on the electoral roll
This opens up integrity issues for the Election Commission (EC) for having in the voters’ list people who are not bona fide residents in this country. The public has always been told the EC depends on the NRD to verify the authenticity of voters.
This present assertion by the NRD confirms there is indeed the need for an independent inquiry to remove doubts on the integrity of the NRD and similar frontline government departments and agencies.
I would like to suggest that all Upko divisions should now form a subcommittee of the party’s citizenship and security bureau, presently under the chairmanship of Donald Mojuntin.
Genuine cases can be taken up by the party right up to the Cabinet. I know the predicament of a lot of people who are actually citizens of this country by operation of law.
Yong’s case shows that it is possible to get results if we have the will and courage to push. We will now request for the NRD to work on a time limit for the finalisation of these types of cases…
Sabah pushing for higher oil royalty
I am sure all of you will readily agree with me that it was a big mistake for Sabah to have agreed to yield to Petronas the rights to petroleum in the 70s and to accept in return only 5% as royalty payment.
We have brought up to the federal government a request for an increase in royalty. The government has been non-committal on this but it has nevertheless recognised the funding requirements of the state, as the prime minister announced the allocation of RM1 billion.
This is additional to the amount approved under the Ninth Malaysia Plan. This is a matter that the state government can further take up as the present Malaysia Plan comes to a close and a tenth plan is drawn up. We remain commited to support the state government in its pursuit of the request for increased royalty.
(© Benjamin Earwicker/sxc.hu)
Upko has also asked for the cancellation of the plan by Petronas to construct a pipeline … to transport gas from the proposed gas landing point at Kimanis to the LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant in Bintulu, Sarawak. We presented to the prime minister this request and followed up in subsequent Cabinet meetings.
On a visit to Sabah on 31 May 2008, the prime minister made the announcement to put a stop to the pipeline project at a gathering of leaders of the BN and government officers in Kota Kinabalu.
The announcement was applauded by party and government leaders and I thought the matter would then be put to rest. But it was not to be.
Petronas and its subsidiaries stepped up the implementation of its plan, disregarding completely the announcement by the prime minister.
Who can blame any one for losing confidence in the prime minister and the government when government companies themselves are consigning to the dustbin government decisions announced by the chief executive of this country.
I repeat today what I have told my Cabinet colleagues. PETRONAS IS COUNTERMANDING THE PRIME MINISTER.
Oil and gas industry in Sabah
To those who are asking why we are insisting on the scrapping of this project, I have this to say:
1. Firstly, this is an announcement by the prime minister on behalf of the government. If the words of the prime minister cannot be relied upon, all the other decisions and promises by the prime minister in respect of Sabah mean nothing at all.
It strikes deep into the integrity and the credibility of the government and the BN as a whole. We have a duty in this party to monitor the mandate and trust given by the electorate.
2. Secondly, this is the opportunity for Sabah … to utilise its resources as gas from the offshore fields can be used to start a petrochemical plant in Sabah, thereby providing stimulus to an economy that has become overly dependent on tourism and palm oil. The oil and gas industry can provide employment for our jobseekers, opportunity for Sabahans to learn new trades or skills.
3. Thirdly, Sabah — despite [being] potentially the biggest supplier of crude oil with a known reserve of approximately 2.2 billion barrels out of 5.4 billion barrels (Sarawak 1.4 [billion barrels], peninsula 1.8 [billion barrels]) and 11.6 tscf (trillion standard cubic feet) of known gas reserve (Sarawak 43.9 tscf and Peninsula 33.5 tscf) — we have nothing to show for it…
4. Fourthly, the available gas supply can be utilised by the independent power plants to put an end to the perennial power supply problem of the state.
(© Vee Tec / sxc.hu)We need not debate endlessly about the coal-fired plants originally approved to be sited in Lahad Datu and since its cancellation, the people of Sandakan have ‘taken up arms’ against its proposed resiting to Sandakan. There really is no necessity for this controversy.
The gas pipeline can be redirected instead to Sandakan or Tawau or anywhere in the east coast to supply gas to power plants. Not only would we solve an environmental problem, we would also spawn the growth of other industries. A Sabah gas pipeline to the east coast can supply gas to the interior towns of Ranau or Keningau, depending on where we want to relocate the power plants…
The time has come for the state government to take charge of this issue and put a stop to it, just as it did in the case of the coal-fired power plant proposed for Lahad Datu.
I would further propose that the officials in Petronas, who dismissed with characteristic arrogance the policy direction announced by the prime minister, be surcharged for the expenses or losses incurred by Petronas since the project was stopped on 31 May.
This will prove that the country is serious in its pursuit of transparency and accountability. We have to be mindful of the perils of letting executives run government corporations at their whims and fancy. The havoc created by the executives of once profitable corporations in the US today should be a cautionary tale for all of us in government …
Federal and state civil service.
Upko has also presented to the prime minister the need to look at the Borneo-nisation of the federal civil service in Sabah and I am sure we are not alone in this as there are other component members in favour [of this too]. To date, there has been progress in this. The federal government has also agreed to take in serving officers from the state civil service to work in the federal departments and they will be admitted without loss of seniority.
I would like to say that a word of caution is necessary here. Sabahans appointed to head federal departments in Sabah face a challenge. They have to be professional in the discharge of their duties and avoid the mistakes of the past.
I have also to say that in my experience, there are also some very professional officers from Semenanjung serving in Sabah, who have discharged their duties well. So the Sabahans are moving up in order to give them the opportunity, not necessarily because the officers they are replacing have not performed their duties.
I have also personally initiated discussion with the Public Services Commission in Kuala Lumpur to address the imbalance in the federal civil service, so that the service is truly reflective of a multicultural and multiracial Malaysia. Members of the administration from [BN component parties] also attended the discussions.
Events in the last few years have given rise to feelings of insecurity among a large section of the population. They are worried that the guarantees of religious freedom as enshrined in the Constitution and as assured by the founding fathers of this country may slowly be eroded.
The spate of court cases, where families sought to carry out the dying wish of their loved ones to be buried according to the rites of the religion of their choice, have created anxiety among the non-Muslim community.
Indeed, no one should be prevented from practising any religious belief. It is within the constitutional right of a Malaysian to convert to Buddhism, Islam, Christianity or any other religion. It is also, however, within the right of that Malaysian to revert to [his/her] previous religion if [he/she] so wishes and no law or person should stand between a [person] and God.
(© Jason Morrison / sxc.hu) The courts … should hopefully put to rest public concerns of a judiciary that is less than independent, especially with the present effort by the government to carry out judicial reforms. Judgments emanating from the courts must purely be a pronouncement of justice and not colored by the religious beliefs of those chosen to dispense justice.
Presently, there are even disputes as to the jurisdiction of the courts. Is it the Civil Courts or the Shariah Courts? This is now very often the predicament of those who convert to Islam when they marry a Muslim. When there is a breakdown in the marriage, the converting spouse who then wants to go back to her or his religion can no longer do so.
Then there are the cases where two Hindus marry. Along the way, [one spouse] decides to marry a Muslim and the marriage will end up in divorce. Even the divorce proceedings cannot be done in the Civil Courts as one of the parties is already a Muslim.
My opinion is that in a marriage of this nature, in the event that divorce does become necessary, it should end where it started. That is, if the marriage was in the first place conducted under civil law, then the divorce should be settled under the Civil Courts. If the marriage was a marriage under Islamic law, the divorce settlement would be under the Syariah Courts.
This is one of the points … in the memorandum … sent to the prime minister a few years ago by nine ministers. I was a signatory to this memorandum. Sadly, those who signed it were later asked to withdraw.
I did not withdraw my signature because I felt there was nothing improper in the memorandum. Indeed, the contents were very much consonant with the effort by the government to strive for a Malaysia that recognises the special position of Islam within the federation and the rights of others to practise the religion of their choice.
Of course in Sabah, the more common cases are:
- Converts of the 60s and 70s who have not realised the seriousness of conversion and continued to lead their old life. The children born to these parents may feel they have never been Muslims but their identity cards show otherwise. When they marry either under customary law or civil law, they encounter problems in registering the births of their children.
- Natives of Sabah who have Muslim-sounding names who are ascribed a religion can have a hardtime making the necessary correction. Some have been advised to go to the Syariah Courts to clear their religion. How can someone who has never been a Muslim be subjected to the syariah.
Sabah has always been touted as the state where race relations have been generally good. We want this to continue. We must ensure in this party that the harmony we enjoy cannot be destroyed by religious bigots from whichever religion.
We plead to the authority for understanding on the predicaments of the local bumiputeras and to allow them to decide on their religion…
Relationship between BN component parties
On 8 Oct, the prime minister and president of the BN (pic) announced he would not be defending his position as the president of Umno. This decision, of course, means Umno will have a new president in March 2009, [there will be] a new chairman for the BN and a new prime minister for Malaysia. This is part and parcel of the new political landscape in Malaysia.
The prime minister ascribed the performance of the BN in the last general election as the main reason for his retirement, which in other words means he is taking responsibility for the comparatively poorer performance of the BN.
The majority obtained by the BN is of course no mean majority based on Western standards. In Malaysia, it is considered a near defeat [in] comparison … to previous election results.
We acknowledge the contribution of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to an emerging new openness in the politics of Malaysia. We are accountable for our action. The prime minister has explained that between now and March 2009, he will focus the remainder of his prime ministership on completing the reform initiatives he has started.
I think this has to be the way of the new BN. And its component parties. Position in government is never permanent. Our position as ministers, assistant ministers, MPs and [assemblypersons] are temporary. We measure our performance on the expectation of the members of the party and the electorate.
Today, I am happy to see that our intervention in what would appear to be a controversial case is recognised by the rakyat and Upko’s struggle is gaining appreciation.
Our MPs and assemblymen must be ready to take up issues without having to think that it may jeopardise their chanches of securing appointments to important positions or maintaining what they have.
I have to ask for the understanding of our component members that this is how Upko sees its role in the BN. We are commited to the struggle of the BN for a place for all Malaysians under the Malaysian sun. We are prepared to face the elections with the BN and we are not afraid to face an unfavourable decision by the rakyat. However, we want to defend the BN with dignity and not as apologists for anybody.
We can work for the BN even in the most difficult circumstances. We are prepared to lose elections in protecting something right. But we cannot go against our conscience or become apologists for other people.
Malaysia was born on 16 Sept 1963 (© Ahmad Faizal Yahya / Dreamstime.com)
Our nation was born on 16 Sept 1963. Malaysia is therefore 45 years old. There has been some attempt to overlook the significance of the formation of Malaysia in 1963, when the federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and what was then North Borneo joined in union to declare the coming into being a new country called Malaysia.
While we are happy to celebrate with Semananjung their independence from colonial rule on [31 Aug 1957], I am sure all of you will agree that it is indeed right and proper that all Malaysians celebrate this year as 45 years of nationhood.
Some have tried to equate our position to that of the US. They argue that although other states like Hawaii joined much later, the country dates its formation as 4 July 1776.
Ours is, of course, very different because before 1963, there was no Malaysia yet. There was only the federation of Malaya and this federation together with three other territories negotiated to set up a new country called Malaysia.
We are proud of our country. That is why we do not want history to be distorted. We want all young Malaysians to learn their history and be proud of it.
That is why we are supportive of any move to declare 16 Sept as a national holiday …
Our role and contribution
We must not forget that each and everyone of us has a role to play in the success of our nation. Our personal successes are also very much dependent on the effort we put in …
In conclusion, I wish to reiterate that we have chosen to be in politics to play our part in building up this nation, to ensure that our country Malaysia will remain true to the principles upon which it was founded and which are enshrined in the 1963 Federal and State Constitutions.
I believe, too, that members of this party look up to the leaders to exercise leadership and display the courage of their conviction as and when the situation demands. We are with the BN, but we are also ITS CONSCIENCE.