By Fui K Soong
BETWEEN WEST AND EAST: Greater sensitivity about Sabah's affairs is required
Children on the famed Tamparuli suspension bridge. Sabahans live between fear and hope. It cannot be assumed that all Sabahans resent the presence of Pinoys in their midst.
SABAH and Sarawak span 198,081 sq km while the peninsula covers only 131,598 sq km, a fact that has prompted a Sabah politician to joke that Sabahans are the true mainlanders of Malaysia.
Although tongue-in-cheek in nature, such comments reflect how Sabahans generally feel about the political distance between the West and the East.
The recent court decision over the dispute between former Sabah chief ministers Tan Sri Harris Salleh and Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee -- over the choice of words describing the 1976 airplane crash that killed their predecessor Tun Mohd Fuad Stephens and six state ministers -- dredged up my own memories of the accident itself.
I was 10, watching my mother with her massive 1970s hairdo getting dressed in a beautiful batik kaftan and drop earrings, clearly excited about the dinner she and my father were attending that night to celebrate Berjaya's recent ascension to power.
I also remember that the elections during my childhood were filled with curfews, clashes and lots of power cuts (which annoyed me as it meant I couldn't watch Scooby Doo on TV.) My father, who took an early retirement, says little about those dark times, and perhaps still has reason to be reticent about it today.
He once joked about how he burned a significant hole in his bank book over a bet he took up with a pork seller, who predicted that Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) would take over 30 seats in the 1987 state elections.
Now that we are facing the 13th general election, there is disquiet again in the Kadazan-Dusun-Murut (KDM) communities. My recent trip to Sabah ended with an interesting conversation with a young Muslim-Bajau teacher and village head, who told us about another village of people called the Bajau Ubian with a voter population of over 1,000 compared with his village of about 800 voters.
He quietly explained that these higher numbers were due to the presence of Filipinos with blue identity cards. This explains why KDM-based parties are so anxious for a Royal Commission of Inquiry over the presence of an overwhelming Filipino population.
The locals call them IMM13 (United Nations-refugee status), or PTI (Pendatang Tanpa Izin, or illegal immigrants) to 1Malaysia (fully-fledged citizens). What's scary is all three acronyms can exist within a single family.
It cannot be assumed that all Sabahans resent the presence of Pinoys in our midst. We have accepted that they are part of the land and that sharing the pie will require harder work than before.
What is politically important for the KDM people and the Chinese is having the sense that a defined solution has been developed to resolve this influx of uncertainty.
Thus, the sensitivity of federal politics when it gets involved in state affairs is a supremely valued requirement.
The Philippines has yet to drop its claims over Sabah. As I walked over the famed hanging bridge of Tamparuli, I sensed that no amount of inquiry will settle the angst that leaves a burning hole in the psyche of Sabahans, caused by having to live between fear and hope.
Are we living on borrowed time or on borrowed land? When will the landowner come knocking?