7/10/2012: The State general election of 1971 is probably considered today as a non-event election.
This was the second general election in Sabah.
This election was held soon after the May 13 1969 racial debacle, following the federal general parliamentary election of 1969.
The opposition parties, in particular, the DAP won many seats and decided to have a victory parade - right in front of the Umno youth Chief's official address. It was then seen as a provocative action and Umno youths soon retaliated with their own victory parade.
Chaos soon took over - and in the ensuing racial fighting, many died.
It was Malaysia's worst experience of a racial riot.
The State election of 1971, meanwhile, was a demonstration that in Sabah, the Sabah Alliance party, (now only Usno, SCA and SIC) and in particular, the Usno party had the people's support. By 1971, Sabah had no visible or strong opposition party.
The only one we heard now and then was Pasok, led by the late Richard Lee (Labunda).
The late Datuk Peter Mojuntin also tried to revive this party in mid 1971, but his interest in the party soon petered out.
Peter was disenchanted with the policies of the Sabah Alliance party on religious issues.
But Tun Stephens was away in Canberra as Malaysian High Commissioner and had also embraced Islam.
He was not interested in the religious issues in Sabah then.
It was also in 1971 that the State Assembly made some sweeping amendments to the State Constitution by amending the provisions that Sabah has no State religion;
This was the Number One article in the 20 points safeguards requested by the Sabah leaders.
The other provision amended was the use of English as the official language of Sabah.
This provision was also another important article in the 20 Points safeguards.
Indeed, written prominently in the "batu sumpah" in Keningau - the words etched in the oath stone - was the number one article of the 20 Points safeguards, that Sabah would not have Islam as the State religion.
The amendments of these two articles in the State Constitution was made after the election of 1971.
The result of the 1971 was an astonishing one - all 32 Sabah Alliance candidates were returned unopposed!
As I said it was supposed to show that Sabahans were all supportive of the ruling coalition of Usno and SCA parties. I heard stories later that many would-be opposition candidates were sent on a visit to other countries just before the election.
I do not know whose idea this was, but I would not be surprised if it was not the "advisor" from Kedah sent by the Prime Minister to help Usno and Tun Mustapha to defeat Tun Stephens and the Upko party.
The "advisor" did his job so well that he actually became the most influential man in Sabah, after the Chief Minister, the man behind the "throne". I remember him always with his "James Bond case" wherever he went.
He was so powerful that people began to fear him and in the 1976 election when the Berjaya party was formed with Kuala Lumpur leaders' active support, Mojuntin called the "advisor" Rasputin.
Rasputin was a Russian monk who became powerful because of his strange power to stop the blood from the young Russian prince, Alexis, who was suffering from hemophilia. Rasputin became the "advisor", a powerful one for the Tsarina of Russia.
He was also the most hated man. The Advisor from Kedah was likened to Rasputin by Peter for he, too, was the most hated man in Sabah by 1976.
He was hated by all communities in the State .
He was so powerful that he even blocked the timber application of Stephens' timber company!
He was declared a non persona grata status in Sabah in 1976, but he went to court and the court found that he could not be thrown out from the State as he managed, meanwhile, to get a native certificate from the native court!
Well, as I said, I think it was the "advisor" who worked out how to get rid of the small opposition members during the election for they suddenly found themselves unable to return to Sabah on time to stand for the election.
In my opinion even if these opposition members were allowed to contest at the 1971 election they would most probably have lost their deposits!
There was no proper issue or issues mentioned at the 1971 election.
The amendments to the State Constitution was not mentioned at all as there was no campaigning.
But for the Sabah Alliance coalition party, the leaders were assured of the people's support because they believed they delivered what was needed to develop the State. So, there was no need to send the potential opposition candidates in my opinion.
Some of them became big headed when they returned.
They claimed the people wanted them to represent them and that is why the ruling coalition government was afraid of them!
If the 1971 general election in Sabah was a non event, the 1976 general election was a "big event" matter.
To begin with, the 1976 election was the watershed for the Usnoparty as part of the Sabah Alliance ruling coalition party.
And it was also the watershed of many politicians.
Many of us have served the State for nearly ten years and it marked the end of our political career.
The Usno era, described by the Berjaya leaders (who were, by the way, members of the Usno government then) as the "dark ages" era, whatever this meant.
But more important still, the 1976 election in Sabah had the visible active support of the Prime Minister and other Umno leaders, especially, Tengku Razaleigh, then the Federal Minister of Finance and in charge of the Petronas oil corporation.
The Federal government and Umno leaders have turned against the Usno government and Mustapaha.
According to them Mustapha was trying to get Sabah to secede from Malaysia and that he had more than 30,000 Suluks from Southern Philippines willing to go to war against Malaysia for him.
The Prime Minister (Tun Razak) was prepared to declare a State of Emergency in Sabah and suspend the State Assembly, but he thought this was not in Malaysia's external interest as a whole. He preferred to fight Usno and Mustapha at the ballot box.
Not mentioned of course as an issue at the 1976 election was the Petronas oil agreement with Sabah.
The Federal government only agreed to give Sabah 5 per cent from the total amount of the price of crude extracted and no Sabahan to sit in the board of directors of Petronas.
These two issues were the demand of the Usno government and of Mustapha: 30 per cent and a chair in the governing board of directors of Petronas.
In the ensuing contest, the two Sabah foremost leaders, Mustapha and stephens found themselves on opposite sides once more, reminiscent of the early 1960s era, when they squared against each other to be Sabah's leader and governor.
At that time, Mustapha not only had the Federal government and Umno leaders behind him, he also had the Chinese leaders.
This time around, however, it was Stephens who had the support of the Federal government and Umno leaders.
There were 48 State constituencies at the 1976 election.
The support from the main communities were equally divided:
- The Muslims were found in 20 constituencies,
- the Kadazandusun Murut in 20 constituencies and
- Chinese in 8 constituencies.
The Kadazandusun Murut and Chinese supported each other in this election.
Berjaya won in all the KadazandunMurut and Chinese constituencies (28 seats) and Usno won in all the 20 Muslim seats.
The biggest issue raised by the Berjaya KadazandusunMurut and Chinese leaders was the question of religion, Chinese culture and the expulsion of the foreign missionaries. It was these issues that made the Kadazandusun Murut and Chinese voters return the Berjaya party of Stephens to win the election.
But he did not live long enough to enjoy his victory over his old "nemesis" for he died in a tragic plane crash just a few months after the election.
( June 6, 1976). I have not seen the oil agreement signed by the incoming Berjaya government, but I am told that it was not signed by Stephens.
There are talks that the Federal government under Datuk Seri Najib that the oil agreement would be reviewed. This is good news.
But the fact is that for the past few years Sabah and Sarawak have been receiving billions of ringgit in development funds. And the funds so generously given to the two States must come from the oil revenues.
Meanwhile, I believe the GE13 (general election 13th) will have a lot issues brought by the Opposition.
This is normal and is their right to do so in a country that practises democracy like Malaysia.
But the BN leaders from the Federal as well as from the State of Sabah are not worried.
They have the people's support because they have provided for them.
I met a Middle Eastern (Palestinian) businessman the other day.
He told me that Malaysia is the role model of the Arab world for its social, economic and political developments.
By: Tan Sri Panglima Herman Luping