By : MOHD JEFRI RADIUS
THE BOOK 'The Politics of Federalism' written by Bruce – Ross Larson published way back in 1976 outlined some description about the political roles/contributions of the late Gunsanad Samuel Sundang, better known as G.S Sundang, who was primarily instrumental in forming The United National Pasok – Momugun Party (Pasok Momugun), which later posed a challenge to the late Tun Fuad Stephens’ United National Kadazan Organisation (UNKO) over the non – Muslim indigenous communities comprising the Muruts and Dusuns in the Interior Residency.
Historically, Pasok–Momugun was set up as a consequence of Sundang’s dissatisfaction over UNKO’s inclusion of Muruts into the group ‘Kadazan’, which the then North Borneo News carried as its headline on the eve of the maiden political development.
The fact is the Muruts and the Kadazans differ both culturally and dialectically. The memories of the late Sundang still linger in the hearts of many ethnical Muruts in the Interior, saluting him for his firm stand and precise argument as far as the ‘racial swapping’ move was concerned.
Nevertheless, those rows of misunderstanding over the move was amicably settled in subsequent years, when the two leaders managed to secure a compromise, which eventually resulted in the amalgamation of the two non–Muslim native parties into one political entity after a series of meeting.
It was just before the first indirect State election was due to be held in June 1964, the combination of Fuad Stephens and Sundang’s vision led to the creation of a new political organisation known as ‘United Pasok–Kadazan Organisation’ (UPKO) become reality.
Allocations for seats were conducted within the framework of the Sabah Alliance through the inter- party negotiation. The United Sabah National Organisation (USNO) the Muslim bumiputera party led by the late Tun Mustafa was given 14 seats, UPKO 11, the Sabah Chinese Association (SCA) 7, while the four nominated seats were given to each of the existing political parties then, including the Sabah Indian Congress (SIC) whereas two of the remaining nominated seats were reserved for the speaker of the Legislative Assembly and a government servant pensioner not a member of any political party respectively.
Subsequently, UPKO’s President the late Fuad Stephens while representing the State in the Federal Government as Minister of Sabah Affairs, once questioned the attitude of top Federal leaders when he was not consulted in major decision making.
The separation of Singapore, which was later approved by Parliament in 1965 is a case in point. This disappointment led Fuad and the late Datuk Peter Mojuntin, the Secretary General of UPKO, to embark on a State wide tour clamouring for the re-examination of the Twenty Points, upon which the conditions of Sabah’s entry into the Federation had been spelt out.
Analytically, one could rationalise that UPKO could not have existed as a political organisation without the instrumental roles of Fuad neither could he have achieved his political vision fruitfully without the significant and smart partnership of Sundang.
On May 15th, 1967 UPKO opted to be in the Opposition when its leaders ’claim for power sharing of three ministerial State Cabinet port polios in the newly formed Alliance Government under Tun Mustafa was not entertained or fairly considered by USNO leaders.
In the 1967 First Direct State General Election USNO won 14, UPKO 12, SCA 5 and Independent 1 out of the 32 State Assembly seats.
A paragraph quoted from ‘The Politics of Federalism’ could be interpreted as one of the fundamental reasons UPKO was not welcome to be a component in the then Alliance-USNO led State Government.
“Mustafa was aware that UPKO had many well–educated people than USNO and would be better able to articulate their arguments on the floor of the assembly. He was aware of the influence of many high–ranking expatriates who in collaborating with UPKO, would make ruling tenuous and cabinet meetings embarrassingly uncomfortable and he was aware of his personal limitations-with little education, he felt ill equipped to administer the details of government in the face of such opposition.
“Mustafa needed help in the immediate battle with UPKO and he knew this would not be forthcoming from those in his own party or in the SCA. Consequently, he wanted Syed Kechik to stay in Sabah to help him eliminate UPKO and the expatriates as threats to his leadership and power.”
On Dec 28th 1967, UPKO was dissolved by the party congress. The party leaders were forced to make this crucial decision in the name of bumiputera unity.
After 32 years of hibernation UPKO appeared ready to make a fresh endeavour in the new millennium, when it was legally revived and chosen as an alternative to Tan Sri Bernard Dompok ’s Parti Democratik Sabah (PDS). The name changed was officially announced on Aug 8th 1999, thereby making Dompok possibly as the first politican in the country to have successfully reactivated a dormant party.
Upon revival in the following year, the credibility of the new UPKO leaders were thus put to test on whether they could restore the glory of the party once achieved by the predecessors judging from one sole factor:-
The political environment and the mentality of our indigenous people in the past are incomparable to the present day situation. In those days, UPKO was the sole choice through which the non–Muslim rural natives could affiliate with as the mean of expressing their political rights.
Presently, Sabah has several active political parties registered either as racial or multi racial based parties. The Kadazan Dusun Murut (KDM) communities along with other races in the State are found as members not merely in the KDM based parties namely PBS, PBRS and UPKO but in the nation’s backbone party UMNO as well maybe some in Gerakan or LDP and even in the opposition camp SAPP, PKR, DAP, PAS, Sabah People Front (SPF) formerly Bersekutu & Malaysian United People Party (MUPP /Bersama) initially known as Parti Setia etc.
In theory and practice, a party that tends to focus on the older generation voters for support during any poll in the midst of the current situation, dominated by a number of existing political parties, would be making a major blunder, as this strategy appears outdated judging from the growing statistics of younger generation voters, who may have outnumbered the older generations unlike 40 years ago.
Some say, even if PDS did not change it political status quo including its name /initials, the party could still warrant memberships irrespective of races and social beliefs etc.
The image and popularity of any party would depend upon the backgrounds and fine reputation of its leaders, whose credibility would be assessed by the people from time to time as to whether such leaders are worthy of support from the people either during pre or post election days.
Ideologically, the option made by former PDS leaders of going back to communal politics is rational indeed for a definite and sensible reason, as it is still being viewed as a realistic political system, whereby each community can express their political rights, but cooperate with other racial based parties through the concept of power sharing as practised by the BN nationwide for over a decade.
Retrospectively, on the broader screen no one could deny that Parti Bersatu Rakyat Jelata Sabah (BERJAYA) once led by Fuad in just less than a month’s time before his death in the Double Six 1976 Sembulan Air Crash Tragedy and Datuk Harris (now Tan Sri) took over the Chief Ministership position until the party’s downfall in the 1985 State Election, was the only political organisation known so far that truly made multi–racialism worked for the benefit of all races in the State when it took the helm of administration for almost ten years (1975–1985).
PBS emulated the concept for a while, but its nine year administrative period did expose the true colour of its leaders, who did not really practised what they preached .
The party’s so called multi racial policies turned out to be discriminatory especially when it stayed put as opposition mostly during its administrative period. This explained the factor why UMNO was strategically invited by the late Tun Mustafa to enter and intervene into Sabah’s politics with the blessing of former UMNO President cum PM Tun Dr Mahathir then.
In 1994, USNO was dissolved sacrificially by the party supreme council upon getting the green light from Mustafa thus paving the way for UMNO’s entry to accomplish its sole mission of ‘putting things right where PBS had put it wrong’ on Sabah soil.
Previously, a group of politicians had thought of reviving the defunct USNO, but looks like those effort may take a time consuming process, before they could see light at the end of the tunnel, as the Registrar of Societies (RoS) would definitely conduct ‘microscopic examination’ with reference to relevant federal leaders including studying the points from every angle whether there is justification to revive this historic dormant political party.
Back on to the current political scenario, during UPKO’s 13th triennial delegates conference held in Penampang recently, the party’s resolution had called for BN second Deputy Prime Minister from the Borneo States (Sabah & Sarawak) as the means of ensuring more balance in the implementation of development policies between the Borneo States in question and the Peninsular, by virtue of the ‘equal partner’ concept adopted during the incorporation of Malaysia in 1963, apart from aiming at invigorating BN’s power sharing concept, whereby every component member could play significant roles in the coalition.
The paradox is in the words of Deputy Premier Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin who was invited to officiate the function advised the delegates “It was better for the matter designed to see whoever is appointed is made a Second Deputy Prime Minister be discussed at Supreme Council. Any proposal can be brought before the top leaders. We have a council where all leaders sit and submit any matter that they want to. Normally a decision is reached by consensus” (The Daily Express 25th Sept 2011).
Certainly, there are other factors that need to be considered before the resolution in question could be realistically materialised although it may appear excellent in the name of national integration.
Other BN component parties based in the Peninsular (GERAKAN, PPP, MIC and MCA) will surely support the idea upon sensing the feasibility that they could as well be considered to fill one of the slot to spin the wheel of DPM rotation if the situation warrants them to do so alternatively, whereas UMNO will certainly be given one of the deputy premier slots for the Malay community as set by its political tradition since the dawn of independence, unless the party’s Supreme Council is willing to abolish the quota via amendment to its party’s constitution.
The proposed Rotation System of DPM maybe identical to the concept of the two year CM post as implemented in Sabah during the era of Mahathir Administration, specially designed with the political missions and visions of unifying the people of Sabah, following UMNO’s success in taking over the reign of the State administration from PBS nine year rule in 1994, before it was scrapped in 2004 after having being in practice for ten years, leaving some quantum of ‘hangover’ haunting most Sabahans with the realisation that ‘Rotation was a curse’.
The Rotation practised in Sabah also created history in our local Malaysian politics, as the concept rendered the opportunity to every BN State Component including the party that won only one State seat to become the Chief Minister of Sabah (Former President of LDP Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat).
It appeared rather amusing indeed and run counter to the context of democratic principle, but that was the strategic move and decision made on the domestic political chess board by someone who had the full authority, discretionary power and command in the country’s administration at that material time.
In the event that this proposal is accepted by every BN component, Malaysia will possibly be the first nation in the South East Asian Region to have two or three deputies to assist the Premier to run the country.
This concept would also make Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak proud that their leaders had fairly being appointed to represent their respective States to fill the slot in the Nation’s second highest administrative position for certain period of time.
The appointment that had never been spelt out within the terms and conditions of the Twenty Points of Sabah & Sarawak entry into the Federation of Malaysia neither had such a resolution ever being brought forth by any BN component parties in the coalition before this, but the bold driving force for highlighting the transparent resolution hailed from the initiatives of the present leaders of UPKO, the political entity which was created from the combination of two masterminds (the late Fuad Stephens and late G.S Sundang respectively) at the dawn of Sabah’s Independence.
Present UPKO’s President Tan Sri Bernard Dompok was quoted as saying ‘UPKO allowed its members to tackle difficult issues even at the risk of being labelled as opposition party. Dompok also reiterated calls by the party for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to look into the problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah and the possibility of the oil and gas industry never getting off the ground in Sipitang’ (The Sunday Star 25th September 2011).
Many Malaysians in Sabah are looking forward to see that the calls made by our State leaders would become a reality one day for the benefit of everyone regardless of their races, creeds, social belief, religion or political affiliations etc. in the Land Below The Wind.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US President 1861 had left behind a famous quotation for the living generations to ponder universally, thereby guiding us to be on track transparently with the principle of democracy at all time, “Let the people know the facts, the country will be safe”.