by: SELVARAJA SOMIAH
Several unique characteristics go along with the name of Musa Aman. In him, Sabah has had a three-dimensional leader: a statesman par excellence, an astute businessman banker and a thinker with the courage of conviction.
Musa was a successful businessman/banker long before he entered politics but all his life he had strived to make everything he touched more value oriented. He had an inimitable style of winning hearts. He has several friends with views diametrically opposite his, but that has never come between him and them when it comes to frank sharing of ideas and feelings. Rarely does one find a leader with such a fine blend of toughness and tenderness.
Musa has contributed to Sabah polity in multiple ways. He remains the epitome of alternate political thought and functionality. He personifies patriotism. If attributes such as informality in interpersonal relationships, spirit of accommodation, respect for the opposite viewpoint, a complete non-compromising approach towards politics of hate and injustice, etc. are still to be found in present day politics, Musa – among others – deserves credit. His most important contribution is strengthening Sabah democracy. When power politics sounded extremely monopolistic and people wondered if the element of choice had completely vanished from Sabah polity, he didn’t need words to send the message “Boleh Bah Kalau Sabah” to the people with all the strength at his command.
He remains the first genuine leader, the first truly Sabah chief minister who managed to convince Putrajaya to have a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal Immigrants and address Sabah’s Mother of All Problems – “Illegal Immigrants”. He also remains one of the first politician from East Malaysia who is working quietly with the Prime Minister to get an equity in Petronas for Sabah state apart from the oil and gas royalty of five per cent. And for his effort so far Sabah has gotten a 10 per cent stake in Petronas LNG Train 9 Sdn Bhd in Bintulu, Sarawak, which would generate additional revenue to the state and its people. Speaking at the investiture ceremony in conjunction with the 61st birthday of Head of State Tun Juhar recently, Musa Aman said ” Our commitments does not end here. Instead we will continue to double our efforts by working together with the Federal Government to mobilise various programmes to further raise the social status of the people and life quality.”
When Musa took over as chief minister, Sabah was literally on the threshold of the 21st century. And it was a new, young and assertive Sabah with surging aspirations, contrary to the old status quo-ist elements who were in denial. Musa recognised these burgeoning aspirations, and successfully struck a balance without compromising on Sabah’s fundamental values. His regime witnessed the stabilisation of the new economy, and he created an appetite for development-oriented governance.
In ensuring the success and excellence of the public delivery system, Musa pledged to provide good governance. He said, “Our first commitment to the people is to give a stable, honest, transparent and efficient government capable of accomplishing all-round development. For this, the government shall introduce time-bound program of needed administrative reforms, including those for the civil services”. Musa not only strengthened old bridges, he also tried to create new ones to overcome the distances between different social groups, districts and economic strata. His Midas touch impacted every sector of governance. His programmes and policies demonstrated his commitment to a strong and self-reliant Sabah, prepared to meet the challenges of the coming decade.
To make Sabah an economic power in the 21st century, he transformed the economic policy framework. Sectors like public sector enterprises, agricultural produce marketing, small-scale industries, urban land ceilings, highways, rural roads, elementary education, ports, electricity, communal land titles, oil and gas were all subject to far-reaching reforms and raised Sabah’s power graph in Malaysia. Sabah continue to be sought after by foreign investors, especially in the manufacturing sector. Last year Sabah received RM2.4 billion from local investors and RM1 billion was injected by foreign investors. Since the launch of the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) in 2008 until August 2014, RM135 billion worth of cumulative investments have been planned and committed, out of which, RM45 billion have been realised.
The State Government has even implemented various programmes for the development of the people such as the Prosperous Mini Estates (Mesej), 1Azam, Local Economy Enhancement, Agropolitan Project and Housing Aid Programme as well as the Prosperous Village Programme. These programs aim to transform selected villages holistically by involving three main aspects, namely the development of human capital, economic progress and improvement in the quality of life.
On the forest front, Musa’s commitment to increase the Sabah’s total protected area must be appreciated as his role for making things happen, without whose support, the translation of policies into actions would not have come about. Today Sabah’s Total Protected Areas (TPAs) of 1,553,262 hectares or about 21 per cent of the State’s total land area is arguably the largest in Malaysia. This percentage has exceeded the original IUCN (International Union of The Convention of Nature) target of 10 per cent and even CBD’s (Convention on Biological Diversity) 17 per cent of various types of ecosystems. What is more important is that, TPAs of Sabah cover a wide range of ecosystems including : pristine lowland forests, pristine highland forests, montane forests, freshwater wet lands, mangrove swamps, peat lands, regenerating lowland Dipterocarp forests and Heath (Kerangas) forests, amongst others. Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon, have additional buffers for reinforced protection and dedicated wildlife corridors to address connectivity and fragmentation. All these possible because of Musa Aman.
Musa has launched to date many ambitious projects: highways to connect to Sarawak, Kalimantan and Brunei along with other towns like Tenom to Sipitang, and to every kampong by road. These projects also revolutionised the real estate sector, commerce and the rural economy. The improved road connectivity further integrated the state through a network of world-class highways, which puts Sabah on the fast lane to socio-economic development. This is indeed, the highway to prosperity!
Musa as the Sabah Security Chief encompassing governance doctrine is also seen in his strategic vision in regards to Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), a security area that stretches 1,733.7km along the east coast of Sabah, from Kudat to Tawau. Esscom was established on April 1, 2013, following the Sulu intrusion in Tanduo, Lahad Datu. With the setting up of Esscom and its restructuring last July 17, cases of cross border crimes in the Esszone have become less rampant. Efficient and effective mechanisms have been introduced such as curfew, and integrated operations which are ongoing. The establishment of the Esscom, re-evaluation of Sabah’s decades old illegal immigrants problem, economic diplomacy, and engagement with the Manila has re-written Sabah’s strategic governance system.
Under Musa Aman, Sabah has become a powerhouse of growth and had emerged as an important contributor to Malaysia’s development journey. Under his able leadership Sabah became known for its quality infrastructure and excellent financial management. Musa Aman’s governance in Sabah saw a government that listened to the people and one that built its success through equal economic growth in all sectors. Through innovation and emphasis on detail he brought in record investment that benefited people of Sabah and drew people from all over Malaysia to work in Sabah and make a living.