Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Opportunity to review BN system: Yong


Opportunity to review BN system: Yong

Kota Kinabalu: THE country's present political scenario has opened up the window of opportunity to review the political arrangements and restructuring of the Barisan Nasional (BN), said SAPP President Datuk Yong Teck Lee.

"The awakening of the Malaysian people that the political status quo is long overdue for review as reflected by the March 8 general election bolstered by Sabah and Sarawak's hefty contribution in the formation of the Federal Government.

"As well as the post-election appointments of the Menteri Besar of Terengganu and PerlisÉhave presented the moment of opportunity for Sabah," he said.

Delivering his policy speech in conjunction with the SAPP 13th biennial delegates' conference, Yong said at the moment the structure of the BN in terms of the Federal-State relationship is a replicate of the federal parties such as Umno, MCA and MIC.

Currently, Chief Ministers or Menteris Besar were politically appointed by the federal leadership instead of by the Sultans or Heads of State since state liaison committees are centrally appointed by virtue of the federal party political system supplanting the nation's Federal Constitution, he said. But, after the 12th general election, Perlis and Terengganu, both won by the BN, had opened up a whole new chapter in defining the power relationship between the states and federal leadership when the BN-Umno nominees for Menteris Besar were rejected by the two states' authority.

Yong said in the case of Perlis, it showed the Sultan could reject the BN-Umno nominated Menteri Besar and instead appoint the leader who enjoys the majority support of the BN-Umno State Assemblyman.

In Terengganu, the case was the other way round since the Sultan-appointed Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Nijar "was a lone ranger" since he did not have the support from the other BN and Umno assemblymen as they wanted Datuk Idris Jusoh to continue as the State Chief Executive.

"But after Datuk Ahmad Nijar was appointed, not only all the BN-Umno assemblymen turned around and joined his government, even the Prime Minister had to declare support for this Menteri Besar which was not his choice," he said.

"It was said that the Terengganu Sultan was not happy that the former Menteri Besar (Idris) did not obtain the return of petroleum royalties to the Terengganu State Government after the BN had regained the State Government in 2004," he said, adding that now the new MB had started seeking for the return of oil royalties, which rightly belongs to Terengganu.

The point is, Yong said, Sabah had always played a periphery role, almost marginalised, at the national level.

"In our own State, our successive governments ever since 1963 have had to succumb to the overwhelming will of the Federal Government. This sad, unequal and intimidating relationship is clearly described in the 1976 book, The Politics of Federalism, documenting the fall of the then Usno Government," he said.

He said former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when campaigning in Labuan in 1990 had said that the BN did not need Sabah or Sarawak to form the Federal Government but only to get two-third majority.

"But we all now know that the political landscape has changed so much that without Sabah and Sarawak, the BN cannot form the Federal Government.

And, many people believe that if the BN loses its majority in Parliament, then the remaining states (still under BN rule) would likely fall as well," he said.

Yet, Yong, who is a former Chief Minister, said Sabah was still being left out and that it seemed no progress made on any of the many issues raised by the BN component parties and Sabah Umno when the Prime Minister and his high-powered delegation came here on April 7.

Towards this end, Yong said even though the BN has been the key for development but what Sabah wants now is the Master Key that would give the State Government the political strength and the backing of the people in pursuit of matters of interests to Sabah.

However, he said it was important for Sabah to take immediate steps and take advantage of the window of opportunity because it would not last forever.

In making the urge, Yong delivered two sets of Malay limericks with one of them as follows:
Bakul penuh berisi limau Sangat berat untuk dijinjing Biar mati di gigit harimau Jangan mati di gigit anjing

In this respect, Yong said that "while we still have this opportunity and the political will, SAPP has set up a Special Committee chaired by Deputy President Datuk Eric Majimbun, to collect, compile and analyse issues submitted by the people for the purpose of preparing a document".

He said SAPP would convene a Convention on Sabah Issues for public discussion and endorsement.

"We believe this document will be a basis for us to re-look at our State, ourselves, our problems and our direction. We are hopeful that we can chart a road map for Sabah to move towards a trustworthy government and a progressive, just and harmonious society," he said.

When met later, Yong clarified that he believed that the Prime Minister and Chief Minister were doing their best to see to it changes as suggested by the Sabah component parties were being made.

"SAPP stands behind them," he said, adding that the party believes that there is still hope but "we don't know for how long exactly the window of opportunity would stay open but once it closed it is forever".

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