Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim moved last night to tap underlying disillusionment among Sabah’s poor, reminding them that Umno was to blame for their penury in one of Malaysia’s poorest states.
At two rallies in the villages of Papar and Kota Belud for the May 5 general election, the opposition leader railed against Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders for allegedly enriching themselves on Sabah’s oil and timber.
“We are furious at Umno’s leadership. They have no shame,” Anwar thundered to a 500-strong crowd at Kampung Kawang in Papar yesterday.
“You even take money from the poor. No shame. Who is the one taking all the money? What kinds of leaders are so shameless that they can even take money from the poor?” said the PKR de facto leader under a tent that was packed with people, despite a drizzle in the evening.
Anwar’s fiery speech to an audience comprising mostly Kadazandusun farmers in Papar, which is known as Sabah’s “rice bowl”, comes as Pakatan Rakyat (PR) aims to make inroads into the BN stronghold in Election 2013.
Sabah’s poverty rate was 8.1 per cent last year, almost five times higher than the national poverty rate of 1.7 per cent, according to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in the Prime Minister’s Department, as reported by Borneo Post Online last February.
Several people that The Malaysian Insider spoke with at Papar also complained of joblessness among the youth, who are seeking employment in brick factories or in the government sector.
Sabah’s unemployment rate last year was 5.4 per cent, higher than the average national unemployment rate of 3.1 per cent.
“The people in Sabah live such hard lives,” said farmer Jila Mojinun, a Kadazandusun in Papar, which is located half an hour away from the city centre.
“We fall in between the cracks. We don’t have roads, supplies, and the roads are tarred only when there are elections,” added the 53-year-old.
Mojinun said that he came to see Anwar for the first time by hitching a ride with a friend from his home in a village 9km away, and travelled on a pothole-ridden road used by loggers.
“Anwar wants us to have a comfortable life, to develop our areas a little,” he said.
Lawrence Malating, 31, told that his friends found it difficult to get jobs in the civil service because of discrimination, but was unable to specify further.
“He is the voice of the people,” said Malating, who is a farmer, referring to Anwar.
Anwar headed off to Kota Belud, which is about two hours away from the city centre, immediately after his event at Papar. There were no streetlamps along the winding roads to Kota Belud that is also touted to be another Sabah “rice bowl”.
The former deputy prime minister similarly sought to appeal to the majority-Bajau crowd in Kota Belud, who are mostly farmers, by citing his daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar’s battle, which he painted as a David-and-Goliath confrontation, against then-federal minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in the Lembah Pantai constituency in Election 2008.
“Tony Fernandes campaigned for Shahrizat, the CIMB chief supported Shahrizat, all the big guns supported her,” said Anwar, referring to AirAsia chief Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.
“Who supported Nurul Izzah? The factory workers, taxi drivers, poor people. Who won? Nurul Izzah,” he added, drawing applause from the 2,000-strong audience in Kampung Wakap in Kota Belud.
Engineering graduate Eva, 22, complained that her village, 8km away from Kampung Wakap, has been waiting for piped water for 15 years.
“BN tells a lot of lies,” Eva, who is a member of the Sama indigenous group, told, without giving her full name.
Housewife Zainab Abdul, 58, similarly called Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak a “liar”.
“The rights of Sabahans are destroyed. Oil is taken, timber is taken, the people of Sabah are poor,” she told.
The people of Sabah are seeing BN/Najib for what they have not done. Even Pakatan does not win this time, the defining moment has arrived. There is hope for Sabahans. This couple with the realisation of the young voters to sieze the opportunity to change the governing party in the nation speak well for the health of Malaysia!!
BN have robbed sabahan for such a long time!! Wat is sabahan like us got at the end?? Poverty n umno with others bn minister all got richet n richer!! U think this is fair?? U say this is equality?? Nop!! This is all cronism n corruption!!
Come. On!! sabahan, time is up now for a change now!! Think of the people, think of the future n think of ur children future!! We must change for better!!