KOTA KINABALU: A group of Sabahans have come together to brainstorm and look at what values Sabahans hold dear, to discuss the upcoming elections, and to compile ideas on what kind of government and governance matters to them.

The members of the Sabah Election 2020 WhatsApp group compiled a list of 33 points that they wish to share with voters and with political leaders in the state, with hope that they will listen to the people’s think tank, Sabah 2020 Group and include it in their manifestos.

“While some of these ideas are not new or original, and the list may not be exhaustive or perfect, this is our wish list for Sabah and we start by stressing that race and religion should not be politicised. There must be separation between state and religion,” a statement from the group said.

They also pointed out that education is what will lift Sabahans out of poverty and called for the monitoring the building of schools and maintenance to be under State control.

“Introduce more early childhood education centres, more qualified teachers in key subjects such as maths, the Sciences, Bahasa Malaysia and English especially in rural areas,” they suggested.

The wish list also called on the government and relevant authorities to introduce tablets and computers for efficient learning in schools, especially in rural areas as well as to frequently review the high school syllabus to include considerations of qualifications required in the job market and workplace.

“We want to see telecommunication infrastructure and services be available to all, including in rural areas. In terms of healthcare, we need to have a full range of medical specialties available throughout Sabah.

“And extend medical care to remote areas by reactivating the Flying Doctor Service and mobilise frequent mobile medical service in remote areas with a vaccination programme from birth onwards should be available to everyone,” the think tank said.

Electricity and water supply in Sabah must be further improved to minimise outages and disruptions, giving special attention to a stable and sufficient supply of electricity for industrial use and rural electrification.

They suggested the government to establish more renewable energy sources such as solar and wind-powered turbines, and to utilise Sabah’s own natural gas resources.

Continuing with environmental issues, they suggested that in order to improve the water supply, there is a need to recommission an environmental report for the Kaiduan Dam and to consider reservoirs as another option.

There is also a need to eradicate corruption in the civil service and among all government functionaries and in the interests of good governance and transparency there should be freedom of information in Sabah.

The Official Secrets Act (OSA) should only be used to safeguard national security, they opined.

To minimise corrupt practices in the government tendering process, the minimum number of participants for each tender should be five and the tender process should be expeditious and transparent.

The tender committee should include at least one member from civil society and one representative from any of the opposition parties who is suitably qualified and in the case of projects that arouse much public interest and concern, a public forum should be held to explain the project to the public and to give the public due opportunity to air their views and concerns about the project, and to seek public support.

All tenders should be listed on a government website at least two weeks before the tendering process and the successful bidder(s) should be disclosed on the website upon completion of the tender giving details of the bids and grounds for the award.

Sabah, they stressed, must take charge of its revenue-earning resources, and in particular should seek to increase the oil royalties equitably and that federal financial allocations for projects in Sabah should be channelled directly to the state as early in the financial year as possible to give state implementing agencies ample time to complete the project(s).

The Sabah government should work out a mechanism with the Federal Government whereby the state has first call on revenue collection, and then remit 60 percent to the Federal Government, thus pre-empting on its 40 percent revenue share as stipulated in the Constitution.

“Regardless of which party(ies) are elected to administer Sabah, Sabah must insist that the Federal Government will make good its responsibility and provide full financial allocations for development and operational purposes out of His Majesty’s Treasury to which Sabah bears a major share in revenue contributions,” they said.

There is a need to improve port facilities and remove the cabotage policy to reduce cost of imports and exports and to forestall any disruption in shipping and set up a tax free zone in the west and east coasts of Sabah to attract sustainable and environmentally-responsible local and multinational companies to create employment in the state.

To promote the tourism sector, they called on the government to open up Sabah’s international connectivity by increasing international flights to all Sabah’s airports to attract and promote tourism.

The government is also called on to create a sustainable masterplan, in consultation with industry players, for the long-term development of tourism and to ensure that tourism legislation pertaining to definitions, licensing, administration, promotion, regulations, vehicle control, tax and enforcement to come under State control instead of the Federal List.

Sanitation cleanliness has to be upgraded, especially in public toilets and new toilet designs should be introduced with help from the private sector.

“Our sea and beaches must be given added attention, and new ways must be found to deal with the plastic pollution. The state must step up efforts to clear the squatter colonies and unsightly tenements on the fringes of our towns and villages,” they said.

To boost the agriculture sectors, they opined that the government should revive homestead agriculture in addition to helping the rural people get into viable commodity-crop agriculture, aquaculture and other economic activities in the rural and coastal areas.

Land, is an issue dear to the heart of Sabahans and thus they called for a review of the land leases issued to big companies, including Public Listed Companies (PLCs).

They suggested to transmigrate genuine landless local natives en bloc to the east coast of Sabah and allocate pre-planned five hectare-lots per family while PLCs should to be encouraged to improve corporate social responsibility work for these communities.

There is also a need to revive and enforce the policy that every commodity plantation company must set aside 10 per cent of their land holding suitable for food crop cultivation, principally rice, to promote food security.

On the issue of oil and gas, the group feels that Sabah must have no fewer than three representatives on the Petronas Board of Directors and Sabahans and Sarawakians to be given an equal opportunity to nominate the Petronas chairman and members on the Petronas Board.

They also want a timeline set for the full implementation of MA63 as well as a timeline for Art 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to be amended to restore Sabah’s position as one of three component members of Malaysia as was originally intended as per MA63.

“Sabah and Sarawak should together hold a minimum of one-third of the seats in the Dewan Rakyat. Sabah and Sarawak should together have one-third representation on all commissions such as the energy, competition, election and securities commissions as well as the civil service, police and Armed Forces. This is to ensure that Sabah and Sarawak are included in policy making at the national level,” they opined.

Policies or laws made in West Malaysia should not be automatically extended to Sabah and must be put before the Dewan Undangan Negeri for approval and adoption.

They suggested that the Chief Minister’s tenure should be limited to two terms and all Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) Sabah members must attend a suitable induction course on government procedures, the state law and the Federal and State Constitution as well as Sabah’s history leading to the formation of Malaysia.

“Political parties should work towards more female representation in the State Assembly. Sabah’s Head of State position should be rotated amongst indigenous groups in the state, and be chosen in consultation with a Council of Elders of each group, which they will be encouraged to form,” they said.

“In the event of a ‘hung’ Dewan Undangan Negeri Sabah – the hung parliament situation should automatically trigger a one-week moratorium on swearing in of any chief minister or ministers.

“This is to allow the parties to work out a coalition arrangement to establish a viable, stable majority in government. During this moratorium period, the Istana should be out-of-bounds to all parties and politicians,” they said.

Contesting parties should subscribe to a code of ethics that includes rules not to try to topple a democratically-elected government or alliance within its five-year term, but to function as responsible opposition as envisaged by democratic tenets and traditions.

“Opposition members should be given due respect as the people’s representatives who have an important role to play in our democracy. The opposition should be encouraged to form a shadow cabinet to scrutinise the work of the ministries of the government of the day,” they stressed.

While recruitment, appointments and promotions in the Sabah civil service are technically based on merit and qualifications, the makeup of the civil service should, as far as practicable, reflect Sabah’s population in terms of race and gender, they stressed.

There is a need to build efficient public transport services and networks for the city and the surrounding towns and rural areas. Where possible, provide and enforce dedicated bus routes to ease traffic congestion and they suggested the construction of a tunnel through Signal Hill in to ease the parking problem in Kota Kinabalu.

The Sabah government, with the cooperation of the Sabah Law Society, should set up community law centres all over the state to provide free, good quality legal advice to those who cannot afford it.

Lastly, they called for the ban on the “The Golden Son of the Kadazan” book by Bernard Sta Maria to be lifted as well as celebrate Sabah Day on 31st August in place of Malaya’s Merdeka Day celebration and pursue for a solution to the illegal immigrants issue that is acceptable to the people of Sabah.

“We would like to thank our contributors Anuar Ghani, Barry Bullah Ganggal, Beter G Majilang, Christine Van Houten, Clarence Sinsua, Datin Fazar Arif, Dato’ Rahman Ghani, Datuk Johan Ariffin Samad, Datuk John Anthony, Datuk Stan Yee, Datuk Wilfred Lingam, Dr Raymond Alfred, Faridah Stephens, Fauziah Stephens, Fred Chong, Fred @ Don Bosco, Ignatius Matayun, Jude Kessey, Mervyn John Baxter, Petrus M Jikiun, Pritchard Gumbaris, Remy Majangkim, Robert Munang, Roger Richard Tami, Roland Cheng, Rothwell Sebastian, Uzair Yahya and York Fang for their input,” the statement said.