Saturday, 13 September 2014

It’s out in the open now

Talk of Sabah pulling out was carried out underground until the threat to arrest the so-called secessionists.

ON Thursday, a day after I arrived in my home state of× Sabah for a holiday, I had a dilemma.

I was driving in Kampung Inobong, Penampang, about 14km from Kinabalu, and I drove past a one-metre-long snake in the middle of the road.

I reversed my vehicle so that my six-year-old daughter× Apsara could see a “live” snake. And so that Apsara,who is an urbanite as she lives in× Jaya, could know and appre­ciate that× Sabah was still “wild”.

There was the snake. It was stuck in the middle of the road because someone had run over its tail.

On the side of the road was a Kadazandusun villager on a motorcycle.

“Kasih mati (Kill it),” he said.

“Sia tidak mau. Sia takut kena bad luck. (I don’t want to. I’m afraid of getting bad luck),” I said.

“Kasi langgar bah (Run it over),” he pleaded, and he made a gesture with his hand to show that it was a cobra.

Not that I was a mind-reader but I think he wanted me to kill the cobra because he was afraid it would strike someone in the village.

I said a prayer – that I wouldn’t get bad luck for killing it – and I ran over the cobra with the right front tyre of the× Hilux pickup truck I was driving.

I looked at the rear-view mirror. It didn’t die.

I reversed the truck. And ran over the snake again.

I looked at the rear-view mirror but I was not sure if it was alive. I drove towards Kota Kinabalu.

The SMS app on my smartphone beeped.

“Philip, could I make a statement about Borneo’s secession?” a politician from× Penampang asked.

“Boleh (Can),” I sms-ed.

“When shall I c u bro?” he said.

“Can email me,” I sms-ed.

“Ok bro,” he replied.

“Thanks. Try to send by tonight so I can include in my column which is due tomorrow,” I SMS-ed. “Curious, why you want to make a statement?”       

“Why? How long do you want 2 b colonised?” he replied.

“Ok thanks,” I SMS-ed.

I wanted to question him on his liberal usage of the word “colonised” but I didn’t as I was driving.

Still worried that the cobra would bring me back luck, I decided not to write about secession that is the hot topic – other than the leaks in the× Science and English papers in the UPSR (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah) – in Sabah.

But the secession topic could not be avoided.

On the front page of Daily Express was the headline: “Jeffrey welcomes KL’s ‘let’s talk’.”

“KOTA KINABALU: The best and the only way to deal with the incessant calls for secession or separation is to take the bull by the horns and address them, said STAR Sabah chief Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan,” the× Sabah newspaper reported.

“Welcoming the statement by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar that Putrajaya wanted to meet with the ‘separatists’, he said it was time for the Federal Government to address the unhappiness behind the calls for secession/separation/Sabah Sarawak rights.”

Interestingly, Dr Jeffrey, who was accused of plotting to bring Sabah out of Malaysia, was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and held in the Kamunting detention centre for 30 months in the 1990s.

On Facebook, there’s a “Black 16 September” campaign organised by the Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia page to say “no to Malaysia Day”.

That night I had beer with an ex-Sabah chief minister and the topic of conversation was – surprise, surprise – secession. We also discussed the Scottish independence movement.

Despite my running over a cobra, I shall give my take on this issue, which the ex-Sabah chief minister described as “it was discussed underground until the threat to arrest the so-called secessionists brought it out in the open”.

He was echoing Dr Jeffrey’s statement that “the issues are all the same but the calls become louder and more intense the longer these frustrations are ignored over time”.

For me, one of the root problem is that Sabahans feel that Putrajaya has neglected them in terms of development.

Take my drive to Kampung Inobong as an example. The journey is about 14km from Kota Kinabalu. But it takes me about 25 minutes to reach the village because I can only drive around 80kph, as it is a trunk road and not a highway.

Even within a 15km radius of Kota Kinabalu, the roads are not the highways that KLites take for granted.

In Petaling Jaya, residents protest against Kidex (the Kinrara–Damansara Expressway) whereas I’m sure Sabahans would embrace it with open arms.

In the interior of Sabah, children have to hike for hours to go to school, as there is no road in the village.

To be fair to the Federal Government, it has brought in development. For example, Kampung Inobong is now closer to Kampung Pogunon via road as the Government has built a bridge over the Moyog river.

But the development is not coming fast enough.

The other concern of Ori (Original) Sabahans is that Photocopy Sabahans (illegal immigrants who somehow managed to get citizenship illegally) are outnumbering them.

Another concern is the extremist voices coming from across the South China Sea via social media. The extremists have told Sabahans to “leave Malaysia if they didn’t like what was happening in the country”.

Some Sabahans have literally interpreted it as a command for Sabah to leave Malaysia.

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