By Mandela Malakun
KOTA KINABALU: Just a few weeks ago, I encountered a meme on my Facebook feed: a simple tree stick captioned ‘To prove that people will argue over anything… here is a stick,’ became the subject of thousands of passionate comments, debating whether it was indeed a stick.
Little did I know that this meme would foreshadow a real debate, instigated by Warisan, aiming to burst the bubbles of excitement and pride surrounding a significant moment for Sabah.
Earlier this week, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji Haji Noor made an historic declaration that Sabah Day would be celebrated, starting this year, to commemorate the day Sabah became an independent nation 60 years ago. The announcement, naturally, was met with cheers and applause from many proud Sabahans who longed for a day that would symbolise our unique heritage.
Unfortunately, where there should have been unity, Warisan chose discord. The party’s supreme council member and Tungku assemblyman Mr. Assaffal Alian put out a statement on Thursday questioning Sabah’s independence status.
So far though, his challenge has not proven to represent widespread confusion or discontent in Sabah; it’s merely an isolated attempt to sow discord during a time that should have brought us together.
First of all, Assaffal’s stance on Sabah’s status appears to be an attempt to capitalise on specific interpretations of history. He seems to overlook that commemorating Sabah Day transcends legal or historical technicalities. It’s a symbol of pride, unity, and identity for Sabahans, reflecting a shared aspiration that connects us all.
Our historical context, including Sabah’s Self-Government Day on 31st August 1963, tells a rich story of our evolution, decisions, and growth within the Federation of Malaysia. To fixate on the semantics of “independence” vs. “self-government” is to divert from our collective aspiration and shared pride. Don’t Warisan members also feel proud to be Sabahans?
On the other hand, GRS’s stance on this issue reflects a commitment to unity and respect for Sabah’s unique history within the Malaysian federation. This includes acknowledgment of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, a foundational document that guides our roles and relationship within the Malaysian federation.
Assaffal’s proposal for a motion on Sabah’s independence seems a disingenuous attempt to spark unnecessary divisions and misconceptions. Rather than quarrelling over terminology, our focus should remain on unity, collaboration, and socio-economic growth. These principles must guide our way forward.
The assemblyman’s questions about Sabah’s independence miss the broader point. It seems more a political gambit than a true reflection of Sabah’s desires. We are not celebrating severing ties; we are honouring Sabah’s unique identity, history, and autonomy within Malaysia. His assertions may resonate with a few, but they do not align with the prevailing sentiments of unity and pride within Sabah.
Maybe it’s to remind Assaffal and his Warisan colleagues that Sabah Day is not merely a footnote in our long history. It is a symbol of pride and unity. We must embrace this day, not as a source of division but as a beacon of our shared heritage.
I understand that it is the role of opposition in questioning the government’s action and decisions, but the opposition can also play their democratic role of supporting the government of the day, in this case, the GRS government. After going throughout Sabah shouting Unity, Unity, it is ironic that Warisan finds it helpful for their campaign to cause divisiveness when the real goal of Sabah Day is unity. Do they always view things through their skewed political lenses, I wonder? Or is it only their brand of ‘unity’ should be accepted?
Why not pause for a while and learn to replace the culture of pointless argument with a culture of understanding and collaboration for the sake of Sabah? For just one day, Warisan, let us celebrate our unique identity within the Malaysian federation, working together for a harmonious and prosperous future. Let’s build bridges, not barriers, and make Sabah Day a testament to our shared commitment to unity, diversity, and progress.
In the spirit of Sabah, let us move forward together, embracing our shared history and looking towards a future where every Sabahan stands united, proud of our heritage and confident in our future within the Federation of Malaysia.