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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Labuan’s return will heal Sabah’s wounds, says Yong

KOTA KINABALU - Putrajaya will only return Labuan to Sabah if the Barisan Nasional (BN) government is forced to rely on Sabah and Sarawak for its political survival, said the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP).

Party supremo Yong Teck Lee said it was unlikely for Putrajaya to willingly return Labuan to Sabah.

However, he pointed out that it would be better to hand back Labuan because it would go a long way to healing the wounds caused by the cession of the island in 1984.

“People still remember vividly the overwhelming defeat of the BN-Berjaya state government, which retained only six of its previous 44 seats in the 48-seat state assembly, in 1985.

“That was in spite of the public pledge to ‘sink or swim’ made by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to the BN-Berjaya party at an election rally in Kota Kinabalu,” Yong told FMT.

Yong pointed out that BN-Berjaya lost to the fledgling Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) which had been expelled earlier from BN for opposing the federalisation of Labuan.

Furthermore, he recalled that several Sabahans were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for distributing leaflets on the “Labuan issue”.

“There is no doubt that the loss of Labuan led to the disastrous defeat of the BN-Berjaya party,” he said.

Yong, however, admitted that the emotions inflamed by the loss of Labuan had subsided but insisted that the issue was not forgotten.

He warned that there would never be closure as long as the cession of Labuan was not corrected in the only logical manner, which was its return to Sabah.

” Allowing Labuan to come home to Sabah will lead to a healing process that can only be good for nation building,” he said.

Recently, former chief minister and the main proponent of the federalisation of Labuan, Harris Salleh, told FMT of his regret for ceding Labuan as he was led to believe it would spur the island’s economy.

Harris, who was Berjaya president, called on Putrajaya to return Labuan to Sabah, citing the failure of the federal government to improve the island’s economy after more than 33 years.

Harris had explained that he ceded Labuan believing it would accelerate the national integration process.

Secondly, he also believed that national security would be strengthened given the strategic position of Labuan in the region.

Harris also said the federal government was in a better position to improve the island’s infrastructure and other facilities.

He also wanted the federal government to develop Labuan as a regional and international conference centre.

Finally, he was confident that the island’s business, trade and port operations would be enhanced.

Yong said all of the objectives targeted by Harris could have been achieved without making Labuan a federal territory.

“Langkawi remains part of Kedah, Iskandar is still part of Johor. Port Klang, Bintulu Port, Pulau Tioman and other success stories are not federal territories.

“The functioning of Esscom (Eastern Sabah Security Command) is not in any way affected by its operational region being part of Sabah. Similarly, neither was the operation of RASCOM (Rajang Security Command in Sarawak) in the 1970s affected.

“Hence, the excuse of ‘security’ to justify federalisation of any part of a state does not hold water.

“What is done can be undone. Politics is the science of government and the art of the possible,” he said.

By Tracy Patrick

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