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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

From peninsula to Sabah, and happy for the move

Gee Tien Siong and Justin Yee are glad their parents decided to move from the peninsula to Sabah decades ago to escape the worsening polarisation.

Sabahans are wary about the creeping of what they call ‘Malaya’s divisive political culture’ into their state.

KOTA KINABALU: Although their families were originally from the peninsula, Gee Tien Siong and Justin Yee are thankful for their parents’ decision many years ago to relocate to Sabah.

Gee, 43, and Yee, 28, are grateful for the racial harmony in the state, something which according to them is almost non-existent in West Malaysia.

They said even with the contest among various political parties ahead of the May 9 polls, the harmony among Sabah’s diverse communities remains intact, unlike in Malaya where racial groups are polarised.

Gee and Yee, who are members of a local opposition party, expressed worry about the spread of what they called “Malaya’s divisive political culture” into Sabah.

They said this was made possible by both sides of the political divide: the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) and the peninsula-based opposition including PKR and DAP.

“I now consider myself a Sabahan and am fortunate to be living in a state where harmony among diverse communities and religious groups comes naturally,” Gee said.

The father of two, whose parents moved from Johor to Sabah 35 years ago, added that Sabah’s unique diversity had extended even into education.

He said about 35% of students in Sabah Chinese primary schools were non-Chinese, adding that this situation could not be seen in the peninsula.

“Many Sabahan indigenous parents want to sign their children up in Chinese schools to enable them to learn another language and be more knowledgeable.

“Thus, Sabahans are nurtured to live in harmony among the different communities from an early age.”

Gee, who is SAPP’s constituency liaison committee organising secretary in Luyang, in the state capital, said he could not bear the thought of living in Malaya where the people had become polarised due to divisive politics.

“The Umno-led BN has chosen a divide-and-rule approach for maximum political gain.

“This has been at the cost of true harmony among the various races and religious groups.”

He said Sabahans must reject this type of political culture to prevent it from taking root in the state.

“Sabahans must protect the harmony that we are enjoying and stop the corrupting Malayan political culture from creeping into Sabah.

“Sabahans can do this by stopping Umno and other Malayan political parties.”

Yee, who grew up in interior Keningau after his parents moved to the state 26 years ago, recalled growing up with friends from different communities.

“I grew up here, being accepted by Sabahans. Everyone I knew saw me for myself, not for my race. That’s why there is true harmony among the communities here,” he said.

The former bank officer however said he had felt the impact of being born outside of Sabah when he initially failed in his bid to apply for a trading licence.

“I had to work continuously for seven years in Sabah to qualify for permanent resident status as I did not qualify then,” he added.

But Yee said he understood the need for this restriction to protect the interests of Sabahans.

He said Sabah needed leaders who put the state’s interests above all else, adding that the entry of Umno and other Malaya-based parties had eroded Sabah’s rights.

“Sabahans have no intention of trying to take advantage of other states but, on the other hand, Malaya-based parties such as Umno, MCA and Gerakan as well as the opposition DAP and PKR want to be in power in Sabah,” Yee said.

He added that Sabahans should realise that they are best represented by local parties, whom they should support in the election.

“Never trust Malayan political parties or their local affiliates. None of them are truly interested in protecting Sabah’s rights.” - FMT

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