KOTA KINABALU, Aug 20 ― Members of Sabah’s opposition today today criticised calls to censor social media for discussion on Sabah’s continued future in Malaysia, saying this would ignore the undercurrent of discontent fuelling the topic.
They claim that the grouses are legitimate and there is growing resentment in the state, particularly over the rise in illegal immigrants, the erosion of the local identity, increasing cost of living and general disrespect from their peninsular counterparts.
“It is very obvious Sabahans and Sarawakians are aggrieved and they have every reason to be,” Borneo Heritage Foundation chairman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said today.
“The Sabah leaders are not listening or helping and people are voicing their frustrations out in social media and other ways,” said Jeffrey, who is also Sabah State Reform Party (STAR) president.
Today, Jeffrey urged State Speaker Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak to work with Putrajaya to establish a “Malaysia Review Committee” to discuss the problems under the 1963 Sabah Agreement and solve the grouses of the people.
Salleh had on Monday urged the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and police to take action against individuals or groups propagating talks about a Sabah secession on the Internet.
He said that the sentiments on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were creating disunity and might influence the younger generation “who do not understand the history of the nation and inevitably lead them to become rebellious”.
Secession is considered treason under Malaysian law, and discourse on the topic falls foul of the Sedition Act.
Former chief minister and Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the way to stop such talk was to address the grievances of the disgruntled locals.
“Sabahans are becoming increasingly aghast at the erosion of identity as Sabahan natives and those touting the idea of succession online are not afraid as they consider themselves patriots and not traitors,” he said.
Penampang MP Darell Leiking said the sentiments behind the talks of secession were result from cumulative anger from several issues plaguing the people, including the large number of illegal immigrant allegedly given citizenship, and distribution of wealth.
“If one was to even recall, Sabah used to have at least three of its own licensed banking and financial institutions but today all banking and financial decisions, even a simple loan approval are now are being decided by corporate owners in West Malaysia,” he said.
Leiking added that it is his belief that the sentiment among Sabahans was not for secession per se, but a desire for the decentralisation of the administration and for a serious review of the Federation of Malaysia.