Sabah doesn’t need Putrajaya’s blessing for everything, says Warisan veep

Wong said Warisan had dared to do what it felt was the right thing for the benefit of Sabahans when it was in power. ― Picture by Julia Chan
Wong said Warisan had dared to do what it felt was the right thing for the benefit of Sabahans when it was in power. ― Picture by Julia Chan

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KOTA KINABALU, July 1 ― As Sabah anxiously awaits the nod for its proposed new standard operating procedures (SOPs), a Warisan leader here said that the previous Warisan state government was proof that the state did not need the federal government’s approval for everything.

Warisan vice-president Datuk Junz Wong said that before Warisan became an Opposition state government at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it still managed to make decisions it felt was right for the benefit of the people without waiting for Putrajaya’s green light.

“In January 2020, during Chinese New Year, Sabah was among the first in Malaysia to suspend incoming flights from China. The then transport minister called us up and told us that stopping incoming flights was not Sabah’s call and even instructed us to allow incoming China flights disembark in Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

“However, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal as chief minister then told KL off and schooled them on Sabah’s immigration rights. Our answer to KL was a firm ‘no’,” he said, adding that Warisan did not kowtow to KL’s demands merely because it was an ally.

He said Warisan had dared to do what it felt was the right thing for the benefit of Sabahans, and risked offending the federal government.

Wong, who is Tanjung Aru state assemblyman, said that as an Opposition state government from March 2020, all sorts of “sabotage tactics” were attempted, but the Warisan government always found a way to prioritise Sabahans.

“Sabah had a shortage of test kits and PPEs. All these were responsibilities of the federal government. We could have just played politics and kicked the ball around. But Shafie said, ‘No, let us help all Sabahans’.”

“So we dug into the state coffers to purchase our own Covid-19 test kits from Singapore and PPEs from South Korea. If Warisan were to wait for KL, the lives of thousands Sabahans would be in jeopardy,” said the former state agriculture and food industry minister.

He suggested that if it could not get its act together to get the SOPs out, the current Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government would not be able to negotiate bigger issues like the 1963 Malaysian Agreement.

“KL will never understand Sabah because it is based in KL after all. So it is up to Sabahans to enlighten and school KL on Sabah’s situation, Sabah’s rights and Sabah’s autonomy,” he said, adding that peninsula-based ministers would not understand the situation on the ground in Sabah.

“Will GRS be able to fight for Sabah’s oil and gas rights and its provisions under the MA63?” he asked.

Wong’s statement comes after the state said it had submitted its SOPs to the federal government to be gazetted.

On Monday, Sabah chief minister Datuk Hajiji Noor announced the state government was easing SOPs for several industries, including dine-in at restaurants, hairdressers, several non-contact sports and factories as phase one of the state’s recovery began on Tuesday.

However, as the state was thrown into confusion without the release of new SOPs, Senior Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that states should follow the national SOPs instead of making their own rules.

His statement prompted Sabahans from both sides of the political divide to rally behind Hajiji and call for the federal government to let the state make decisions for its own benefit.

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