Where is the apology Sabah is owed?

JUNE 16 — The Sabah state election was where the Covid-19 nightmare truly began for Malaysia.

There really can be no denying it and the fact our government spent more money and effort trying to claim state governments than on pandemic mitigation and relief.

Our vaccination progress is at a crawl though perhaps not quite as disastrous as neighbouring Thailand that had to cancel appointments as local manufacturers could not meet vaccine demand.

You got Sabah, now what?

As soon as the Sabah election was won, suddenly coverage in the papers dropped off. 

Instead whatever limited media mentions of the state just became about rising numbers, with increasing Covid-19 deaths just another statistic.

There is documented evidence that West Malaysian politicians did not follow SOPs, with infected people not wearing masks and spreading the virus.

It didn't help that for some inexplicable reason quarantine and travel restrictions were all suddenly relaxed, as though Covid-19 would take a break for the Sabah election.

There has been no apology, nor any real form of restitution done to make up for the huge spike in numbers and the deaths of Sabahans who did not deserve to die because of political machinations.

Do we know their names?

Senior citizen Yuen Mee Van, 81, receiving a Covid-19 jab during the Phase 2 Vaccination programme at the Sandakan Community Hall in Sabah, April 19, 2021. — Bernama
Senior citizen Yuen Mee Van, 81, receiving a Covid-19 jab during the Phase 2 Vaccination programme at the Sandakan Community Hall in Sabah, April 19, 2021. — Bernama

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I wish we could have a memorial somewhere; a wall with the names and faces of those who died from Covid-19.

What causes me the most anguish is how slow the progress has been in getting the vaccination drive going in comparison to Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur.

Sabah is already under Perikatan Nasional; why then is there such a delay in getting the vaccines to the state, while Sarawak got to pick and choose its vaccines, even contemptuously turning down the AstraZeneca jabs?

It is not right that Klang Valley continues to get priority over the rest of the nation and that Sabah is treated like a poor cousin to Sarawak who, hilariously, calls its own shots quite literally and figuratively.

Sabah did not ask for another election. It did not ask for West Malaysian politicians who had no business campaigning when there were plenty of locals who could canvass just fine on their own.

It did not deserve to lose its citizens to the virus; it did not warrant the borders letting in someone with the Delta variant into Labuan and then bringing it over to Sabah.

Make up for it now

At the very least, Putrajaya owes Sabah vaccines. It owes the state more resources and funding to make up for the devastation that was wrought just to win an election.

The challenging state of the roads and physical obstacles in rural areas, making it difficult for folk in the interior to access vaccination centres must be overcome with what Sabah has been owed for time immemorial — more money.

You cannot bring all the Sabahans who died needlessly from Covid-19 back to life, but you can do better for the ones still alive.

If you can't find it in your conscience to apologise, Putrajaya, then put money where your words and conscience should have been.

Sabah deserves better than to be the biggest casualty of this pandemic war.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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