Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama Can Fight For Sabah

It was reported in the Borneo Post, 24th July, 2008 that Obama, the Democratic Party Nominee for the US Presidential Election, has relatives in Sandakan, Sabah.

I cannot get the online version of this news so I scanned my newspaper under public interest rights.

Based on this report, it is clear that Obama's sister's father in law is my Secondary School Alumni, i.e. a graduate from Sung Siew Secondary School, Sandakan.

Obama's step father was an Indonesian Muslim but his mother remains a Christian to this day. To Malaysians it is indeed very strange that a Muslim man can marry a Christian woman without she being converted to Islam but in Indonesia it is very common.

It is the other way, i.e. a Muslim woman marrying a Christain man, that is forbidden. It shows the respect that Islam has over Christianity and other religions of the book.

As it turned out, Sandakan is an extreme example of the effects of the Colonisation of Sabah by Malaya and the destruction of its environment making life so difficult for my family still there.

The beaches at Sandakan bay, with its unique walkable and strange island, Batu Sapi, the name of the area where my original family settled, used to be the most beautiful in the world. Despite the calm sea due to the protection of the Sandakan bay, it managed to form a beach, due to the dry coastline as a result of the hills nearby.

It was so rich with marine life that making a living was easy but all were gone, to be replaced by jobs in mills at salaries of only 20% of the poverty level, with the zoning of the entire beach into an industrial zone with earth fillings. Now, villages that used to be on beaches, became a septic tank where faeces are kept among the villages, because their surrounding areas are filled with with earth with only small drains provided, that are easily clogged. You can see the effects to a smaller extent in areas around Kota Kinabalu.

If Barrack Obama were to be elected to the US Presidency, hopefully, he could pressure Kuala Lumpur to develop Sandakan that is dangerously becoming a ghost town. Despite a profitable Oil Palm Industry, where Sandakan is a major producer in the whole of Malaysia, very little of the profits had gone to the citizens of Sandakan, only the ills of the Oil Palms, the poorly paid Oil Palm workers, who are paid below poverty levels.

Despite the huge demands of the Oil Palm industry, there is little investment in the infrastructures as shown by the lack of budget given to Sabah. 8% for a population of 13% and area of 23%. What is touted as a major revision is only 1 billion, i.e 1% of the whole national budget before it was revised. All other regions also demand more budget, so the contribution of the budget for Sabah is nothing to be proud of, given the immense needs of Sabah, due to the large population and area, as well as the inflationary pressures due to discriminatory trade rules against Sabah.

What makes it worse is that, there is NO effort at all to aleviate poverty. The Sabahans are easily fooled by false promises. None of my family who are living in shit, i.e. among faeces in their villages, are given any aid, despite having income levels that are way below the accepted poverty level. They applied but were rejected.

The simple reason that is stupidly misunderstoond by Sabahans is that, the promise by Malaya is only to aleviate hard core poverty, i.e. people who are starving. Making it worse, it is only applicable to people who are sick to the extent of not being able to work. Despite my relatives suffering from gastric, acute asthma and gaut, making them less fit for heavy work, they are still denied any help at all.

It meant that the mother of Dani, a primary school student who committed suicide because he cannot stomach his family's povety, will be repeated many many times. Dani's family is not entitled to the hardcore poverty despite eating only rice with boiled Kang Kong vegetable because his mother can still work as a cloth washer despite suffering from heart problems. Despite having no husband to support while having a few children, apart from Dani, she was given only RM60 per month by a welfare body. I don't think it was the Federal Government body, i.e the Malaysian government. It was most probably the State Government Body. The poverty level for Sabah in 2007 was RM820 according to a UMS lecturer.

Obama can help explain US policies on welfare but Sabahans should note that Obama is against excessive oil subsidy as shown by his campaign against Hilary Clinton. Instead of subsidising the price of oil, he favoured the money be used to give more welfare directly to the poor, which is the basis of all economies of the developed nations. Less subsidies but higher salaries which are due to higher welfares. Why work at low salaries if you can get welfare?

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