‘We’re united,’ says KDM lawyer
There is no disunity among the KadazanDusuns but what exists are Barisan Nasional leaders who want to divide and rule.KOTA KINABALU: Darell Leiking, a young Kadazandusun lawyer from Penampang, believes his community can be a force to be reckoned with in the coming general elections and an indication of this is coming from Barisan Nasional leaders who are worried the tide has turned against them ahead of the 13th general election.
“We are not disunited racially or religiously. We are united. Tagging the community as disunited because they do not see eye to eye in political ideology is a false notion,” said the man who wants to take his community in a new political direction.
The PKR national deputy secretary-general and supreme council member is among leaders in Sabah heading the Pakatan Rakyat coalition challenge against the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in Penampang in the impending general election.
Penampang is considered part of the heartland of the Kadazandusuns and wresting the seat from the BN would be a body blow for the ruling coalition.
Addressing concerns that his community is split into too many factions, he said the blame can be placed at the door of a few political leaders who were once united under a common political banner but went their separate ways to stay in power.
In a chance meeting at a coffee shop last week, the 41-year-old UK-trained lawyer confided that his community is in fact as united as it was in the past about championing Sabah’s rights as a partner in the formation of Malaysia and not just one of the 13 states in the federation as it is now.
Touted as a possible PKR candidate for the Penampang MP seat, he said he is not concerned about who is finally selected by the coalition.
“PKR is hopeful to represent Pakatan Rakyat for Penampang. However, my personal position is that my division and I will support any candidate from any of our (Pakatan) partners should PKR not be given this seat,” he said .
Whoever is chosen will up against a formidable foe in the form of current Penampang MP is Federal Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Bernard Dompok, who is the president of the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko).
Political leaders to blame
Leiking does not see this as a big hurdle even though Pakatan is tapping the same Kadazandusuns who voted in favour of the BN in the last election.
His argument is that most of the ruling coalition and their party members today were once united under a single political banner (Parti Bersatu Sabah) to fight for Sabah’s rights.
He said though PBS leader Joseph Pairin Kitingan and his former colleagues in the party like Joseph Kurup and Dompok are now presidents of different political parties and have split the Kadazandusun vote, they cannot say the community is solidly behind them.
He accused the entrenched crop of political leaders as being out of touch with the community.
Leiking said Kadazandusun leaders must take full responsibility for the community’s political displacement and weaker position as they had ignored the spirit of 1985 that united the people of Sabah purely to prolong their political life.
“Their two-dozen or so years as elected representatives is just a wee bit too long for us. It’s a political fact,” he said of the claimed burgeoning support for the opposition.
“Imagine 27 years of political decisions being made for us and little to show how we’ve benefitted.
“Some of these politicians are now blaming us for being divided but these same leaders have even had the audacity to redefine the Kadazandusuns by religion.
“We are Kadazans and Dusuns regardless of our beliefs and this we should all defend so that we shall never be displaced. We must embrace that our race is unique with many faiths and with a special place as natives of Sabah.
“No religion should ever divide our race,” he said.
Sabahans now bolder
The problem, he said, was the mutual respect that was always present in Sabah was slowly being eroded by the failure of politicians who were either ignorant or afraid to challenge one-sided policies that had taken a toll on the social makeup of the state.
“We should take responsibility to seek help and find solutions to those issues. It is reciprocal and I believe when we do this, the mutual respect will be reasserted,” he said.
Leiking also noted that Sabahans were also no longer afraid to shout out their disappointment over the failure to fulfil promises pledged during the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.
He said, people had forgotten that while Sabahans have changed the state government several times, the federal government had remained the same and this had handicapped them since the formation of Malaysia.
“The prime minister may have changed but the regime remains the same. Our Sabah government may have changed on four occasions but the political leaders and players remain the same,” he noted.
Pakatan, he said, has given voters an opportunity for change at the very top.
“This is why it is obvious and we must take part … we cannot miss this opportunity in the general elections.
“What we need now is to have that same desire for change but the only difference is, there is now a national party that we can converge this force of change so that we will honour that desire that we have been deprived off for so long.”
Leiking disagreed with the idea that only a ‘local based party’ or ‘parti tempatan’ was the best choice to lead Sabah.
“Myself and many others from Sabah are members of PKR or DAP or PAS (Pakatan’s component parties). It would be insulting to say that being in a national-based party, one would be any less a Sabahan. I am in PKR and I am a Sabahan.
“As a national leader in the party, I also make decisions on the party matters concerning a member or division in Johor, Malacca, Selangor and other states. That is progress in this partnership.”