Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Heads we win, tails you lose

Opposition-held constituency in Sabah struggles to attract development funds from a government; voters punished for exercising their right to pick their own representative
dr roland chiaKOTA KINABALU: The ugliness of Sabah politics is on display in the state constituency of Inanam. Infrastructure development in the scrappy little town in the suburbs of the city has come to a standstill and mutters of irritation can be heard less than a year since the elections.
Will it grow as time passes? The next general election is a long way off and barring an unforeseen event, time can only get tougher from the constituents’ point of view.
It’s been this way ever since the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lost the mixed-community state seat to the opposition in last year’s general election.
In the neighbouring Karambunai constituency, by contrast, development funds are being shovelled in as fast as those running the show can consume it.
Holding voters to ransom if they do not kowtow to the government of the day, is a time-worn and threadbare method of voter enforcement that continues without so much as anyone questioning why is this happening in this day and age.
“We are all paying our taxes … we are contributing. How can they just hold up or “kasih putus (cut) development here,” asked Jinin, a resident of Inanam who has lived here since the 1950s when the town was just a row of wooden shops with a single-pump gas station in one corner.
“Look at the place now. It’s like there has been no planning since then.”
Jinin is referring to the chaotic development that was allowed to take place that has led to Inanam town losing its old charm after becoming increasingly congested, ugly and dirty with overflowing or clogged drains, leaking sewage pipes, broken pavements and litter, the curse of every Sabah town.
But it’s not just the town areas that are in need of development funds. The people in the kampongs have also been left out since since PBS lost the constituency to the opposition.
To be fair, development was not satisfactory even before when the ruling coalition was in control in the constituency, but the situation has become worse with the opposition PKR assemblyman Dr Roland Chia Ming Shen struggling to cope with even less help from the state government.
He’s concerned that his constituency is being sidelined simply to show the opposition is incapable of doing much and as a punishment for voters who dared to elect an opposition candidate to represent them in the state legislative assembly.
It’s not that Chia’s isn’t qualified to do job, but there’s little he can do if the government is adamant that his constituency does not get government funding for projects.
Since the general elections last year, has drifted into a state of development limbo. It’s too populated and important to be totally left out but neither is it in a position to compete for funds with the neighbouring constituency of Karambunai which is still in the BN fold.
Following its defeat in Inanam, PBS has backed away from the constituency to lick its wounds. It has shut down its division in constituency following a revolt and only its Community Development Officer, Sabin Guntilaban, has some say in development programmes.
“But just being a CDO, nothing much can be done,” said a Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) chairman.
The JKKK is a body that look after problems in their respective villages, reporting directly to the development office.
PBS has no one it can turn to since it sacked former assemblyman Jonny Goh for allegedly supporting the opposition during the election in protest of being dropped as the BN candidate.
On top of this, the government has yet to appoint a People’s Development Leader for Inanam and the other constituencies won by the opposition eventhough the other  BN-held state constituencies had their leaders’ named soon after the general election. Being politically-appointees, these leaders are assistants to assemblymen in their respective constituencies.
“I am the assemblymen but being in the opposition, the government does not allow me to appoint a people development leader or other government posts for the benefit of the people,” Chia told the Borneo Insider.
The PKR assemblyman, who has set up his service centre office at Taipan Inanam Town, said he receives no government allocation and the people understand this and his difficulties.
“I try my best to assist the people with the RM5,000 assemblyman monthly allowance. On other days, I voice out problems to the government and so far the relevant departments have been cooperative,” he said.
Lost in all this is the fact that the state government is generously doling out funds and allocations to its elected representatives from money collected through taxes from everyone, not just BN supporters.
If last year’s election is an indicator, the opposition gained the majority of votes in the country and hence are contributing the most in terms of taxes. - BI

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