Sabah businesses shifting alliances?



[COLOR=#707070 !important]FMT Staff
| November 30, 2012[/COLOR]
Opposition STAR's recent meeting with the Chinese business community in Sabah is indicative of the state's political direction.
KOTA KINABALU: Is the “ground shifting” in Sabah? The general consensus seems to be an emphatic “yes”. But the question remains: how far will this leaning towards the opposition be?


In the meantime, any hope of hearing Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announce polls next month came to naught at the end of the current parliamentary session yesterday after he failed to humour soothsayers and supporters of his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin.


Speculations were rife that Muhyiddin’s supporters were (indirectly) “pressuring” Najib to dissolve Parliament by Nov 30. But there was no indication of this during Najib’s speech at the Umno general assembly yesterday.


Technically the current government’s term ends on April 28 next year, so once again the wheel of fortune will grind with soothsayers and punters tossing possible dates post-Chinese New Year.


The further delay, albeit exasperating, has given Sabah chapter of the State Reform Party (STAR) under Jeffrey Kitingan added time to continue convincing voters that they should be voted in.


For fast-rising STAR, it’s the state that matters most and Jeffrey’s team is training its guns on the state seats. A recent series of meetings with the local Chinese business communities seem to attest to that.


STAR has some 7,000 Chinese among its 200,000 members and its Chinese task force recently gathered 60 members of the business community to a discussion at the Sabah Golf and Country Club.


Attending were “influential” members of the Sabah Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), the Sabah chapter of the Malaysian Travel and Tours Operators Association (Matta) and several other local business councils.


On the table were issues and policies”plaguing”, “controlling” or “holding back” the development of commerce in the state.


But this was not the first time STAR had met with key players from the Sabah Chinese community.


Support from business fratenity


Speaking to FMT, STAR deputy chairman Awang Ahmad Sah said: “We had an earlier session with FMM and we discussed the issues at length.


“We are all talking the same language and on how to work together. The big issue here is cabotage and how it’s hampering the development of imports and exports.


“We all agree it is time for change… the business community is now open to change. This is real progress and they are supportive of us.


“We are also working with other Chinese NGOs. There are groups which openly support us and others who do so quietly.”


He said as far as STAR’s agenda was concerned, it was to convey to the Chinese community the party’s struggle and “to make them understand that STAR just wants Sabah rights returned”.


This highlights the influence commerce has over politics.


To quote a political observer: “If the business community is meeting up with the opposition, it means the ground is shifting and it’s not good for politics.”