By Queville To and Dominic Legeh
KOTA KINABALU: Autonomy will be granted to Sabah when Pakatan Rakyat comes to power, the top leaders of the opposition coalition promised yesterday, the eve of Malaysia Day.
Anwar Ibrahim followed by Lim Kit Siang and Nasharudin Mat Isa of PKR, DAP and PAS respectively also pledged to grant Sabah political independence during a special gathering here to formally launch Pakatan Sabah, the opposition coalition.
Earlier, Anwar said the launch of Pakatan Sabah is the start of granting Sabah full autonomy to manage itself within Malaysia, a demand the people in the state have been making for 47 years since independence from Britain in 1963.
“Sabah affairs will be determined by Sabah,” he said, adding that the coalition would not in any way condone nor tolerate abuse of power or corrupt practice.
He also said Pakatan is committed to defending the constitutional rights of all Malaysians, unlike the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition which is still defending the NEP, which essentially benefits only a certain race or ethnic group in the country.
Anwar also warned of the worsening political and socio-economic situation in the country under the 53 years of BN rule, saying the people must rise to reject the corrupt regime.
He said the people must reject Umno because "it is corrupt, racist, and arrogant".
'People have voice and power'
Describing it as a “battle of two forces” -- “the people versus the corrupt regime” -- Anwar warned that the present regime must not underestimate the wisdom of the masses.
“The people have the voice and power,” he said.
The supportive crowd of close to 1,000 guests applauded Anwar, Lim and Nasharudin when they likened the coming Umno-BN versus Pakatan fight as a battle for justice, compassion and meritocracy against that of race and religion.
“Our understanding is not race but justice for all,” Anwar said to applause.
A victory over the ruling BN coalition in the coming general election would be a victory for the people and not any individual political party, he added.
He also said meritocracy is important for the country to progress and to be able to compete with the rest of the world.
But he assured that the poor and needy would not be neglected as it is the duty of the government to protect them.
Anwar is convinced that the Sabah Pakatan Rakyat secretariat will help consolidate the opposition coalition to better develop the state.
Present at the function were Penang Deputy Chief Minister Mansor Othman, PKR vice-president Azmin Ali, DAP MPs Lim Lip Eng (Segambut) and Teo Nie Ching (Serdang) , Sabah DAP chief-cum-MP for Kota Kinabalu, Dr Hiew King Cheu, its deputy president-cum-Sri Tanjung assemblyman, Jimmy Wong, and its publicity secretary, Dr Edwin Bosi.
Sabah PKR leaders who were also in attendance were Ahmad Thamrin Jaini, Jeffrey Kitingan, Ansari Abdullah, among others.