KOTA KINABALU: Parti Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal is off the mark to say that the Philippines claim issue on Sabah has been politicised and used against him in the election, says Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS).
Party president Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said in a statement Friday that everyone knew the latest episode on the controversial issue surfaced just weeks before the Sabah election was called and was taken up not only by his political rivals, but also by the majority of Sabahans who were worried by the way the caretaker Chief Minister had handled it.
“Most Sabahans thought he had actually mishandled the issue on several occasions. When the issue surfaced, the people in Sabah were worried and anxious. As the highest authority in the state, they expected him to respond immediately. He never did, prompting many to question his silence,” said Anifah.
According to the party, Shafie actually had the duty entrusted by the people to respond immediately and by doing so, would help to calm their fears down.
In July, Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr had revived the controversy by saying that Sabah “is not in Malaysia”.
Early this month, he reportedly said he would revive an office in the Department of Foreign Affairs dedicated to efforts to reclaim Sabah, a move seen as further reigniting the diplomatic row with Malaysia.
Malaysia has repeatedly declared that it never recognise nor acknowledge the Philippine claim on Sabah.
Anifah himself, who is Malaysia’s former Foreign Minister, has also repeatedly stressed that since such has been the country’s stance on the issue, it does not merit to be entertained, discussed let alone negotiated.
“Shafie could have responded immediately in line with Malaysia’s stance on the issue; that we don’t recognise the claim nor do we acknowledge it. Full stop. But he remained silent instead.
“As Sabah Chief Minister, don’t you think he was supposed to be the first to respond? He could argue that it’s for Putrajaya to respond. But the claim concerns Sabah and he was Sabah Chief Minister. People insisted that he should have responded first,” he said.
Anifah previously slammed Shafie on his handling of the Philippines’ renewed claim over Sabah, labelling him ignorant and reckless.
He had said that Manila’s latest provocation was caused by Shafie’s lack of experience in dealing with foreign issues which led to the Philippines becoming bolder in pursuing its claim on Sabah.
He had also argued that Shafie’s intention to bring the issue to an international arbitration court could cause Sabah to lose its sovereignty.
Anifah reportedly said during his time as Foreign Minister, the Philippines was never this bold but blamed Shafie’s recklessness in giving legitimacy to the claim by wanting to discuss and negotiate with the Philippines.
The PCS president had argued that if the arbitration court in Spain ruled in favour of the Philippines, Shafie would go down in Sabah history as the person that gave the state away.
“Shafie reportedly slammed certain quarters, claiming they were playing up the issue just to topple him in the election.
“Well, firstly, this is not just about the election. It’s about how he has been seen to have mishandled the issue that could cause Sabah to become part of the Philippines.
“Secondly, he said that even if he gets toppled in this election, the Philippines claim would not stop. My answer to this is that the Philippines can claim Sabah for as long as they want and we will continue to stand our ground by not recognizing it and entertaining it.
“But more importantly, we don’t want a Sabah Chief Minister who does not know how to handle this sensitive and controversial issue,” said Anifah.
He added that with Sabah already having a huge security issue with a huge number of illegal immigrants especially from the Southern Philippines, it cannot afford to make mistakes.
“Especially when the mistakes are made by the highest authority in the state,” he warned.
He warned that the level of sufferings Sabahans and their loved ones will endure will be unbearable if faced with a situation where the sovereignty of the state is lost to outsiders.
“We all know it will be a total chaos; a total nightmare. We’ve experienced how the Covid-19 pandemic has put us in a state of fear and anxiety. Thousands of people are finding it difficult to feed their loved ones because they’ve lost their jobs. They find it hard to get hired because many businesses have closed down. And their adult children, who should be in the most productive years of their life, are uncertain of their future.
“It can be the same scenario if we lost our sovereignty. Those people who we label as illegals or stateless would suddenly rise to claim Sabah as theirs. And many more like them would come from the thousands of little islands off Semporna since Sabah no longer belongs to us Sabahans.
“It’ll be the worst tragedy that can ever happen to us. But we have the power now to prevent it from happening,” advised Anifah.-pr/BNN