Umno’s hand in dubious Sabah voter registration

Written by Helen Ang (CPI ASIA)
It’s mighty suspicious that Umno has the most members not in its traditional stronghold of Johor but in Sabah!
The Umno website reported on Monday party vice president Mohd Shafie Apdal as saying Sabah has 449,805 Umno members, followed by Johor with 428,663 and Selangor 414,142 in third place. He said the updated membership roll shows altogether 3,159,484 members nationwide.
What makes the figures remarkable is that Umno only made its way to Sabah in February 1991 whereas the national party was formed in May 1946.
Umno history is steeped in Johor activism; its first president Onn Jaafar was a Johorean, Umno had its genesis with the Pergerakan Melayu Semenanjung Johor that got together to oppose the Malayan Union plan, as well as had its party charter approved at the third Malay Congress held in Istana Besar, Johor Bahru.
In the Umno Youth website on Monday too was issued the clarion call, ‘Isu semasa Pemuda: Daftar segera pemilih atau Melayu bakal hilang kuasa politik’ (Current issue for Youth: Register voters or Malays will lose political power). It was also reported in the Umno main site that the Umno Tebrau branch in Johor would be launching its voter registration programme.
Compared to Johor, Sabah is a Johnny-come-lately. And compared to Umno, the other parties PBS, PBRS, PRS, LDP, Upko, Usno, SAPP and a few smaller ones have recorded a longer presence in Sabah.
So how did Sabah come to have more Umno members than Johor?
Population of Sabah: Ethnic breakdown in numbers
Malay 332,400
Kadazan Dusun 484,800
Bajau 347,100
Murut 85,000
Other bumiputera 399,400
Chinese 271,500
Others 127,900
Source: Population and Housing Census of Malaysia 2000
How is it that Sabah has 449,805 Umno members when Malays are only 332,400 or 16.2 percent of the population of Sabah – out of the total state population of 2.05 milllion? (see pie chart).
Since there are barely enough Malay adults to make up half the Sabah Umno male membership, we must take it that the names registered would have come from the other ethnic groups. But more likely, they came from the huge number of 399,400 unidentified ‘other bumiputera’. (see table).
Mahathir’s covert agenda
Let’s look further at the demographics of the two states. Johor has shown a steady growth in its population whereas Sabah has simply ballooned beyond belief.
Population growth (1980-2000)
Year 1980 1991 2000
Johor 1,638 200 2,162 400 2,740 600
Sabah 983,100
1,800 800
2,603 400
Source: Population and Housing Census of Malaysia 2000
Sabah’s present population chaos is a result of Project M; the ‘M’ referring to Mahathir Mohamad. As we can see from Sabah’s trend-defying growth rate, it was during his premiership that the state population doubled and tripled. Indeed most extraordinary.
It has been estimated that some 600,000 MyKads were given to Filipino and Indonesian recent immigrants. These new Malaysian identity card holders who grossly inflated Sabah’s numbers are, needless to say, Muslim.
On another front, “[t]owards the middle of the 1980s and early 1990s, Malaysia was set on an Islamisation of laws agenda. The main players include Pusat Islam, the state religious authorities and Syariah Courts and the International Islamic University,” writes human rights activist Salbiah Ahmad who at that time was an IIU law lecturer.
“After Iran or Saudi Arabia, Malaysia’s syariah court system is probably the most extensive in the Muslim world,” writes Asia Research Institute fellow Dr Maznah Mohamad in an article published by Singapore’s Straits Times in January.
Mahathir as prime minister and his then protégé Anwar Ibrahim were largely responsible for the widespread Islamization of the country and in the state of Sabah where previously the Christian natives had been the largest single ethno-religious grouping.
Chinese are the target
In his paper ‘The Chinese population of Sabah’, Danny Wong Tze-Ken pointed out that according to the Jones report of 1962, Chinese made up 23 percent of the Sabah population in year 1960. Citing the Department of Statistics census findings, Wong states that Chinese shrank to 10.1 percent of the Sabah population in year 2000.
(Note: The CPI pie chart on Sabah population however uses the department’s adjusted figure of 13.3% Chinese. One reason for discrepancy could be due to mixed ancestry deriving from Sino-Kadazan marriages).
Wong writes: “In contrast, the recent immigrants and refugees, with a population of 614,824 persons in 2000, form close to one quarter of the population or more than twice the size of the long-settled Chinese community.”
Significant numbers of Chinese have been living in Sabah since the 19th century. Wong notes that as early as 1859 in the west coast of Sabah, an English traveler Stephen St John who visited the area reported several encounters with indigenous peoples who could speak fluent Teochew or the Hokkien dialects, and who claimed to be descendents of Chinese petty traders.
The above developments in Sabah over the past few decades should give an indication of the national agenda undertaken by Mahathir, Umno and the government agencies in cahoots with them. They had done their utmost to purposely skew the population balance with regard to race and religion, and of course, ensuring their ‘fixed deposit’ of East Malaysia votes.
Knowing this past history, what’s happening now should come as no surprise.
Demonisation of Chinese continues
On Monday, Berita Harian carried a banner headline on its front page that screamed ‘1:40, the ratio between Malay and non-Malay newly registered voters’.
The Malay daily sub-headed its revelation of the alleged figures as ‘membimbangkan’ (worrying). Quoting Umno Youth’s membership and voter registration bureau chairman Hishamudin Yahya, the paper reported that Malay political power will be ‘habis’ (finished) if Malays fail to register as voters, or if they do not bother to vote in the next general election.
Berita Harian still maintained its propaganda offensive yesterday with another front page headline ‘Belia Melayu ambil remeh’ (Malay youths not taking voter registration seriously) and a subhead: ‘SPR akui DAP agresif tarik pengundi Cina’ (Election Commission admits that DAP is aggressive in registering Chinese voters).
In response, PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar, when approached by Malaysiakini in Parliament yesterday, said he disagreed with the Berita Harian news reports and that they were intentionally inaccurate and racist.
Meanwhile, Dapsy chief Anthony Loke told reporters: “This is a racist statement meant to scare Malays into thinking that if they did not register as voters, the political influence of Malays would be in jeopardy,”
Loke claimed Hishamudin’s calculations were wrong, and that last year The Edge daily reported the highest registration for new voters as coming from Umno.
“Based on the Election Commission (EC) report, since 2008, 70 percent of voters registered were in fact Malays,” Loke said.
It was national news agency Bernama which reported on Sunday how statistics from the EC showed that last year alone, Umno registered the highest number of new voters at 24,818, followed by DAP with 17,756 and PAS with 16,987.
Malaysians have to ask why Berita Harian is deliberately choosing to escalate the race hysteria with its two front page reports; as if the ill-intentioned disinformation emanating from the likes of Perkasa, Gertak, Mahathir, Utusan, Mohd Ridhuan Tee Abdullah and sundry Malay academics and mouthpieces is not enough.
Since Najib Razak is Umno president, and it is the Umno-controlled Berita Harian heightening such a misinformed sense of alarm, how can Malaysians not dismiss his ‘1Malaysia’ slogan as spoken with a forked tongue?