It took five days for the nation’s political crisis to come to an end.
The deadlock which stemmed from no political parties having the numbers to form a government – resulting in a historic hung parliament after the 15th general election (GE15) – caused a lot of trepidation.
Malaysians who thought that a stable government can finally be formed after the parliamentary polls were left disappointed.
So too the political parties who were short of the magical 112 MPs – meaning they would have a simple majority in parliament.
Among the first acts by Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) chairman and Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg after seeing the election results was to reach out to Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Hajiji Noor.
Hajiji is the chairman of Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS). The Sabah ruling alliance had won six seats. It’s Sabah BN counterpart had won seven.
GPS at the time had won 22 out of 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak. The coalition then retained Baram, making it 23 seats. Polling for this seat was delayed due to floods.
With GPS’ Abang Johari being entrusted to decide on the bloc’s decision for the formation of the next federal government by GRS, it reflected Sabah’s trust in Sarawak for Borneo’s wellbeing.
Effectively, GPS was not only negotiating for the people of Sarawak, but also, the people of Sabah.
During the election campaign, among the popular sentiments talked about in the Land Below the Wind was how Sabahans wanted their state to be more like Sarawak.
Sabah ended up playing catch up with Sarawak in facilitating the return of Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) rights to the Borneo states.
This gave Abang Johari the clout to negotiate with the parties that form the federal government – Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN).
In the end, they opted for the former, despite previous strained ties when Pakatan was in power after GE14 for 22 months.
The Borneo bloc had initially backed Perikatan. However, this ruffled feathers, leading to concerns from the multi-ethnic community in the two states over the prospect of an Islamist federal government.
Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) commands the highest number of seats in parliament with 49 and was poised to have a big say in how the government should run.
This does not bode well for the people; they spoke and Abang Johari listened. A compromise was needed.
GPS was willing to work with any party. It had maintained cordial relationship with other parties, be it within Sarawak or with parties outside.
The only exception was the Democratic Action Party (DAP). This was due to their harsh treatment of Sarawak during their previous reign.
Abang Johari and the people of Sarawak could not come to terms with DAP former secretary-general and then finance minister Lim Guan Eng saying the state would be bankrupt in three years.
This had major financial repercussions to Sarawak in terms of investor confidence and economy given that this forecast, albeit flawed, came from Malaysia’s finance minister.
Guan Eng’s bungled handling of the dilapidated school repairs saga too was a sore point for the people of Sarawak.
However, as political parties, particularly GPS being decreed to end the political deadlock and form a unity government, egos had to be put aside.
Current DAP secretary-general Loke Siew Fook extended an olive branch, paying a courtesy call on Abang Johari in Kuching on Thursday.
He apologised in person for DAP’s previous mishaps which offended the Sarawak government and the people. This was followed through by Guan Eng himself who apologised to Sarawakians through social media.
Apparently, this was enough to win Abang Johari, the people of Sarawak and by-extension, Sabah over.
Hours later, Pakatan’s prime minister nominee Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as the country’s head of government after an announcement by Istana Negara.
The Borneo bloc heeded the advice of the King and played a pivotal part in restoring stability in the country.
As of writing, Anwar confirmed GPS was among the group backing his government along Barisan Nasional while Hajiji pledged that the Sabah government will cooperate with the new federal government.
Sarawak and Sabah took a chance to brave unchartered waters. The ball is in Anwar’s court to reciprocate. Give Sarawak and Sabah what is due to them. That is their only wish.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.