KOTA KINABALU, Aug 1 2012 (Bernama) -- A Sabah veteran politician foresees a more secure future for Malaysia under the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration, and paid tribute to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for initiating transformation to make the country a developed nation by 2020.
Tun Sakaran Dandai, 82, a former Sabah chief minister, said Malaysians should be grateful that the country had been blessed with leaders who not only helped the country gain independence but also took care of their well-being.
He said he had faced various challenges to the development process in his 50 over years in politics and seen how the country had undergone changes for the better.
Sakaran said the transformation of the country was more pronounced under Najib, whom he described as the architect of the 1Malaysia concept.
"I find that Najib has exceptional qualities. He wants to see the country enter the era of excellence rapidly. In just four years as the prime minister, the people have been overwhelmed by what he is doing and wants done.
"He fulfills his promises to the people. Under the 1Malaysia concept, which gives preference to people regardless of race and religion, we now have the 1Malaysia clinics, 1Malaysia shops, 1Malaysia computers, 1Malaysia unit trust, higher salary for civil servants, subsidy for fishermen and large allocations for rural development.
"All these reflect the honesty of the prime minister in wanting to help the people regardless of race and religion," he said.
Sakaran said he was convinced that the people would be able to enjoy more facilities both in the urban and rural areas under Najib, and expressed the hope that they would give him a fresh mandate to administer the country.
The veteran leader said the transformation programmes required time to be implemented and it was necessary to retain the BN government in the next general election.
Sakaran recalled how the people had to put up with the lack of amenities during the colonial era, unlike now when they had good roads, schools, hospitals, electricity and clean water.
The people of Sabah were "living in the dark" then because not only did they not have electricity supply, the state was also backward in all aspects, including communication.
"For example, taking an unwell person from my village in Semporna to Tawau, where there was a clinic, would require us to travel almost a day by boat. Going to Kota Kinabalu would entail travel by boat over several days because there were no roads.
"The situation has changed now. Almost all major cities and towns and rural villages have tarred roads. If previously, before joining Malaysia in 1963, Sabah was lacking in many areas, now, after 49 years, it has emerged as one of the more developed states in the country," he said.
Sakaran said drastic changes were also seen in the education and health sectors.
"Previously, our children had to go to the peninsula or to other countries to further their studies. Now, we have Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), a branch campus of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), polytechnics and private colleges, as well as primary and secondary schools in every nook and corner of Sabah," he said.
Medical and health facilities were easily available in all the districts of the state, he said, adding that the "flying doctor" service attended to the people in the remote areas.
Sakaran said the BN government had played a vital role in placing the people and country on the right track of development and progress, not only physically but also spiritually, and in terms of solidarity, mutual respect and human capital values.
"The people of Sabah were under opposition rule at one time, and we faced great difficulty then due to a lack of cordial relations between the state and federal governments.
"If there is no cooperation between the state and federal governments, implementation of development programmes will be relatively slow. We do not want a repeat of this. We have seen how rapid development has been in Sabah under the BN," he said.
Sakaran said the Sabah BN government under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman had raised the state to a stronger economic position.
Hopefully, the people would continue to support the government, and Sabah would remain a stronghold of the BN in the next general election and repeat the excellent performance of the 2008 elections, he said.