Illegals, poor infrastructure top concerns as Sabah voter optimism falls

The Malaysian Insider | KUALA LUMPUR, 02-Oct-2012 — The number of voters who feel Sabah is headed in the right direction has fallen since 2009, with the high number of illegal immigrants, poor infrastructure and a lack of development cited as major concerns, a survey released today showed, suggesting a rise in dissatisfaction that could be exploited by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) against Barisan Nasional (BN) for crucial votes in the next general election.

According to Merdeka Center, just 54 per cent of voters polled felt the state was headed in the right direction, a marked decline from a high of 66 per cent in a previous survey conducted in November 2009.

A whopping 53 per cent of voters surveyed listed the illegal immigration problem as the most important issue being faced in the BN stronghold state, justifying Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s (picture) recent decision to set up a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) to investigate the matter.

But the continued decline in optimism among voters will be of major concern to Sabah state leaders and Najib.

“Among the top five reasons for the decline appears to be the perception that the state remains lagging in terms of economic development and infrastructure particularly in rural areas as well as cost of living pressures,” Merdeka Center said.

“The survey also found that a number of respondents cited dissatisfaction with the political leadership as well as the illegal immigration problem.”

Those who felt the state was headed in the right direction expressed continued satisfaction at the pace of economic development and the continuing peaceful conditions in the state.

The survey found that an overwhelming 87 per cent agreed with the establishment of the RCI into the matter.

But Merdeka Center pointed out that confidence in the effective of the commission was more circumspect — with only 54 per cent expressing confidence that the commission will be able to address the problem.

The survey also found that Sabah voters had mixed views as to the motivation behind the establishment of the

commission, with 46 per cent saying it was “a genuine attempt to address the illegal immigrant problem” while 36 per cent agreeing that it was a “political move to reduce the anger of Sabahans before the election”.

A 2010 census of Sabah’s population showed an extraordinary 390 per cent increase from 636,431 citizens in 1970 to 3,120,040 citizens in 2010 ― more than double the national population growth of just 164 per cent.

Of the 3.12 million Sabahans today, reports have estimated that 27 per cent are foreigners.

The survey was carried out by the Merdeka Center in September. The poll was jointly funded by Merdeka Center and a regional consultancy firm.