Special Report

For many Sabahans, it’s all about putting food on the table

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SPECIAL REPORT | Politicians can talk about the 1MDB issue and criticise Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's leadership until the cows come home - but unlike voters in Peninsular Malaysia, all Sabah voters care about is getting food on the table.

Talk about 1MDB in the more rural areas and they will not even understand what it is all about. This was said by a local voter who was met on the streets in the heart of the Kota Kinabalu city centre.

"Maybe those who understand are the educated ones. But the rest, what they only want is cash, water tanks, Housing Project for the Hardcore Poor (PPRT) homes, gas, rice and sugar," said Kinabatangan native Awang Asgali (photo), matter-of-factly.

Tuaran native Aman Mohd Zain attested to this.

"Sabahans don't care about issues concerning the peninsula. We only care about our rights.

"It's like our own home, we'd like to have control of our own money to make changes to our houses. But when others hold on to our money, it's hard to make the house prettier. It's the same for Sabah," Aman (photo) said.

A United Nations Millenium Development Goals report conducted last year shows that poverty hounds one in five Sabah bumiputera households.

However, according to the Department of Statistics, the average monthly household income in the state has increased from RM4,879 in 2014 to RM5,354 in 2016.

But on an individual level, the average monthly income of Sabahans in 2016 was RM1,723, the lowest in the country.

Grab car driver Lim Ket Siong, 23, is one such individual struggling to earn a living.

"For most Sabahans who earn less than RM1,000, it's so hard to make ends meet," he told Malaysiakini while driving in Kota Kinabalu.

Being a driver is just one of Lim's (photo) many business ventures to "earn extra income".

For him, what he wants is a state government that can give him more income tax exemptions.

This struggle that Sabahans face has not gone unnoticed by politicians...