COMMENT | Just a few more laps and Sabah will go to the polls to elect a new state government. Who will the people vote for on Sept 26?
Having heard numerous speeches, attended many ceramah, and seen how politicians work themselves up to a frenzy, the electorate would have a fairly good idea of the overall picture.
The situation may look complicated given that there are so many contestants in the arena. But the choice for the people of Sabah is clear-cut: either you vote for Warisan Plus or Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS).
By now, the people can judge for themselves the respective positions of Warisan and GRS. Warisan is all about building a nation that "touches the hearts of all Malaysians", regardless of race and religion.
GRS, realising how tough the going is, has resorted to playing up the politics of development to entice the people with things material. In short, it is all about money, money, money.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is heading the GRS charge, can only offer goodies with a hollow promise that life in Sabah could be better under GRS rule.
To spice up his coalition, he has dangled a carrot by including the Malaysia Agreement 63 (MA63) in the GRS manifesto. He has even formed, on the spur of the moment, a special council to discuss MA63.
To the people of Sabah and Sarawak, implementing MA63 is an all-important objective because it means that the two states would be regarded as associate members, or equal partners, ever since they joined the peninsula to form Malaysia in 1963.
But, for more than 50 years, the matter had been swept under the carpet, leaving Sabah and Sarawak as merely two poor states in Malaysia.
Not even Dr Mahathir Mohamad had done anything concrete about it during his 20-odd year premiership although he now supports giving the two states equal status in the heat of a state election.
Now, Muhyiddin has resurrected the MA63 ghost not because he sincerely wants to amend the Federal Constitution to restore the status of the two states but because it is all a bait, or political gimmick, to capture the hearts and minds of the Sabah voters.
The voters have been urged to cast their ballots wisely - popular advice which carries a thinly-veiled threat that if you side with Warisan, your future is doomed.
But the election is a golden opportunity for the people to take charge of their own destiny and send a loud message to Putrajaya: work with Sabah for a better Malaysia.
Caretaker Chief Minister Shafie Apdal is certainly up against a seemingly formidable alliance. He is facing the full might of the federal government, which can afford to dispense largesse liberally.
To the people of Sabah, the choice is stark: either vote for Sabah's brand of peaceful coexistence or follow the toxic and rancid peninsular politics of race, religion, and hate.
PHLIP RODRIGUES is a retired journalist.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.