KOTA BELUD – As the residents of Kota Belud parliamentary constituency gear up for the May 9 general election, one leader who has made a deep impact on their life is none other than their very own son, Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak.
Amiable and approachable, Salleh is a man for all seasons with an infectious love for the people in this heartland of Sabah’s Bajau community.
There is no air about him and serving the people in this rural enclave by bringing a better livelihood for them seems like a natural calling.
Even before and during his previous tenure as Sabah Chief Minister, his “man of the people” disposition is the talk of town. Anyone here will say that Salleh is never too busy to stop and have a chat or share ideas with those who seek his advice.
His easy-going style did not change after his appointments as both Communications and Multimedia Minister and UMNO treasurer. Even with his increased responsibilities and workload, Salleh would often fly back to Sabah to be with his immediate family and the local folk, particularly in Kota Belud.
He takes advantage of every opportunity to return to Sabah and it is all too obvious that Kota Belud is always close to his heart. While it would be easier due to his various tasks to spend extended periods of time in Peninsula Malaysia, Salleh incorporates it into his schedule to fly back to Sabah as often as possible.
Salleh does this because Sabah is always in his heart. Being himself from Kota Belud, he works tirelessly to make sure the needs of Kota Belud folks are addressed.The people of Kota Belud can rest assured that he will not waver in his mandate to champion their needs.
Even those on the other side of the political divide who may disagree with some of the stand Salleh takes, have never attacked his honesty and integrity.
Salleh knows that as a public figure, he is representing the people he serves, the government, his family and his belief.
Andrew Tolud of Kampung Tambulion here said the people are indeed blessed to have such a natural leader, not only well respected by the locals in Kota Belud and the state but also the whole country.
“He is quite firm, bold, sharp and intelligent in articulating ideas and always based on facts, not just rhetorics.
“He is also also very attentive to the problems faced by the people such as the flooding woes in Kota Belud. This is the kind of leader we want,” he told Bernama.
Describing Salleh as the gem for Kota Belud, Andrew was optimistic about its future under Salleh’s leadership and urged the constituents to rally behind him, thus paving the way for more development in the area.
He opined that a ruling party representative would be in a better position to champion the cause of the people for the parliamentary seat of Kota Belud compared to the opposition who could only offer promises or lip service.
Concurring with Andrew’s views, Abd Kasim Jantan of Kampung Pirasan said Salleh is a down-to-earth leader and has contributed much to the development of Kota Belud such as building new schools, upgrading the road from Tuaran to Kota Belud and improving broadband penetration.
He said the ugrading of the Kota Belud-Tuaran road had shortened the journey from Kota Belud to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah.
“Salleh was a member of Parliament for Kota Belud and Sabah chief minister before, and to me..he is a very experienced politician who has a peculiar strength and ability to carry out his tasks excellently.
“From my own observation, Salleh has performed well as federal minister or rather Communications and Multimedia Minister. He can go far in his political career,” he said.
On Dec 28, 1994, Salleh, who holds a Phd in Political Science and Government from Universiti Putra Malaysia, was appointed as the chief minister of Sabah. His tenure as the state chief minister ended on May 26, 1996, and he was succeeded by SAPP president Datuk Yong Teck Lee.
Kampung Tempasuk 1 resident Elsianna Samuel said Salleh always looked after the needs of the people, regardless of race, religion and gender.
“Apart from being friendly and generous, Salleh has also shown his leadership qualities by ensuring Kota Belud continues to enjoy development in all aspects of life, including enhanced internet or broadband penetration and educational facilities,” she said.
An entrepreneur from Kampung Tombol Jamaika Kirau said with the support of Salleh, several notable programmes for women and the youth had been implemented in Kota Belud.
“With these programmes, more women in the Kota Belud district have ventured into small scale businesses, and some of them have become entrepreneurs,” she said.
According to Jamaika, Salleh had also played a role in boosting the local economy, particularly tourism industry in Kadamaian.
“Salleh gives full support to the Kadamaian Tourism Association to promote Kadamaian as a tourism product or attraction for Kota Belud, and now thousands of tourists have visited Kadamaian, thus benefiting the locals in terms of income and their livelihood,” he said.
As such, Jamaika called on the people to unite and give undivided support to the 60-year-old local leader who would bring Kota Belud, home of a people known as the “Cowboys of the East” and famous with its weekly market, the Kota Belud Tamu, to greater heights. – BERNAMA