In the 1976 Sabah state elections, for the constituency of Kiulu, an unknown challenged Tun Fuad Stephens, who has already achieved all the following things:
- played a fundamental role in bringing the state of Sabah into the Federation of Malaysia 13 years earlier;
- was the current, and first Huguan Siou (Paramount Leader) of the Kadazandusun community
- the first Chief Minister of Sabah, 1963-1964
- Yang di-Pertua Negeri (Governor) of Sabah, 1973-1975
- in 1964, he became the first federal cabinet member from Sabah: Minister in charge of Sabah affairs under the Prime Minister’s department
- Ambassador of Malaysia to Australia
- co-founder of BERJAYA, the party that would rule Sabah from 1976 to 1985.
And with strong sentiments blowing against the ruling USNO at that time, one would expect that Stephens would crush this unknown like a fly.
But, surprisingly, he put up a very strong fight against the heavyweight of heavyweights in the local political scene.
Running under the Pekemas banner, he was the only candidate of that party who did not lose his deposit. There were 11 Pekemas candidates that year, with total votes garnered 2,800+. He got almost half of that!
The other guy in the 3-corner fight was Datuk Payar Juman, who a few years earlier defected from UPKO to USNO. In this elections, he was totally rejected by the Kiulu people, getting only 284 votes.
Vote counting was done at Dewan Masyarakat Tuaran.
This was the result:
Total registered voters: 4,262
Total valid votes cast: 3,539
Total voter turnout: 83%
Spoilt votes: 92
Tun Haji Mohd. Fuad Stephens (BERJAYA): 2,137 votes
Patrick Godomon (PEKEMAS): 1,026 votes
Datuk Payar Juman (USNO): 284 votes.
Majority: 1,111 votes
The impact was such that this unknown made it to the book Who’s Who in Malaysia around that time, and getting a letter from Tan Sri Dr David Tan Chee Khoon (1919-1996).
If you didn’t know, Tan was a major figure in Malaysian politics from 1959 to 1978, once dubbed “Mr. Opposition” for the outspoken views he presented in Parliament. He was Malaysian Parliament’s Opposition Leader 1964 to 1978. Tan co-founded Parti Gerakan, and also Pekemas (Parti Keadilan Masyarakat Malaysia, or Social Justice Party of Malaysia) after he became disillusioned with Gerakan.
Due to health problems, Tan retired from politics in 1977, whereupon most of Pekemas’ supporters defected to the DAP.
The following is the letter, dated 20th May 1976. Sorry it’s a bit small, I hope you don’t need a magnifying glass to read it.