Does S’wak’s future lie with Malaysia?
by Dr John Brian Anthony | Jul 3, 08 4:10pm Malaysiakini
Looking at the physical development of Sarawak, it lacks so many things even the most basic needs – roads, water, electricity, education and health. Why are we still so dependent on river transport? Why are Sarawak trunk roads in such poor condition and lack proper facilities for drivers?
Why is clean drinking water so difficult to get and there is still no electricity for dwelling places that are located in some urban areas and most sub-urban areas. Where is the money from our timber? Has it gone into the pockets of elite businessmen and corrupted politicians and civil service officers?
A timber tug boat operator now owns one of the largest timber companies and has hundreds and thousands of acres of plantation land – how can that be? It can be when the chief politician makes it so. In the process, the people of Sarawak are deprived of their wealth generated from the valuable tropical trees that the natives have held so dear to their heart.
The jungle is the major provider of their needs. For the rich man, he sent in gangsters to his estates to subdue any Dayak from making complaints and demanding for a better living standard. The Dayak got the wrong end of the stick in all cases.
Money from oil? Many are asking what has happened to the money we get from the oil royalty? We are now suffering from an oil price hike so when did we enjoy the money from our oil then? The price of gas cylinders for cooking is reaching $180 per tank in rural Sarawak. The natives cannot understand such products that are produced in Bintulu – from Sarawak’s gas field – are priced that high.
The West Malaysians are paying much less and they are the ones that have no gas when we take the Terengganu equation out.
Why are we not seeing good schools and good health care for Sarawak’s rural folks? The ‘Flying Doctor’ service is still too limited while billions worth of hospitals are built in West Malaysia – not one but many. In Sarawak, the Sarawak General Hospital was built maybe four decades ago. Do we have a new one – the answer is ‘no’.
We do have new expensive private hospitals though the poor rural folks have no chance of using them as they don’t have the money.
Money from hydro-dams? The Batang Ai hydro dam has forced the relocation of people living in the area. There is no land to expand their farming activity and the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) provides only minimum wages for their work in the plantations and a low return for their shares in Salcra. The government has shortchanged the people.
The same government headed by the same person after 30 plus years is ignoring the plight of the poor people in Lubuk Antu. You just need to go to Lubuk Antu – what major economic activities have been implemented there? The answer is none as the government’s idea of helping the poor is by not training them to have skills and knowledge to better themselves.
Some Dayak leaders are there to ensure that the Dayaks do not progress and are therefor easier to control for political gain.
Is electricity made available to the longhouses and villages in nearby areas? The answer is ‘no’.
The Bakun dam is near completion. Is it going to benefit Sarawak poor – the answer is ‘no’. It will feed the richer West Malaysian states and provide power to their industries.
Why don’t they relocate their industries to Sarawak? Because it is too expensive and Sarawak lacks basic infrastructure, it lacks skilled workers, it has limited port facilities, a poor transport system, it lacks towns that can provide comforts for the employees, etc.
This goes to show that the rich grab the poor man’s resources but are not paying for such resources in the correct manner. Otherwise why are the poor getting poorer? Why should we still stay with Malaysia?
Money from palm oil? Where is the money earned from plantations? We all know that the biggest plantation companies are from West Malaysia and Umno-linked companies. Just go to their offices and the senior management teams and managers are West Malaysians. The field supervisors and labourers are local Sarawakians – we can’t help but feel ‘colonised’ and made second-class citizen of Malaysia.
Our prime land is taken to feed West Malaysians. We feel very disappointed and hurt by this attitude. It is time for Sarawakians to think about leaving Malaysia. Leaving Malaysia – why?
Sarawak has not received what is due to them.
Sarawak has been sidelined and ignored – no senior positions in the federal civil service, no senior members in the police and army, no important positions in the cabinet. The Sarawak bumiputera is a ‘fourth class’ citizen, behind the major races in West Malaysia.
We didn’t join Malaysia to only learn to speak Bahasa Malaysia and have Islam as our official religion. We did not join Malaysia to champion ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ and be made used of by Umno elitists to further strengthen their grip on political power and wealth.
We want justice, we want equality, we want respect and we want dignity in our lives. We do not need to bow, kneel and plead for what is rightly ours. We want our own money to develop ourselves and be able to live a better life.
From this frustration with the BN government under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, we are even thinking of leaving Malaysia. It has brought us untold misery and frustration with its poor leadership and poor planning accorded to Sarawak.
Furthermore, why has the federal government not approved the Dayak community’s wish to form their own political party known as the Malaysian Dayak Congress? They should ensure that the races are represented by political organisations of their choice.
We want to have our political freedom of choice and association. We do not want to feel that there is ethnic genocide in Sarawak too. Sarawak for Sarawakians.
It is the very policy and structure of BN government that is causing Sarawak to lag behind so far from the rest of Malaysia. The Sarawak leader can shout nonsense that the Dayaks are equal to the rest of the Malaysian population etc because he wants to feel good about himself – he who has overstayed his welcome and value.
He has made certain elites in the community rich beyond their wildest dreams. Have these elitists helped Sarawak’s poor – the answer is still ‘no’
As much as I agree with most of the points by the writer, I have my reservations on the suggestion of ”Sarawak Independence’. We are fast to blame West Malaysians and Malaysian government on the shortcomings in Sarawak, as the writer put it ‘untold misery and frustration with its poor leadership and poor planning accorded to Sarawak’.
Sorry but I do not agree with that. The very reason Sarawak is still lagging behind is the people themselves. If we should blame anyone, we should point at the leaders and the people that give the mandate to stay in power, which is you and me. These leaders were elected to serve people in Sarawak in their capacity as the State Government and they are entrusted with responsibilities to ‘make deals’ with the Federal Government on behalf of the people and they should make the best deal for us. Did they??
The writer said, ‘Sarawak has not received what is due to them’. Are we sure Sarawak leaders do their job asking for what is due for Sarawak? Well, since they are the broker between the people and the Federal Government, they should do the their job and if they are not, why people in Sarawak keep giving the mandate in each and every election? If they are not putting people’s interest first they should not be there in the first place, after making so much promises. Many Sarawak leaders are like aging warlords, they have been there for decades!! They keep making promises year in and out but what we get so far?
Independence? Leave Malaysia? So this beautiful state will stay under ‘the reigning Sarawak leader’ for another decade until he is 6ft under and his cronies continue his ‘legacy’? Oh that sounds very wonderful! Great move, don’t you think? If this Malaysian Government is corrupt, practicing nepotism, cronyism, Sarawak Government is very much part of the chain because last General Election, Sarawak ‘donated’ 30 parliamentary seats to the current ruling party – BN, out of total 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak. That is a whooping 21.43% of the total 140 seats in the parliament for the current government.
When political tsunami flooded most the BN seats in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak still very much trapped in its ‘comfort zone’, choosing BN as their one and only choice. Many asked the question “What happened in Sarawak?” After all, if peninsular voters can dump the BN, why didn’t Sarawakians follow suit? Again, Sarawak is not peninsular. Despite such ‘bullying’, ‘bluffing’ and ‘bribing’ prior to the general election, Sarawakians still happily voted for BN, and any argument against their choice is always – politics in Sarawak is different, do not compare with Peninsular Malaysia.
Sarawakians do not mind to vote for these leaders despite their underhand tactics:
While campaigning in Bintangor, Taib Mahmud urged voters to support the BN and to never disassociate themselves from the mainstream development agenda. He also warned Chinese voters of ‘grave consequences’ if SUPP lost further support (ET, BP, SC, SH, US, 1 March). His deputy, Alfred Jabu was equally blunt and told voters inclined to support the opposition ‘to think twice, if they wanted continuous development from the government’ (US, 2 March).
Echoing this intimidating sentiment, the Sibu SUPP strongman and BN candidate for Lanang, Tiong Thai King, noted pointedly that the annual federal government development allocation to Robert Lau, the BN candidate for Sibu, and himself was RM10 million. In the event they lost the election, Tiong said this RM10 million would be switched to other places (IT, 6 March).
Another SUPP heavyweight Wong Soon Koh noted the same. He suggested the federal government’s Ninth Malaysia Plan allocation of RM400 million meant for flood mitigation measures in Sibu would be diverted if the two BN candidates in Sibu failed to get re-elected (ET, BP, 5 March).
So too George Chan, Deputy Chief Minister and SUPP party president opined that all constituencies that voted in opposition candidates in 2006 had seen their annual development allocations postponed indefinitely or cancelled (IT, 7 March).
Parroting the SUPP bigwigs, small-fry Tan Joo Phoi, the Batu Kawa BN state assembly member, told Chinese voters that they ‘should appreciate what they have now, and continue to support SUPP’ so that society remained in a state of peace and prosperity (SH, 29 February). In a subsequent speech, he went further and noted that if the Chinese were marginalised politically, they would end up like ‘the Chinese in Indonesia’ (SH, 2 March).
Apart from bullying tactics, the BN also unashamedly bluffed their way – often via racist arguments – through the election campaign.
George Chan told Miri voters that if the SUPP Miri candidate lost, Sarawak Chinese would likely also lose their only Chinese federal minister to voice their Chinese views (IT, 26 February). A SUPP letter to the editor also noted that without Chinese representation in the BN, the Chinese would effectively ‘lose their rights’ (SC, 26 February).
Robert Lau, the SUPP candidate for Sibu, urged hawkers to support SUPP as the Chinese comprised a mere 30 per cent of the state’s population. According to Robert, any SUPP loss would possibly see the emergence of a Malay mayor for the city. And what if the Mayor apportioned licenses according to ethnic ratios? If that happened, Robert opined that nobody could help the Chinese hawkers, not even the opposition (SH, 3 March).
In a speech supporting Dr Tiki Lafe, the BN candidate for Mas Gading, Peter Nansian (the Tasik Biru BN state assembly member) said that unlike the BN, the opposition was only a hindrance to development (ET, 26 February).
Taib Mahmud also played the bluff game when he told voters not to believe the opposition party’s manifesto call to ‘change the government’ since ‘opposition parties cannot guarantee the future of the people and the country’ (US, 6 March).
But the biggest bluff of all was played by the Borneo Post (6 March) when it ran page upon page of seemingly superlative news about how well the Malaysian economy performed under the BN in an election supplement. written by hacks using questionable data supplied by the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, which was paid for by a ‘mysterious’ source!
But bluff was not enough. So, the BN also resorted to outright bribery.
As in previous elections, two types of bribery were rampant during this election.
The first was development handouts by the BN in exchange for votes. Bribes in anything but name, infrastructure projects worth a total of about RM1.622 billion (yes, billion!) were declared open and promised to the electorate by nearly all the Sarawak BN leaders and candidates throughout the campaign period. Note that this is only the reported figure! Many other infrastructure projects were launched as well but the value of these development bribes was not reported.
The BN also gave away about RM1.985 million (but likely more) in cash under the guise of development grants – just to show voters how thoughtful they were, even as they bought their votes.
Land compensation payments amounting to millions and hundreds of land leases were renewed while hundreds of other new land titles were also distributed during the campaign period.
Note also that all these figures do not include all other infrastructure projects launched and cash handouts given after polling day of which there was also a substantial amount, including one personal pledge/donation of RM100,000 by BN MP Tiong King Sing to SM Kai Dee in Bintulu (BP, 17 March).
Then, there was the more shady practice of alleged vote-buying via straight-forward but clandestine cash handouts. The DAP candidate for Kuching, Chong Chen Jien made a police report alleging that SUPP had carried out vote-buying in the constituency. This was vehemently denied by the BN candidate Alan Sim.
Then, Philip Tukok, a supporter of the independent candidate for Sri Aman, alleged that he and two others had been offered a RM10 bribe by BN agents at approximately 8.00 pm on 7 March, the eve of polling, at Rumah Kion, Tanjung Bijat, Sri Aman (Malaysiakini, 13 March).
Wong Ho Leng, the DAP candidate for Lanang, also alleged in his blog that postal votes seemed to be for sale in his constituency a few days before polling day (Wong Ho Leng, 10 March).
An independent candidate, Wong Hua She, attributed his loss to ‘money politics’ especially in Bintangor (SH, 11 March).
Considering the election results for Bukit Begunan in the 1996 state election was voided by the Election Court on account of unashamed electoral bribery by BN campaign agents, such anecdotal allegations carry more than a whiff of authenticity about them.
Of course, apart from the all these factors, BN won hands down because Sarawakians did not have much confidence in the alternative, thanks to immature and lame opposition antics during the election. The combined DAP-PKR opposition in Sarawak was pathetic due to their inability to present themselves as an intelligent, strategic and ultimately viable alternative to the BN.
Bickering by Opposition also helped BN
Instead of organising a mature and thoughtful campaign against the BN, both PKR and DAP bickered over seats and attacked each other throughout, thus sabotaging their respective campaigns. Their intense bickering in the public realm which was most evident in the Chinese press disgusted voters.
Thus, despite the best efforts of the national PKR-DAP leadership to get the state-level PKR and DAP to present a united front against the BN, the local PKR-DAP ayam jantan leaders were unable to see the big picture. Instead, they chose to display their stupidity and vacuously super-inflated egos in miserable tit-for-tat attempts to score insignificant points against each other. Consequently, disgusted voters either voted for the BN or refrained from voting.
Small wonder the BN laughed and romped all the way home with 30 seats. And they will win again in the forthcoming state elections due by 2011 if these so-called ‘champions of the people’ in PKR-DAP do not get their act together.
Sarawak is what Sarawakians want it to be. How many of us Sarawakians working outside the state even bother to tell our friends and families in Sarawak the truth? Heck, for many politics is a dirty word. Let it be known that politics has a long hand. It touches every single thing in your life whether you aware or not. Your fix deposit in the bank interest rate, your housing loan, your salary, your economy rice price, your business… Oh, your government just told you to CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE.. so, definitely you are affected.
It is simplistic to think getting Sarawak out of Malaysia will solve all the problem, but at least that is a start. The very idea of it, the reasons behind the birth of the idea make you realise after so long, we are still so far behind compared to our friends in Peninsular Malaysia despite our vast resources. This jolted us from our slumber sleep when Sarawak leaders are busy playing golf, flying in their private helicopters and counting profits from their ‘mis-venture’ in oil plantation companies, oil and gas companies and other lucrative projects.
The Flaccid Mind says: WE WRITE OUR OWN DESTINY.