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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sarawak must re-write own story

Sarawak is not a 'fixed deposit' for the BN but a thinking state that must chart its own course.

COMMENT

We should not investigate facts by the light of arguments, but arguments by the light of facts. – Myson of Chanae

Never before has a singular event throw up so much dirt and fodder. The coming Sarawak election has produced enough political misadventures to give any right-minded thinkers a headache.

The run-up to the Sarawak polls (nomination is on April 6 and polling on April 16) is indeed a showcase of the current state of Malaysian politics.

The issues raised and the counter arguments advanced by both sides of the political divide can be seen as a form of comedy which can release you from daily stress. But it can also be stressful when in most instances, such issues merely insult the readers’ intelligence.

There are reports that Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) is heading for a major upset with the loss of at least 33 seats and that SNAP is poised for a dramatic comeback to Malaysian politics. Then there is the Pakatan Rakyat coalition which appears to have been relegated to the background where it is busy warding off attacks on its leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Add to this mix the ruckus concerning the impounded Al-Kitab (Malay-language bibles) and various other jabs at Christianity (including the “haram” tag on the poco-poco dance), the Sarawak election is going to be one heck of a ride.

At this point, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak should be having a migraine. His migraine may just turn into a haemorrhage when bumbling ministers like Nazri Aziz speak of protecting “criminal” whistleblowers and calling fellow BN members “nagging wives”.

Sarawakian intellects who have all this while remained quiet are noting down all these incidents breaking out on the national scale. They are slowly growing in number and strength.

The term “Sarawakian intellects” is not used loosely. It describes a community of people who are capable of deciphering and evaluating the arguments before them in the light of facts and taking steps to convey these truths to the grassroots communities.

Unprecedented step

This seems to be something that Chief Minister Taib Mahmud realises when he hastily commissioned his own SarawakReports (www.SarawakReports.org) where he seeks (though it is really too late) to touch base with Sarawakians who are tech-savvy and very much aware of current issues affecting the state.

Taib has taken this unprecedented step to justify his actions, only to shoot himself in the foot due to his own inexperience and that of his team in using this medium and coming came up with the (idiotically) clever idea of copying or imitating www.SarawakReport.org.

Taib knows that Sarawak is no longer a “fixed deposit” state.

The term “fixed deposit” branded on Sarawak by the BN is insulting. It implies that Sarawak is merely a rubber stamp colony of voters who would keep the state safe in BN’s grip.

Sarawak is not a “fixed deposit” state; it is a thinking state and holding Sarawak to ransom with promises of development is a lost cause.

Development is part of the job description of any democratically elected government, so why the constant reminder to the people on who would best give development?

Whoever holds the reins of government is obliged to provide development in any form to the people. There are no two ways about it.

Common carrot

The common carrot dangled before the Sarawak public is “development”. The promises of tarred roads, pipe water, electricity and infrastructure are commonplace, come election time. Yet, this is not what right-minded Sarawakians want to hear.

Instead, tell them what they really want to know.

What about the unemployment rate in the state? Why is it that 200,000 registered voters are working in the Peninsula?

Sarawak is very rich in natural resources but why is the state home to some of the poorest communities?

Sarawak recognises “Islam as the religion of the federation but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the federation’ (Article 3(1) –Constitution of Malaysia); yet why are non-Muslim Sarawakians subject to harassment by religious authorities who do not understand Sarawak?

Why is Article 153 of the Federal Constitution merely read to mean “Malay rights”? When read in its entirety, Article 153(1) states, “It shall be the responsibility of the Yang diPertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.”

What ever happened to the rights of the “natives of Sabah and Sarawak”?

Sarawak must re-write its own story and unless this is done, it will forever be stuck in the rut of a “fixed deposit” state that only rubber stamps intrusive policies that will erode the very fabric of society.

Maclean Patrick is a columnist with FMT and a webmaster based in Kuching. - FMT

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