A “bad deal” for Sarawak

Signature. — DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

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WITH the dawn of a “new” Malaysia on May 9, there were a thousand and one hopes of a new beginning for all Malaysians. And for us Sarawakians, there was hope of greater rights and autonomy, which formed part of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election manifesto.

However, when the first batch of cabinet members was announced on May 18, none of the 12 Pakatan Harapan MPs from Sarawak was picked to be among the so-called ‘core’ or senior ministers in Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad’s Cabinet.

The final lineup was announced today, and it was so disappointing, where even Sarawak PH chairman, Chong Chieng Jen, was given only a junior minister’s post. He was sworn in as the Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs.

Sarawak’s sole pride lay with its Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) chief, Baru Bian. He was appointed Works Minister, making him the first Lun Bawang to be appointed to such a post. Before this, another Lun Bawang, Datuk Henry Sum Agong, was the deputy minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, but that was under the then Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

Ask any Sarawakian on the full Cabinet line-up, and most of them will say it was very disappointing, indeed.

The PH GE14 manifesto had trumpeted that should it take over Putrajaya, PH would honour the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). The then opposition coalition even promised that it would set up a royal commission to look into Sarawak’s affairs and see how all obstacles could be resolved within the ambit of the federation as an equal partner.

Commenting on the issue, political analyst Dr Jeniri Amir of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) said the cabinet line-up was a ‘big slap in the face’ for Chong, as he was promised a full cabinet post by none other than DAP’s supremo, Lim Guan Eng, in the run-up to the May 9 polls.

“The Cabinet line-up is very disappointing as this is first time in our country’s history that major races in Sarawak, such as the Dayaks and Malay/Melanaus, are not included at all. This showed that this administration is not inclusive and very unfair to us Sarawakians,” Jeniri told DayakDaily today.

He opined that if the Federal Cabinet was already lopsided and non-inclusive, then there was nothing much for Sarawak to look forward to in terms of PH’s manifesto’s fulfillment for Sarawak.

“How can we have greater autonomy by having our rights back if our representation in the federal cabinet is so minimal? Now people will ask whether this is the so-called ‘New Malaysia’ as promised by PH. If this is the case, we are really being shortchanged because people will compare when the BN allocated seven full ministers for Sarawak after the GE13 in 2013,” he stressed.

Jeniri said with 12 PH MPs (six each from both PKR and DAP) from Sarawak, what it had gotten was really a bad deal from its PH masters in Malaya.

As speculated earlier, Selangor got the lion’s share with eight full ministers, followed by Johor with five. And the best deal went to Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), where five of its 11 MPs were appointed full ministers and five deputy ministers. This is followed by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), of which Dr Mahathir is the chairman, with six full ministers and four deputy ministers out of the 13 MPs they have. PKR has seven full ministers and seven deputy ministers out of its 47 MPs, and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) has six full ministers and six deputy ministers out of its 42 MPs.

However, Jeniri hoped that the Federal Cabinet would be inclusive in its policies for all the various races and religions in the country.

“In fulfilling its manifesto, let’s hope that the PH government will be able to deliver what it has promised not only within the 100 days but also for the next five years. After all, the rakyat is now the real boss,” he quipped. — DayakDaily