A louder call for self-governance


Commentary

By Lian Cheng

There were two Sarawak Independence Day rallies here in Kuching today (July 22, 2019), apart from the state-level Sarawak Day Celebration held in Bintulu.

One was organised by Sarawak Association of Peoples’ Aspiration (Sapa) at Padang Merdeka from 9am to 11am, while the second was organised by Kuching Tradition Handicraft Studies Society at the Song Kheng Hai rugby field.

It started to rain since about 8am in the morning. Turnout at Padang Merdeka was low which was widely expected. Despite the small number, spirits were high and activities proceeded as planned. There were short speeches of few sentences but the points were sharp and sweet. Nonetheless, due to the rain, many seemed unable to focus, except the organising team.

At about 9.15am, a group of cyclists arrived and livened up the event. There was more shouting of slogans with these cyclists all suited in black, juxtaposed with Sapa supporters who were wearing red T-shirt.

Another group all dressed up in traditional attire was seeking shelter from the rain at St Thomas Cathedral about 50 metres away. It was only after invitation upon invitation that they made their grand entrance. Immediately, their exhuberant cries lifted the general atmosphere at the rally which until that point, seemed somewhat weighed down by the grey skies. That was about 10am.

Participants dressed in traditional Iban attire in the midst of Sapa’s Sarawak Independence Day rally at Padang Merdeka.

The second noticeable change came about at 10.30am. If you were somewhere near the old Kuching General Post Office at that time, you would have suddenly noticed a sea of yellow flags approaching from Main Bazaar Road heading to Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg. Resounding ahead of this sea of people holding Sarawak flags marching toward Padang Merdeka were thunderous slogans — “Agi Hidup Agi Ngelaban”, “Sarawak Keluar Malaysia” and more.

When the two groups met at Padang Merdeka, there were two more speeches and much more shouting of slogans, followed by the hoisting of two flags — the present Sarawak flag and of the Kingdom of Sarawak — as well as a pledge of loyalty to “country” Sarawak.

Then came the surprise. The audience was asked to sing along with a recording of Andy Williams’ award-winning song “The Land is Mine”, also called the Exodus Song. The lyrics are as follows:

The land is mine, God gave this land to me
This brave and ancient land to me
And when the morning sun reveals her hills and plain
Then I see a land where children can run free.

So take my hand and walk this land with me
And walk this lovely land with me
Though I am just a man, when you are by my side
With the help of God, I know I can be strong.

Though I am just a man, when you are by my side
With the help of God, I know I can be strong.

To make this land our home
If I must fight, I’ll fight to make this land our own
Until I die, this land is mine.

When the song was played, some present noticeably fell quiet. It was an unfamiliar song to many. The crowd of about 1,500 quietened down in contrast to the adrenalin-driven shouting of slogans just a while ago.

Men dressed in traditional Dayak attire coming to support Sapa’s Sarawak Independence Day rally at Padang Merdeka.
A woman wearing traditional Bidayuh attire taking part in the march from Song Kheng Hai rugby field to Padang Merdeka.

Williams’ husky voice seemed to break through the hearts of many. Those familiar with the song were even seen with tearful eyes and sunk into deep thoughts. Some could not continue and Sapa president Dominique Ng was one of them.

The reasons why some Sarawakians are fighting for self-rule and voicing their discontentment towards the government perhaps could be summed up by what Ng told a press conference after the event.

“We are angry with the federal government because until now, it still refuses to recognise MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963). MA63 is not found in the Federal Constitution and because of that, we (Sabah and Sarawak) are only the 12th and 13th states of an expanded Malaya.

“The recent attempt to amend Article 1 and 2 of the Federal Constitution exposed the federal government’s hidden agenda — that they never and will not recognise Malaysia per se. Their version of Malaysia was only an expansion of Federation of Malaya to include Sarawak and Sabah as the 12th and 13th states, followed by a name change.

“That was why for years, they failed and refused to recognise Malaysia Day as they conveniently forgot about September 16. In fact, Sarawak just changed from one colonial master to another. That is the reality,” said Ng.

Meanwhile, Ng stressed that Sarawak Independence Day is not Sarawak Day, and to call it Sarawak Day was to dilute the meaning and the significance of the day. He however thanked the Sarawak government for the consent to hold such an event in Kuching.

“This is the first time that the Sarawak government gave official permission to us to organise Sarawak Independence Day. We thank the Sarawak government for that. This shows that the Sarawak government also realises the significance of the day.” — DayakDaily

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