By Lian Cheng
I can still remember vividly my flight back to Kuching from New Zealand via Singapore two years ago. A British woman seated next to me suddenly blurted out, “New Zealanders are still very conservative!”
Wow!, I thought. I must admit her remark jolted me somewhat because I never felt the Kiwis were a conservative lot even after spending two weeks in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
But after pondering over what she uttered, it soon dawned upon me that I did not find New Zealanders to be conservative because Sarawakians and the Kiwis are “birds of the same feather”, of sorts. I come from a very conservative land, too, called Sarawak, where old traditions and age-old values are still safeguarded like treasures.
Similar to New Zealand, Sarawak sits on an island. The seas and oceans around us kind of form a natural shield, protecting us from undesirable elements.
Sarawak is also still somewhat shielded from tangible threats like weapons and drugs smuggling to the digital varieties propagated by the World Wide Web (WWW). It is one thing to read about or watch online an individual spouting division and hatred till the cows come home but it is a totally different thing to allow that scumbag to enter Sarawak and instigate the locals.
Since Day One, Sarawak has been fortunate to have leaders who are open-minded and sensitive to local sentiments. That applies to leaders on both sides of the political fence. In short, Sarawakians should be thankful to the leaders of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Sarawak Pakatan Harapan (PH) for the racial and religious harmony that we are enjoying today.
Just take a peep at the Christmas messages from leaders such as GPS president Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, Sarawak Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) chief Baru Bian, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) publicity chief Datuk Idris Buang and Democratic Action Party (DAP) Socialist Youth leader Abdul Aziz Isa, and you will know what I mean.
Despite being political adversaries, their Christmas messages shared the same thrust — (a) maintain harmony amid religious and racial differences and (b) unity is the way forward.
It is heartwarming to read these messages, where our leaders from different races and backgrounds are all sensitive to the need to maintain harmony, unity and peace in the state during Christmas and beyond.
Sarawak is also where it is today because Sarawakians, in general, are a conservative lot, where the treasured values of love thy neighbours, respect your elders and be part of a community are safeguarded against extremism or individualism that are very pronounced in other parts of the country, notably in the peninsula.
The Dayaks and the Malays are still very communal in nature. The Chinese may be less so, but they still create links among themselves through clans, associations and guilds all over the state.
But don’t get me wrong. Being conservative does not mean putting the brakes on pursuing excellence, especially in science and technological development. We may be conservative in terms of protecting our traditional values but we are by no means small-minded folks who are against development of their homeland, We yearn for and cherish progress and development like everyone else.
To have harmony and peace in a multiracial society like ours is not easy. One just has to look at how people in many countries go after each others’ throats daily to validate what I have just said. Their countries are not as diverse in terms of race and religion as ours and yet they are torn apart due to all sorts of differences.
Sarawak may be relatively young, but we are cruising on the right path.
Some may laugh at us for being “conservative”, but Sarawakians should not mind if Sarawak becomes like New Zealand, where a ‘forgotten’ handphone can be still be recovered after leaving it a public place for hours; doors and gates do not have to be locked every time someone leaves the house; and the case of a convicted paedophile who had served his time behind bars appearing on the front page of a national paper just because he was seen at a neighbourhood.
Sarawak will have a better tomorrow if we continue to move forward in our own unique way — the ‘Sarawak Way’ — by staying open-minded to all that is good and beautiful and eschew all that is evil and destructive. — DayakDaily