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KUCHING, Sept 22: Racial and religious issues and the development gap between Sarawak and Peninsula Malaysia are major issues that have made Malaysia more divided than ever, and even fueling nationalistic sentiments in Sarawak, in which both past and present governments should be blamed and accountable for.
Stampin MP Chong Chieng Jen pointed out that 58 years after the formation of Malaysia, the country should be more united where people from both East and Peninsula Malaysia would be talking about common prosperity and nation-building, but sadly this is not the case.
He asserted that not only is there a greater racial divide amongst Malaysians, due to the constant playing up of racial and religious issues by certain political parties, there is also a greater divide between the East and the West.
“There are more Sarawakians now talking about independence of Sarawak, secession of Sarawak from Malaysia. One of the key factors that led to this sentiment is the unfair and lopsided development between Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, so much so that many Sarawakians felt that on Sept 16, 1963, we have moved from being a colony of the British government to a colony of the Malayan government,” he said when debating the Royal Address in Parliament yesterday.
The truth hits harder, he continued, when taking into account the fact that Sarawakians remain among the poorest people in the country, with data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) showing that median household disposable income for Sarawak in the year 2019 was only RM3,994 while the median household disposable income for the country was RM5,116.
Chong, who is also the Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak, stressed that while the federal government is responsible for this unbalanced situation, the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government, which was previously Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) which had governed the State for the past 58 years uninterrupted, is also to be blamed.
“More so, when the State government has chalked up a reserve of RM26 billion while keeping common Sarawakians poor and with income below our national standard. To deflect their responsibility in making Sarawakians poor, the GPS leaders have constantly put the blame solely on the federal government,” he added.
To address this issue of imbalanced economic development between the regions, he emphasised that a greater proportion of the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-proposed RM45 billion injection into the economy under the bipartisan cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) should be allocated to help people and businesses in Sarawak.
The second key factor which led to the rise in secession sentiment amongst Sarawakians, Chong added, is fear over how the federal government is handling religious matters following the announcement of the drafting of four syariah laws which include restrictions on the propagation of non-Islamic religions.
He asserted that the move by Deputy Minister Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary from Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (Pas) and endorsed by Prime Minister Dato Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is shaking the very foundation of the formation of Malaysia.
“Some have even labelled it as a move to make Malaysia a Taliban state. We formed Malaysia in 1963 as a secular state with Islam as the official religion of the country. We Sarawak did not join to form Malaysia to become a Taliban state.
“If the Federal government, with Pas as a partner and GPS giving its full support, is minded to proceed along with the Pas agenda of making Malaysia an Islamic State or even a Taliban country, there is every justification for Sarawak to secede from the country as it has destroyed the very foundation of the formation of Malaysia,” he warned.
Quoting Article VII of the Malaysia Agreement, he said: “The Government of the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak will take such legislative, executive or other action as may be required to implement the assurances, undertakings and recommendations contained in Chapter 3 of, and Annexes A and B to, the Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee signed on 27th February, 1963 in so far as they are not implemented by express provision of the Constitution of Malaysia.”
“The first item in Chapter 3 of the Inter-Governmental Committee is the guaranteed rights to religious freedom in the Federation,” he reminded his Parliament colleagues.
To address this issue, Chong, who is also the Kota Sentosa assemblyman, said that the Prime Minister must come forth to give assurance to all Malaysians that no such law will be drafted, tabled nor passed in Parliament to uphold his vision of a “Keluarga Malaysia”.
“Anything short of the Prime Minister making such an assertive statement is not sufficient to allay the fear of the non-Muslims in this country and to reassure all Malaysian that he sincerely and truly meant what he said as “Keluarga Malaysia”.
“All of us want Malaysia to progress with ‘common prosperity’ not only amongst all races but also amongst the different regions, the East and the West. There are also things that we Sarawakians hold dearly to our hearts and amongst them is the freedom of religion,” he asserted.
Therefore, Chong urged the government not to overstep these boundaries and limits so as to not cause further divide amongst the people and the breakup of the nation. — DayakDaily