Do not trade on Sarawak’s identity, racial harmony for political gains, activist group warns GPS

Peter John Jaban

KUCHING, Feb 25: Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) must carefully consider and define its collaboration with the new coalition and alliances without putting Sarawak’s racial and religious balance at risk.

Sarawak activist group Solidariti Anak Sarawak (SAS) highlighted this as they expressed their dismay at reports of political maneuvering at the federal level and purported coalitions which seemed to be forming on increasingly racial grounds.

SAS spokesperson Peter John Jaban said reports alleging Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was considering a coalition with Umno and PAS was causing great concern on the ground.

“SAS is advising the Chief Minister to consider carefully how this new coalition will be perceived in multi-cultural Sarawak, especially with the state election looming.

“While we realise that there is currently a drive for greater autonomy and the relationship with the federal government is central to that, we are all necessarily and rightly judged by the company we choose to keep.

“Our autonomy is not worth our integrity or our racial harmony. Our autonomy will come in due course because we deserve it. Our Sarawak-based parties must show what Sarawak stands for; respect for the people, democracy and tolerance,” he reminded GPS in a statement today.

Peter pointed out that GPS had undergone a significant and largely successful rebranding to distance themselves from the fallout from the widespread corruption within the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

“They have even managed to create a new face for themselves after the years of (Pehin Sri Abdul) Taib (Mahmud) administration. Why would they undo all of that with a backdoor government?” he asked.

Appalled by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing’s statement saying he would be happier doing business with PAS than DAP at federal level, he said that it has been met with horror and consternation across Sarawak.

“The people of Sarawak clearly do not agree with him,” he added.

Peter reminded that Umno and PAS were defeated in the last general election in a widely acknowledged rejection of both corruption and race politics and a call for reform.

“The people put an end to decades of Umno rule, in which race and religion were used as a political tool to divide rather than unite, and corruption had grown to epic proportions.

“These two parties lost at the ballot box and there is no other way to interpret the events. They lost, plain and simple.

“Now, two years later, pictures are circulating to suggest that three moderate and well-respected Malay leaders – Abang Johari, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal – are potentially conspiring to subvert this clear decision to put these parties back into power. No wonder the people are horrified,” he said.

He added that Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was currently facing 47 charges of corruption relating to public funds and for this alone, he should be deemed unfit to hold public office in the opposition, let alone in the government itself.

The head of Islamist party PAS Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, he continued, which blocked the ratification of the International Convention on all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and campaigned only recently for the implementation of Hudud law in Malaysia.

“How can Abang Johari consider making a coalition with these characters and then return to Sarawak to contest an election using the message of Sarawak’s great racial and religious harmony?

“Sarawakians are, indeed, different. We do not appreciate race politics and we live in an atmosphere of religious tolerance. We also maintain a separation between federal and regional concerns,” he emphasised.

Moreover, Peter pointed out that the opposition in Sarawak for the state election was effectively now leaderless and decimated.

“(Selangau MP) Baru Bian has already been widely condemned for his association with Umno and PAS. YBs (Saratok MP) Ali Biju and (Puncak Borneo MP) Willie Mongin are now partyless,” he said.

Peter however pressed that any coalition with the losers in the last federal election will be a strong message to the electorate of Sarawak that GPS was willing to subvert the democratic process and to risk Sarawak’s racial and religious balance. —DayakDaily