It was very sweet, in the beginning

Sugarcane. — file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

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ONE of Malaysia’s founding fathers, the late Tun Jugah Barieng, had forewarned that the “sweetness” of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) might not last. His famous quote goes something like this, “Let’s not be like the sugarcane, where it’s initially sweet but tasteless at the end”.

Tun Jugah was right. After 55 years of independence, every single Malaysian should be enjoying basic amenities like clean water, electricity and roads because we are not a poor country. In fact, Malaysia has an abundance of natural resources.

Sarawak’s dilemma

Sarawak has a small population of about 2.8 million people, but due to its huge land mass, it is extremely difficult and not cost effective for the government to bring all the basic necessities to everyone’s door. This is especially so considering that there are about 5,000 settlements scattered all over the state.

This problem is not experienced in the peninsula though. In fact, most of the states in the peninsula are already well developed.

But as one of the four partners that formed the federation under the MA63, Sarawakians, including Sabahans, have now realised they have been short-changed in more ways than one.

The voice of dissent in Sarawak has picked up momentum ever since the dawn of the ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ (S4S) movement. In fact, it was later adopted by the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, the fifth chief minister of Sarawak, as his main struggle.

However, the Adenan administration was short-lived, following his untimely death on January 11, 2017. He had held office for about two years only.

But the current chief minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, has asserted that he is the new captain of ‘Team Adenan’ to fight for the return of the state’s rights as enshrined in the MA63. After 18 months in office, Abang Johari has proven to be as resolute as his predecessor in fighting for a better Sarawak.

Sarawak still had high hopes as recent as two months ago. Most Sarawakians believed Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would return all the “stolen” rights back to Sarawak, but, alas, the former prime minister fell from grace on May 9. With the stunning loss of the Barisan Nasional (BN) on that fateful polling day, all previous negotiations concerning the return of the state’s rights vanished into thin air, at least in the eyes of this group of Sarawakians.

Building on new trust

Under the new Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led federal government, Sarawak re-positioned itself as a PH-friendly opposition government after pulling out of the BN to form a local alliance called Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

But as things go, it is beginning to look like a herculean task for the Abang Johari administration to deal with the new federal government, in the context of state rights.

What is the best way forward?

Under this challenging political climate, Sarawakians should ask themselves whether they should join PH, which will make Sarawakians subservient to the federal leaders, or should they consolidate themselves under GPS to continue the struggle?

Under the current circumstances, PH supporters in Sarawak, with having 12 MPs, will surely want other Sarawakians to join them. So herein lies the golden question: How will Sarawak get its rights back?

There are two options on the table: Either trust Sarawak PH leaders to do it or put the trust on GPS leaders. Only time can tell which option is “sweeter”. — DayakDaily