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By Lian Cheng
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg may be a gentleman and a man of the “middle path”, but not all Sarawakians are like him.
As a leader of the Region of Sarawak, he understands his role well and as an educated one, he places everything on the negotiation table, amid public perception that he has not been breathing down the neck of the Federal government hard enough. He can’t made any drastic moves due to the reality of politics, geographically, historically and administratively. He can’t make uncensored speeches that will bring about grave consequences for Sarawak. As a sensible leader, he must achieve his goal diplomatically and legally.
He has not been as direct or blunt as former late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem in pushing the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and the Cobbold Commission agenda, nonetheless he has been working on it, in his own way. After all, we cannot expect Abang Johari and Adenan to share the exact same personality, the same behaviour and same style of approaching issues when administering Sarawak.
While Sarawakians appreciate Adenan for blowing the whistle by tearing the old MA63 wound apart and we thank Abang Johari for gently trying to seek treatment and heal that wound, Sarawakians’ patience may not last forever. On Sarawak’s rights, the general sentiment is we have been shortchanged and we have been shortchanged badly, and we would like to have things turned around, fast, as the Federal government may be fast to recognise MA63 in its speech, but slow in making it a reality.
For example, why is that the Malaysia Day has only been celebrated in the Eastern Regions of Sarawak and Sabah? If it is true that MA63 is honoured by the Federal government and that the day of nation formation was indeed on Sept 16, 1963 instead of Aug 31, 1957, why is the Federal government slow in making it a national celebration in Malaya? For the years since the Malaysia Day was announced, its celebration has been confined to Sarawak and Sabah. Are we just being “shiok sendiri” (self-satisfied)? Is the recognition of Malaysia Day merely a way to please and pacify Sarawakians and Sabahans where in reality, the Malaya government doesn’t seem to care?
It is very obvious that the Federal government is reluctant to honour MA63 despite its verbal recognition since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s time. This also can be seen from the annual budget allocation. Every year, Sarawak will be allocated a meagre sum of about RM4 to RM5 billion in direct allocation —equivalent to the allocation of Kuala Lumpur city for its subway construction. Are Sarawak and Sabah two states among the 13 states in Malaysia or are they two Regions joining one entity of Malaya to form Malaysia? The annual budget shows clearly the inherent view of the Federal government towards Sarawak and Sabah.
Despite the verbal recognition, which many times also came across as insincere and non-committal, the truth is that the Federal government and its ministers or even the prime ministers, now and past, saw both Sarawak and Sabah as two productive cows, to be milked to build up Malaysia. It was so and it has been so.
After seven years of negotiation since the awakening of Sarawak, the devolution of powers came slow, whether purposely or unintentionally, Sarawakians know.
Yes, a MoU has been signed between the ruling coalition and the opposition bloc where MA63 is included. After seven years of dealing with the Federal government, most Sarawakians would have noticed that the agenda of Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners to Malaya was always non-existent, until Sarawak’s representation is needed in Putrajaya’s power game. To them, Sarawak only exists when they need the GPS bloc made up by 18 MPs. Without it, like Sabah, we will be sidelined.
In all honesty, do Sarawakians have high hopes in the bipartisan MoU? No. It is again an antidote of Putrajaya’s ‘games of thrones’. MA63 is included in an attempt to secure Sarawak’s support in case of a future attempt of an overnight plot or another “Sheraton Move” to unseat the sitting government. It is there, as a precautionary footnote, which will not be revisited unless the signed parties feel the urgent need of it. The sincerity is again doubtful, after many similar experiences and seven long years of negotiations, where Sarawakians only witness a breakthrough whenever there is political instability in the power trading court of Putrajaya.
If the Federal government is sincere in treating Sarawak as an equal partner with equal say, like a gentleman, it can first recognise that Sarawak should be given one-third parliamentary seats, this is the fundamental prerequisite of being equal as Parliament is the highest law making body in the nation. The Malayan politicians should not be too worried that Putrajaya ceases to be the centre of power for Malaysia.
It will not happen, considering that fact that Sabah is already in Putrajaya’s grip. Even if Sarawak were to be given one-third seats, it will have to face the two-third seats made up of Malaya and Sabah. Sarawak will be in no position to dominate the nation’s politics but will only remain as an equal partner with only one-third say in all matters.
However, will that become a reality following the signing of the bipartisan MoU? Well, most Sarawakians and politicians on the other side of the South China Sea should know the answer. With only four ministers out of the total 32 and 31 out of 222 parliamentary seats where the appointment of four ministers is a ploy of pacification while 31 parliamentary seats, an outcome of political manipulation historically, Sarawak is still under the mercy of Putrajaya.
That may be the case now, but following the awakening, that may not be the case for long. If the federal government or Malaya politicians continue to treat Sarawakians like uneducated country bumpkins, amazed by the dazzling Twin Towers, a structure built up by pumping oil and gas from Sarawak’s backyard and seas, they should think twice.
Sarawakians may be gentle and slow to react, but they are no fools, nor will their patience last forever. Rather than continuing to be taken for a ride further, perhaps there may be a time Sarawakians may prefer to change its course of direction, by trying to go down the road of a unilateral declaration of independence, for a change.
After all, Sarawakians have been taken for a ride for too long. — DayakDaily
The opinions expressed in this article are the personal view of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions of DayakDaily or its employees.