Let us stop calling Sarawak a state

Flag of Sarawak. (Matthew A. Lockhart [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons)


By Lian Cheng

Divided by the South China Sea from Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak which is located on the island of Borneo, is a unique place in terms of history, culture, tradition as well as way of life.

Politically, it is even more unique as it is the only territory in Malaysia where the once almighty United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) did not manage to penetrate and thus is free from the many uncalled-for-practices and nonsensical statements which were very much the culture of the party. Sarawak, though part of Malaysia, has never been part of that culture.

Yet, due to the ties of history, we can’t totally disentangle ourselves from Peninsular Malaysia, the main beneficiary of Sarawak’s oil and gas for more than five decades, even now when it is governed by Pakatan Harapan (PH).

PH may tell us many things, but never about the fact that, if Sarawak were to take full control and management of its oil and gas, how much a Sarawakian can receive. With our population only one tenth of Peninsular Malaysia, our resources has been one of the main sources of revenue that keeps Peninsular Malaysia afloat. Peninsular Malaysia will never let Sarawak go, not until it drills Sarawak dry,

Many Sarawakians were thrilled and excited with the recent change of federal government. On election results night, many did not dare to sleep for fear that when they woke up, everything might just be a dream. Yes, there were even a few who set off fire-crackers in the wee hours of May 10; inconsiderate but no one minded. There were many more who raised their glasses to welcome a new dawn. Somehow, amidst the still early morning breeze, there seemed to be an instant breath of fresh air. We have so much expectation and anticipation.

More than two weeks on from that memorable night and all the jubilation and celebrations since then, many Sarawakians are now awaiting eagerly for the returns of Sarawak’s rights as enshrined by the Malaysian Agreement (MA63) and the 20 per cent of gas and oil royalty, as promised by PH in its election manifesto.

Even though at this stage, nothing yet have been discussed or announced, Sarawakians did not question the delay, because this is us — we understand that PH needs time to tackle many issues at the federal level. We did not even complain about missing Sarawakian representation in the first batch of ministerial appointments. It was state PH leaders Chong Chieng Jen and Baru Bian who became worried and anxious, and took the initiative to explain it in a press conference.

As most of us are regular Sarawakians with limited legal knowledge, we will not pretend we know and won’t tell both state and federal governments what to do. We prefer to leave it to them to honour the terms and the rights as promised while we get on with our lives, while we just keep an eye on things.

Sarawak is now in an ideal position. We have a PH government in the federal side and an opposition government in the state. With that being the situation, there will always be check and balance between the two administrative entities. We are not sure yet if UMNO can play its part as a responsible opposition, nor can we be certain the Sarawak state government can play its role as an opposition state. However, Sarawakians being Sarawakians, we will give them time.

Regardless if PH knows its role as the government or BN its part as opposition, the dual-party system is definitely alive in Sarawak. That is why many celebrated — not for PH’s victory but more because a true democracy has come to pass where the people are the real masters of their land — not the Sarawak coalition, and not state PH.

As both governments will strive to be good governments to win the hearts of the voters, we have the faith and confidence that Sarawak will get its rights back, hopefully soon, where Sarawak will be elevated back to its original status as a territory within the Federation, and NOT a state.

While both our federal and state governments are learning, as regular Sarawakians, let us also learn, to be mature in politics, to know issues, and to be able to make discernment over politicians’ arguments and government policies.

Where do we start? Let us begin by not calling Sarawak a state because we are grounded by the Constitution as an entity or a territory. In terms of our collective political pursuit, let us discard the Dayakism, Malay supremacy or Chinese superiority complex but protect the freedom of religion and speech and our way of life. Socially, perhaps we should go a step further by making advances towards a more open and civil society.

With this golden opportunity where the political scenario is to the favour of the people, let us all build a Sarawak that belongs to all Sarawakians — a Fair Land Sarawak, as our former state anthem describes:

Fair Land Sarawak
We will never cease to honour thee
And with our loyal sons
Defend your liberty

From your high forest hills
Down to the open sea
May freedom ever reign
Men live in unity

Proudly our flag flies high
Above our Country strong and free
Long may our People live
In peace and harmony.

Let us start a new tradition. Let us do things in our way — Sarawak’s Way. — DayakDaily