Sarawak for Sarawakians from Here On–Political Game Changer too

May 10, 2016

Sarawak for  Sarawakians from Here On–Political Game Changer too 

by P.Gunasegaram

There is a host of reasons for this but the most important is that the opposition does not realise one thing till today – which Barisan Nasional (BN) did since Malaysia was formed in 1963 – Sarawakians are Sarawakians or whichever community they come from, first and second, and Malaysians perhaps third.

Lest I am accused of bias against Sarawakians, let me quickly add that a similar statement probably applies to many of us elsewhere in Malaysia. Remember, a former Deputy Prime Minister no less, famously or infamously said, depending on your point of view, that he was Malay first and Malaysian second.

Thus, Sarawakian issues matter far more for Sarawakians than Malaysian ones such as the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (or 1MDB scandal). And they will matter much more for state elections – Sarawakians have to decide matters of their own state, right?

So what’s the first thing that the opposition parties in Sarawak that are not ‘Sarawakian’ must do? They must pack up and leave and hightail it back to Peninsular Malaysia. They have no business being in Sarawak and they will not, in a million years, gain full acceptance there but will always be viewed with some trepidation.

(Sabah is crucially different. UMNO – and only UMNO from Peninsular Malaysia – gained some acceptance because of a huge and questionable influx of Muslim voters, which was confirmed by a subsequent royal commission of inquiry on that matter. This was done over a number of years, eventually tipping the voter balance there. Money and this caused Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s party, PBS, now back in the BN coalition, to lose. But that’s another story.)

Why, Sarawak is almost another country, and they seem to be so especially with the constitutional right to bar anyone from the Peninsula to enter this country without having to give any reason whatsoever. There is no recourse to the courts. They can and do discriminate against fellow Malaysians from the Peninsula more than they do foreigners.

We must be the only country in the world where a person from one state can’t settle in another state within the same country without permission from that particular state – in Malaysia’s case Sarawak and Sabah. Mind you, it does not apply the other way around – as far as I know, the practice is Sarawakians and Sabahans can settle anywhere in Malaysia. Will  this anomaly be corrected?

Do what BN has been doing all these years

All right, if the Peninsular Malaysian opposition parties voluntarily kick themselves out of Sarawak (instead of involuntarily as happens to some of their leaders), what do they do? Simply do what BN has been doing all these years.

Let the Sarawakians form their own opposition parties and bring them into the federal opposition coalition, whatever it might turn out to be in future – Pakatan Rakyat, Pakatan Harapan or something else. Just offer them guidance and support in their formation and truly look after them.

That the opposition has not done this after so many years, 55 to be precise, shows them to be rather impractical, egotistical and putting individual party interests above that of the coalition.

For instance, DAP will not be willing to give up its easy parliamentary seats in urban areas in Sarawak where Chinese predominate in favour of a Sarawakian party because it will have fewer seats in Parliament. Likewise with PKR, with whatever little it has in Sarawak. Meantime, other aspirants from the Peninsula, such as PAS and Amanah, have been well and truly thrashed and their ambitions to become a power in the state crushed.

Such short-termism and putting party interests above that of the greater good inspire little confidence among the people, some of whom are prepared to vote in a new party that can bring real, positive change, as shown in some swing among rural voters this time. But how much confidence can people have in an opposition that can’t even sort out its differences to ensure that their candidates don’t contest against each other?

If there is to be a new government based on genuine fair play, corruption-free practices, good governance and which truly represents everyone in the country irrespective of race, religion or creed through a viable coalition, then the opposition has to make some truly game-changing moves. That is not there on the foreseeable horizon.

If there is, then one will see the emergence of Sarawakian opposition parties to represent the various different communities and which can all come together as one under an opposition coalition, instead of the current spectacle of four opposition parties from across the South China Sea fighting one another and BN to seek representation in Sarawak. What a sorry state!

Other reasons

Adenan Satem played a great political hand when he took over from Taib Mahmud’s long 33-year rule as Chief Minister and promptly appeared to distance himself from Taib’s policies, although Sarawak insiders believe he is still close to Taib who still reigns as the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak.

In a game reminiscent of that of Abdullah Badawi in 2004 who took over after the long 22-year leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the national level and won handsomely on the back of promises made but broken, Adenan promised action against corrupt timber barons (although at least one timber baron became a state assemblyman in the recent elections), courted non-bumiputeras and Christians (46 percent of Sarawak’s population versus just 23 percent Muslim), and worked out deals with the federal government for major infrastructure projects.

The opposition did not seem to have enough to counter this, instead appearing to rely on the IMDB issue which has tainted the federal government but is not a bread and butter issue in Sarawak, especially for the state election. Under the circumstances, it was a foregone conclusion for most that BN would do better in Sarawak.

And there are many Sarawak issues – corruption, timber barons, lopsided development, poverty pockets, money politics, etc. These are things that Sarawakian parties can better bring up instead of the peninsular parties that look at federal issues and Sarawak as a vote basket.

So bad is giving out money and goodies during elections in Sarawak that politicians speak to the people with rice packages stacked up neatly on tables in front of them. How blatant can you get! That’s tough for the opposition to counter. But bring to light such instances, fight it in the courts as much as that is possible.

Do bring up the issues that Sarawakians are sore with – lack of oil royalties for instance and autonomy. How much are you a prepared to go in terms of autonomy? Is a referendum a viable and legal consideration? Come out with plans to solve Sarawakian issues and they might vote more for you.

Yes, there are other voting irregularities such as gerrymandering in addition to money and goods being dished to all and sundry. How does one explain that spurt in voter turnout at the last hour or two, from 52 percent to 70 percent? What happens when ballot boxes are moved? But such things have been there all the while.

It’s an uphill battle for the opposition in Sarawak in the best of circumstances – sometimes they win more seats, sometimes less but they have never come close to winning the state. For that, the first thing that should be done is to make the opposition Sarawakian, not Peninsular Malaysian.

Then there is at least a fighting chance that one day in Sarawak there will be a change in government, which would help a change in the federal government. After all, there is nothing like the threat of a change in government, whether in Kuching or in Putrajaya, to ensure the government behaves. If governments can be changed, governments will behave and we the rakyat will be the better for it.

It is total folly to think that Peninsular Malaysian parties will capture the heart, souls and minds of Sarawakians – and that’s what’s required, nothing less – to win the Sarawak elections. The sooner the opposition realises this and behaves accordingly, the sooner a change in government becomes more possible.

P GUNASEGARAM believes Peninsular Malaysians should start paying much more attention to Sabah and Sarawak, right now the kingmakers of the federal government. Then we can all jointly decide the fate of our country for the betterment of everyone – Sarawakian, Sabahan or Peninsular Malaysian and one day become Malaysian first and foremost. Email:



4 thoughts on “Sarawak for Sarawakians from Here On–Political Game Changer too

  1. Dear Sir,

    You are missing the woods for the trees. journalist should be in the front line wanting Sarawak to become richest state in Malaysia. Sarawak for Sarawakians is a worn out slogan that should be placed in history because our immigration policies of today are more likely to transform Sarawak into more cosmopolitans like some major cities of the world.
    How come I am missing something. Did you talk to any Sarawakian lately? I just did in Phnom Penh. He told me that he and his compatriots do not want people from Peninsula Malaysia to meddle in their affairs. They want more say and expect better treatment and more equitable deal.–Din Merican

  2. If we were to argue on that point of view as ‘Sarawak is for Sarawakians’ and people from Malay Peninsula must not meddle in their affairs, then I believe that people from sarawak should not be appointed as ministers at Federal level, like Nancy and others to speak for us in west Malaysia.

    The elected representatives from these Borneo states in Malaysia are helping themselves at the expanse of the developments that should be rightfully carried out in their respective state. Election time comes, ringgit showers fall from heaven so the people are contended for a small money to change their fate. Why do they want to blame others not to interfere in their affairs?

    Look at the amount money poured into Sarawak Elections. Who is to be blamed taking cheap money for short term gain and you guys want others in Peninsular Malaya to shut up. Are we not sharing the power?

    UMNO has brought this barrier of ruling for their long term benefit and don’t you think it’s time under this present global era for us to live with human dignity rather than living like apes of the past conquering the jungles. Who is to be blamed for all these disgusting affairs? There were unnecessary immigration rules barring people to their whims and fancies to filter whom they want for the skies to rain money when elections come by.

    Let good sense prevail as ONE nation to combat the corruption reaching beyond the boundaries before talking ‘cock’ like you and me.

  3. I disagree. IF Sarawak view themselves as Sarawakian and will not be like UMNO rule in Peninsula I.e. they hold up the ideals of founders of Alliance of multi-racial, multi-polar religious, progressive, then all is fair in love and war. They chose BN not because of UMNO ideology, but for their money. That is fair.

    It means, if opposition can reduce UMNO seats to make Sarawak Kingmaker, then UMNO cannot survive either. Then we get the change the opposition supposedly fight for.

    But in the end, Sarawak for Sarawakian is delusion just MCA for Chinese, MIC for Indians and Gerakan for mult- racial, secular, then Sarawak will learn the lessons those parties have learned.

    The problem in the opposition are the apologist and psedo- critics that panders to the dysfunctionalities of the opposition in the name of ” moderation” and ” practicality” and the latest ” humility”. We got in the mess we have because of these things. Pandering to dysfunctionalities because it’s hard or difficult will not work. It’s possible these dysfunctionalities will see the opposition fail for the longest time. So be it. It just mean this nation was never meant to be. We must suffer the worst of faith and deserve it so.

  4. One of the reasons for the arrangement to restrict people from the peninsular at the time of independence was to give Sarawakians time to put their house in order. I presume “this has been done by the previous administrations”.I stand corrected. With the advent of migrants into the state Sarawakian have to rethink their approach if they do want to become the richest state in Malaysia in next 53 years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.