Sunday, September 15, 2013




On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia, it is appropriate to reflect on the meaning of Malaysia Day for Sarawakians, and to look squarely at the lot of Sarawakians today. Where do we stand now, in terms of economic development and progress, in terms of harmony and integration, in terms of the people’s well-being and happiness? Why did our forefathers agree to join Malaya, North Borneo and Singapore to form Malaysia 50 years ago? Have their visions and hopes for Sarawakians been realized?

Today, I wish to remind Sarawakians of what Tunku Abdul Rahman said about the formation of Malaysia: that one of the principal objectives was to further the economic development of the Borneo Territories so that their standards of living and technical skills might be raised, and a firm basis provided for accelerated economic growth, … so that the gap between a relatively backward state and the advanced would be narrowed and not widened.

Today, I wish to also remind Sarawakians of the gift that was left to us by the White Rajahs, in the form of the Nine Cardinal Principles of good governance in Sarawak’s first written Constitution:

Sarawak Order No. C-21 (Constitution) 1941 enacted 24 September 1941 (in part only)
Now therefore it is meet that we should pronounce and declare the principles of government which have actuated our predecessors and ourselves during the one hundred years of the rule of the English Rajahs. And we do urge that these same principles which have brought peace and contentment to our people may serve to guide the members of the Councils of State who will hereafter be responsible for the good Government of Sarawak.
Let the Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajahs as set out hereunder therefore be remembered:
1. That Sarawak is the heritage of our Subjects and is held in trust for them.
2. That social and educational services shall be developed and improved and the standard of living of the people of Sarawak shall steadily be raised.
3. That never shall any person or persons be granted rights inconsistent with those of the people of this country or be in any way permitted to exploit Our Subjects or those who have sought our protection and care.
4. That justice shall be easily obtainable and that the Rajah and every public servant shall be freely accessible to the public.
5. That freedom of expression both in speech and writing shall be permitted and encouraged and that everyone shall be entitled to worship as he pleases.
6. That public servants shall ever remember that they are but the servants of the people on whose goodwill and co-operation they are entirely dependent.
7. That so far as may be Our Subjects of whatever race or creed shall be freely and impartially admitted to offices in Our Service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability and integrity duly to discharge.
8. That the goal of self-government shall always be kept in mind, that the people of Sarawak shall be entrusted in due course with the governance of themselves, and that continuous efforts shall be made to hasten the reaching of this goal by educating them in the obligations, the responsibilities, and the privileges of citizenship.
9. That the general policy of Our predecessors and Ourselves whereby the various races of the State have been enabled to live in happiness and harmony together shall be adhered to by Our successors and Our servants and all who may follow them hereafter.

Let us also not forget the 18 points in the Malaysia agreement pertaining to safeguards for Sarawak, particularly the points on religion, language, constitution, immigration, Borneonisation and representation in the Federal government.

Today, Sarawakians are grappling with burdensome issues including the ever rising cost of living unaided by any corresponding increase in disposable income, increased crime rates (especially in violent crimes in the past year), unequal distribution of and lack of economic and educational opportunities; and rural Sarawakians live in real fear of being dispossessed of their lands by big companies engaging in logging and dam-building activities backed by those in power. 50 years after joining in the formation of Malaysia, 30% of rural Sarawakians still have no access to electricity and to treated water. Infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, clinics, and schools are sorely lacking and those that exist are sub-standard and grossly inadequate, while our political leaders have amassed enormous wealth for their families and benefactors. And yet, our people are constantly reminded to be grateful to the BN government for the scraps given.

Sarawakians observe with trepidation and some bemusement the insidious emergence of religious and racial intolerance instigated by a few extremist bigots in West Malaysia, unchecked by the silent and cowed national leaders who are seen to be giving tacit approval for the stoking of these issues in their quest to hold on to power. Indeed, the Federal government is contributing to the tension by its action in the ‘Allah’ issue and its inaction in instances where Chinese and Indians are called ‘pendatangs’ and told to ‘go home’. It is mortifying that we belong to a country found to occupy the top place in Transparency International’s Bribery table and the third spot in Global Financial Integrity’s worldwide illicit capital outflow survey, although we must acknowledge that some of our more prominent Sarawakians have contributed in no small measure to this unenviable achievement. We are part of a country that is, after 50 years, seemingly fractured, polarized and unsettled. The litany of this country’s ills is long and heartbreaking.

The inescapable conclusion is that Sarawak has not done well from this 50-year partnership with Malaya. The Tunku’s vision has not been fulfilled and Sarawakians still lag behind West Malaysia in every aspect - from education to healthcare, from basic amenities to infrastructure, from industrial development to economic progress. Hundreds of people are killed on the intrastate roads each year because the Federal government does not see fit to build us a proper highway to span the state. The Federal government has taken the lion’s share (and continues to do so) of our oil and gas revenue to finance the development of West Malaysia but has not provided a commensurate return to us, nor acknowledged sufficiently the contribution of Sarawak to their progress, which has proven to be at a great sacrifice to Sarawakians.

In carrying out this exercise of reflection, we cannot point our fingers solely in the direction of the west. Our rights as stated in the 18-points have been eroded but our state leaders have been incapable or unwilling to make a stand for us. Sadly, to our leaders, the 9 Cardinal Principles appear to hold no importance or relevance. Sarawakians have been hamstrung by indifferent leaders at both Federal and State levels.

Grim as the picture may look, I cannot be disheartened. On my visits to the heartland of Sarawak, I meet people who are generous, kind and sincere, even in their lives of hardship and deprivation. They live harmoniously with their neighbours and do not understand the ridiculous religious and racial issues being stirred up by a few narrow-minded groups in West Malaysia. These peace-loving Sarawakians are the people that the White Rajahs and our forefathers sought to protect with their Cardinal Principles and their 18-points. The people of Sarawak have been living the 1Malaysia life for generations, since long before it became a meaningless slogan of the BN government.

I have reason to feel hopeful for the future of this country. Events of the previous few years and particularly the past few months have shown that despite the attempts of those with vested interests to divide the people of various races and religion, the ordinary citizen has not taken the bait. Malaysians are now demanding justice, fairness and equality, clean elections and an accountable government as evidenced by their overwhelming attendance at rallies and their votes at the recent elections. The Malaysians of today are beginning to acknowledge the real history of the federation of Malaysia, how it was formed and the position of Sarawak and Sabah in the federation. Malaysians are now challenging the distortion of our history syllabus in schools and asking for the accurate history to be written and taught. Malaysians are now taking a real interest in the future of this country and in how it will be governed. Malaysians are now finding their voice.

This Malaysia Day, my prayer for our country is that we will soon have enough leaders who are motivated by love for this country and the desire to truly advance the welfare of Malaysians rather than by their own quests for power and wealth. We need leaders who understand the fundamental truths behind the Cardinal Principles and the 18-points. We need leaders who are committed to living these principles without fear or favour and whose every decision is predicated upon these fundamental truths. Only then will we be able to enjoy life in Malaysia and prosper as envisioned by our forefathers.




No comments: