Last updated on 03/02/2014 - 19:32
KUCHING: It’s no secret that Sarawakians have always been wary of Umno and they dread the idea of the party spreading its wings to their state.
Calls are now getting louder for political parties in Sarawak to stand united in order to keep Umno out.
The latest ‘warning’ to Sarawakians came from a Sabah leader – Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, chairman of the State Reform Party (Star), Sabah chapter.
Of all people, Jeffrey should know what he is talking about as he has been in the forefront of opposing Umno for years. He is from the Land Below the Wind – the state many Sabahans claimed had been ‘destroyed’ by Umno.
At a recent meeting with bloggers in Kuching to discuss existing issues affecting the two Borneo states, the Bingkor assemblyman said that Sarawak had done well in keeping Umno out of the state.
He called on Sarawakians to persevere in their efforts to keep Umno out in order to avoid a repeat of what had happened in Sabah.
Jeffrey, who is Star’s sole assemblyman in Sabah, said the Kadazandusun community in the state had been neglected as the Umno-led BN pursued its Malay rights agenda that had resulted in the downward spiral of race relations.
He alleged that Umno has continued to play the race and religion card to regain its Malay heartlands which it had lost to Pakatan Rakyat allies, PAS and PKR.
According to Jeffrey, his earlier plea to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to stop the rot at the federal level and return to the politics of inclusiveness and reconciliation had fallen on deaf ears.
Political observers in Sarawak concurred that grassroots perception was that the religious and political tension now was worse than when Tun Abdullah Badawi was in power and Datuk Seri Najib Razak had not made any real efforts to defuse the situation.
“Of late, Malaysia seems to be rudderless and leaders are responsible for causing the confusion with their hidden agendas. Sadly, this seemed to be encouraged by Najib’s silence which is a glaring reflection of his weakness,” they said.
Many are now questioning Najib’s inaction and lukewarm response to the ‘Allah’ issue which had riled the nation. It even earned criticisms and condemnation from numerous Islamic scholars in other countries.
Sarawak PKR chief and Ba'Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian said: “Najib has dashed the hopes of Christians in Malaysia who have been hoping that he would behave as the prime minister rather than pandering to a group of ultra Islamists.
“It is clear that the 10-point solution to the ‘Allah’ issue was just a political ploy to pacify Sabahans and Sarawakians before the Sarawak state elections in 2011. Why is he narrowing its ambit now?
“We had lived in harmony and there was no friction between the Muslims and Christians until the 2008 elections when Umno realised it needed to salvage the support of the Malays. After 2008, the ‘Umnoputras’ started creating friction between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“The people need a prime minister and a government that will address the real issues faced by the rakyat such as the soaring prices of goods which must be addressed immediately,” he said.
Lawyers and scholars had pointed out that the states had the authority under Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution to enact legislations to regulate the preaching of religion to Muslims but that they had no jurisdiction over non-Muslims.
They warned that the nation was heading towards being controlled by a regressive and oppressive Islamist regime. Najib’s stand has left Sabahan and Sarawakian Christians working in Peninsular Malaysian states that enacted the ban on the word ‘Allah’ in limbo, they said.
They pointed out that it was high time that Najib and BN show their willingness to address the issues by encouraging and partaking seriously in inter-faith dialogue.
Meantime, is it any wonder that the people of Sarawak abhor the thought of Umno coming to their state. The voices to keep Umno out of Sarawak are expected to ring louder in the months and years ahead.
~ The Ant Daily