Monday, September 15, 2014

BARU BIAN’S MALAYSIA DAY MESSAGE


16 SEPTEMBER 2014

In gathering my thoughts to write this message, I had a moment of quiet reflection about how Malaysia has fared in the past year, and on the mood of the nation currently. Undeniably 2014 has been what the Queen of England would call an ‘annus horribilis’. Much as I would like to write a glowing review, regrettably, events during the past 6 months have made that an impossibility. Foremost in my mind is the fact that we have lost many of our fellow citizens in 2 plane tragedies which have brought unimaginable grief to the nation. For the families of MH370, the unanswered questions continue to haunt and torment while the search continues for their loved ones.

For other Malaysians, there has not been much to cheer about. In Sarawak, our indigenous people continue their fight to defend their lands against the dam-builders, loggers and plantations. Our attempts to get a bigger share of the revenue from our oil have not borne fruit. Extremist groups in Peninsular Malaysia have recently called for our expulsion and slaughter, with no response from the authorities to these threats. We have a new Chief Minister, but things are slow to change.

Throughout Malaysia, we are seeing an increase in racial tension in this country with the extremist and supremacist groups’ disgraceful bullying and threatening actions against other races and religions. The judiciary passed up on the opportunity to settle the Allah issue, thereby letting Malaysians down. Opposition parties and civil liberties groups are facing a narrowing political space with the recent sedition-charge spree by the authorities. Even academicians, lawyers, preachers and journalists are not spared in the authorities’ crackdown to silence the voice of dissent. This curtailment of the freedom of expression is perhaps a reflection of the desperation of the BN to cling to their ever-weakening power in this country

As we move into the second half-century of the federation of Malaysia, my feelings are a mixture of pain and regret. Am I the only one to question the purpose of forming a sovereign independent state when half a century later, it is to be destroyed by a weak leadership that seeks to remain relevant by pandering to extremist groups and fanning racial and religious fires? We have a Prime Minister who openly stokes the flame of racial insecurities by equating UMNO to the power of the Malay rulers, the supremacy of Islam and the position of the Malays in a clear attempt to play on the fears of the Malays. This is, to me, the single most telling sign of the depths to which our leadership has sunk and the dangerous direction towards which this country is headed.

Many years ago we were regarded as a moderate and liberal Muslim majority country where the powers that be respected the rights of non-Muslims to practise their own religions. We were even held up as a model multi-racial and multi-religious country for the world to emulate. What has happened in the intervening years to bring this country to where we are now? We have gone from being a moderate country to one of increasing religious intolerance, to the point that a number of Malaysian Sunni Muslims are now fighting for the militant ISIS in Syria. We have seen photos of them in the internet brandishing their guns proudly in their misguided belief they are fighting a ‘jihad’. What has become of our youths? They are like lost sheep looking for some direction and unfortunately some have latched on to terrorist groups masquerading as religious fighters for that guidance.

Who is responsible for the state that Malaysia is in now? Without a doubt, the finger points to the leaders that have failed in their duties to the people of Malaysia in their refusal to affirm the social contract set out in the Federal Constitution. There is a total breakdown in the system of checks and balances in the governance of this nation, which started when the independence of the judiciary was rudely shattered by the government in 1998. The judiciary of today is but a shadow of its distinguished past. In politically related cases, the judiciary repeatedly fails in discharging their duties. The authorities apply the law selectively, especially in relation to seditious matters. Extremist groups such as Perkasa, Isma and ISIS Jemaah get away with their offensive and threatening statements and actions while members of the opposition and other right-minded individuals are being arrested willy-nilly for no good reason.

What are we celebrating today when 1Malaysia is but an empty slogan thought up by the PM’s highly paid advisors? The words of our leaders are mere utterances, devoid of any meaning or substance. We have become a mere shell of our former self. Yes, there has been development and progress economically, although there are serious issues about inequality of income distribution and economic opportunities. What I mean is that we have lost our sense of pride as a nation of a united and harmonious people, we have lost the carefree and embracing spirit that permeated all races and cultures, we have lost the direction that was set for us by our forefathers. I cannot help but ponder what this once ideal country can offer my children and my future grandchildren.

In the Borneo states, with the increasing realisation of the broken promises of the Malaysia agreement and rising resentment about the unfair treatment accorded to us by the federal government, we see the emergence of voices such as the Sovereignty Movement, Sarawak for Sarawakians, SAPA etc calling for secession from the federation. We are only seeing the start of such movements which I predict will increase in number and strength.

The government could perhaps have prevented this formenting unhappiness and resentment if it had heeded the warning in one particular paragraph of the Cobbold Commission report:

It is a necessary condition that, from the outset, Malaysia should be regarded by all concerned as an association of partners, combining in the common interests to create a new nation but retaining their own individualities. If any idea were to take root that Malaysia would involve a ‘take-over’ of the Borneo territories by the Federation of Malaya and the submersion of the individualities of North Borneo and Sarawak, Malaysia would not, in my judgment, be generally acceptable or successful.”

Interestingly, the people of Scotland will be going to the polls next week to vote on the question of separation from the United Kingdom. The groups in the Borneo states will no doubt be encouraged by this event to step up their efforts here.

As I have said time and again, there is hope for Malaysia to be what it once was and to achieve what was planned for us 50 years ago. We need our leaders to carry out some serious soul-searching and to re-chart the course of our journey. We need them to be strong and just as they lead us forward, and to be without fear or favour. If the current leadership needs to be replaced, so be it – Malaysians must take stock of our situation now, decide on what we want, and act accordingly.

For me, the practical solution for Sabah and Sarawak at this time is to continue to assert our fundamental rights guaranteed in the 18 points of the Malaysia Agreement.  The government must resolve to put right what had gone wrong and to fulfill the broken promises, for instance with regard to our right to a fair share of the revenue from our natural resources, our right to equal development, the freedom of our people to practice their religion, preservation of our languages, control over immigration, Borneonisation of the civil service and representation in the Federal government.

Only when we return to the ideals of our forefathers, only when the government starts to honour its promises to the people, only when the authorities recognize the constitution as the supreme law of the land, only when the 3 arms of government are allowed to be separate and independent, only when our leaders become blind to race and religion to lead without fear or favour, can we begin to truly celebrate Malaysia Day in the spirit of thanksgiving and joy which such an occasion deserves.

This is a dream that can be realised, and it is up to the common people to fight for this dream. We are a people blessed with innate goodness and kindness, abundant riches of the land and perfect environmental and climatic conditions. We must strive even harder to protect what we have from complete ruination by weak and selfish leaders. This Malaysia Day, I declare that I am not ready to abandon my hope for the Malaysia of my dreams. I know that there are many who share my vision. Let us continue with our quest for the Malaysia of our aspirations. As stated so simply by Winston Churchill: Never, never, never give up.

God bless Malaysia. God bless all Malaysians.

BARU BIAN
ADUN N70 Ba' Kelalan



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