22 JULY 2015
On 22 July 1963, Britain granted Sarawak full independence and we became a sovereign state in our own right. Sarawak was a fully independent nation from that day until 16 September 1963, when we entered into the Malaysia Agreement together with Sabah, Malaya, and Singapore to form the Federation of Malaysia.
As you are all aware, there has been a growing sentiment among Sarawakians that we have not been fairly treated by West Malaysia over the last 50 years under the BN Government, evidenced by the development and wealth gap between us and them. There is a desire, felt and increasingly expressed by Sarawakians to be free and independent as we were during those 8 short weeks in 1963. These past months, we have noticed that more and more Sarawakians are using the old flag of the kingdom of Sarawak to adorn their vehicles and clothing. This is clearly a message that all is not well in the state of Sarawak.
Why is this so, when we have been part of Malaysia for over 50 years? The federal government would do well to give this question some very serious thought, and address the issues that have led to this sense of dissatisfaction among Sarawakians. Truly, in no other ‘state’ of Malaysia can one find the same ‘anti-Malaya’ fervour that has gripped Sarawakians.
Foremost on every person’s mind now is the 1MDB scandal that implicates the Prime Minister in the misappropriation and misuse of the people’s money. A sum of RM42 billion (that we know of so far) has been defrauded from us and the government is intent on going after the whistleblowers instead of appointing an acceptable panel to investigate the crime. At the same time, many are struggling to make ends meet as prices of goods and services increase with the implementation of GST. The mismanagement and corruption in the government and public authorities has reached levels that will bring ruin to this country if it is not stopped.
Sarawak and Sabah have been marginalized for 50 years, treated as lowly fixed deposits for the BN government while West Malaysia benefits from our rich resources. BN ministers come every election time and make promises that they have no intention of keeping. Our freedom of religion is being threaten by the government’s weak stance on the ‘Allah’ issue and the BM bible.
The foregoing are some reasons that keep us in PKR Sarawak focused in our fight to change the government of the day. We do not aim to adopt the methods of Rentap, Rosli Dobi, Ukung & Dayung Kelupan or Bian Murud (my ancestors) in physical aggression against their oppressors. In this day and age, we must apply political wisdom and maturity to achieve the change we want. We believe that change must come through the ballot box.
This day last year, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim was in Kuching to commemorate our Independence Day with us. In his speech, he acknowledged the sacrifice and contribution of Sarawak and Sabah to the economic success of Malaysia. He also recognized the disparity between the Borneo states and Peninsula Malaysia in terms of development and wealth. More importantly, DSAI pointed out that Malaysia is a federation, and that in a true federation, there is a division of power that allows all the component states to work as separate units while the overall structure remains intact as a sovereign state recognised in the international community. DSAI advocated a decentralisation of power, as opposed to the amassing of power at the federal level, which is the current scenario. Essential matters such as national defence, internal security and raising revenue should remain with the central government, but there is scope for decentralisation of many other matters.
Acknowledging the injustice in the marginalisation and poverty suffered by Sarawak and Sabah despite their rich resources as a result of corruption, nepotism and cronyism by both the Federal and State Governments, and in the spirit of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, DSAI proposed a 7-point plan for Sarawak and Sabah in line with the true concept of federalism. DSAI is not here with us today but I wish to reiterate the main items of the plan that he proposed for us last year.
Most significantly, the first point is to recognize - in the Federal Constitution, text books and official discourse - that Sabah and Sarawak as special states that are equal to Peninsula Malaysia within the Federation of Malaysia.
The other points are:
Point 2: Upholding Bahasa Malaysia as the national language but protecting the freedom of expression and information in all languages, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, including the use of Allah in the Malay and Iban-language Bibles and other publications.
Point 3: Federal-state sharing of petroleum wealth and power in Petronas with state representation on the Board; establishment of state-owned second-tiered Oil and Gas companies; 20% oil royalty; abolishment of cabotage policy; construction of the Pan-Borneo highway of comparable quality to the highways in Peninsula Malaysia and the supply of electricity and water to 90% of households.
Point 4: Establish permanent joint Federal-State Commissions to oversee the naturalization of foreigners in Sarawak and Sabah; the trans-migration of other Malaysians into Sabah and Sarawak; and Border and coastline security in both states.
Point 5: Establish State Land Commissions, with institutionalized representation from the native communities and answerable to the State Assemblies, to administer land especially Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands, undertake surveys, investigate and resolve land disputes; and Establish elected third-tiered governments at city and division level to facilitate participatory decision-making and indigenous autonomy.
Point 6: Borneonisation of the state public service with transparent and meritocratic recruitment and promotion; Recruitment of more Borneans into the Administrative and Diplomatic Services and appointment of more Borneans as Ambassadors and High Commissioners; and Both scholarships for both Bornean students in general and Bornean native students in particular with no discrimination on the ground of ethnicity and religion.
Point 7: Establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry to commence a study on the health of federalism in Malaysia within the first year of the new Federal Government and complete it within 3 years, to reform and rejuvenate our federal system.
For too long, we have been neglected, not only by the Federal government, but also by the state government, which perhaps finds it more convenient to toe the BN federal government’s line rather than to fight for our rightful share of allocations and resources. We have been languishing as a ‘poor cousin’ of Peninsula Malaysia whilst being regarded as the ATM and fixed deposit of the BN government. We have massive catching-up to do, and political will is paramount. The leaders we choose must put the interests of Sarawak and Sarawakians before their own interests. Our candidates understand too well the situation faced by the ordinary Sarawakian, and the promises made in our Roadmap will help to move Sarawak forward to take our rightful place as an equal partner in the Federation of Malaysia and to enjoy the same level of development and progress as Peninsula Malaysia.
I wish to again quote the words of Charles Brooke in 1915, at the sitting of the State Assembly warning our forefathers that after his time as the Rajah of Sarawak,
“...others may appear with soft and smiling countenances, to deprive you of what is solemnly your right – and that is, the very land on which you live, the source of your income, the food even of your mouths? If this is lost to you, no amount of money could recover it.
“Unless you follow this advice you will lose your birthright, which will be taken from you by strangers and speculators who will in their turn become masters and owners, whilst you yourselves, you people of the soil, will be thrown aside, and become nothing but coolies and outcasts of the island.”
I believe that Sarawakians are waking up to the fact that Charles Brooke’s worst fears have come true. In the context of the above quotation, Charles Brooke was referring to Native Customary Right Land as our birthright that must be jealously guarded. But today, Sarawakians are taken for a ride by BN and UMNO political leaders who come and make countless sweet but empty promises to us and ‘appear with soft and smiling countenance’ and deprived many of our people of our birthright as promised under the Malaysia Agreement. It is time for us to take a different course than the BN ride that has brought us such dissatisfaction and resentment.
Sarawakians want a change. Sarawakians want to reclaim our identity as a separate and equal partner. Sarawakians want a real voice to speak up for our rights. The fastest and easiest way to achieve this change is through the ballot box. Change is possible and we are offering the best means to achieve this change.
We are offering a renewed Sarawak for Sarawakians.
CHAIRMAN, PKR SARAWAK