PKR SARAWAK CONVENTION
29 APRIL 2017
BARU BIAN’S OPENING ADDRESS
Ten years ago, after several unsuccessful attempts at winning a seat in the Sarawak and Parliamentary elections since 1991, I had been thinking about retiring from politics to focus on my legal career. Then in 2008, something happened in the political landscape of Malaysia that gave me renewed hope and a reason to persevere in my quest to try to make a difference in the governance of this country.
The political tsunami of 3/08 was that event. Never had I thought that this could happen in my lifetime: a two coalition-party system proven to be workable and fairer in many developed democratic countries in the world today.
I had no hesitation in riding this fresh wave of political hope when I was asked to join PKR, which I did two weeks after 308. I also encouraged my friends and colleagues to support and strengthen this positive political development, so that we could achieve a stronger democratic system, which would feature multi-racial parties that are policy-based, instead of the traditionally race-based parties.
The message of reform (or ‘reformasi’) that was the campaign slogan of DS Anwar Ibrahim and PKR, was heard all over Malaysia, even in the rural areas of Sarawak. The ‘Reformasi’ cry resonated strongly with me, and I believe with many other Malaysians. It encouraged us to change our mind-sets, transforming our understanding of politics and giving us hope for bigger changes. The political tsunami of 2008 marked a paradigm shift in Malaysian politics.
Unfortunately, what I had hoped to fight against, ie politics based on race and religion, has been getting more obvious and intense, instead of decreasing. The UMNO/BN leadership’s modus operandi has been to politicise race and religion to stoke fear and hatred among the various ethnic groups in order to divide and rule the people. This is nothing new, but with the advancement of technology and the widespread use of social media, the impact of these dangerous tactics is even more far-reaching and the damage magnified.
Together with other worrying developments such as the blatant corrupt practices of government officials led by the prime minister, the worsening economic situation, the mismanagement of the country’s assets and resources, and the scandals of 1MDB, FELDA, MARA, etc, the scenario for Malaysia’s future looks bleak.
However, we must not give up. It is even more crucial now that we must keep pushing for change. The agenda of reform has to be pursued with even more vigour. All of you who are here today are politically aware. Your eyes are open, and you can see what is really happening in this country. Many people are still sleeping, and we have to do our part to raise the level of political awareness and engagement among them. Others, like us, are longing for a change, and it is up to all of us to keep pushing on with the movement towards this change. Giving up is not an option if we truly care about the future of our children and if we are to save this country from complete ruin.
For me, there is no other alternative but to stay strong with the Opposition. For this reason, the Opposition must stay united and focussed, and we must be able to give and take, all the while looking at the bigger picture of change, rather than squabble over seats and positions. The Opposition needs to be perceived as being credible and responsible and a viable alternative to the current UMNO/BN government.
I know that in Sarawak, it appears that making inroads is an uphill challenge. We fought a tough battle in the elections last year, but did not manage to increase our seats. Many of our members and those who stood in the elections are suffering from election fatigue, and feeling disheartened. My message to you, my comrades, is that we have achieved more for Sarawak than you think.
It is not merely the number of seats we hold that count. The narratives we have carried with us, and the messages we keep repeating, are being heard now by the BN government of Sarawak. The late Adenan Satem took up many of our causes, and the current CM continues to do the same. For example, our calls for recognition as equal partners in Malaysia, our insistence on there being no official religion and on English being an official language, our demands for autonomy, increased oil royalty, restoration of our territorial rights, abolishment of the cabotage policy, and Borneonisation of the civil service have been adopted by the state government, and are being pursued by them with Putrajaya. Recently, BN representatives in Sarawak have taken to openly criticising the government where warranted.
Ten years ago, such events would have seemed impossible. Today, we can say that the persistence of the opposition has succeeded in giving Sarawak a stronger voice in Putrajaya. If our main objective is to improve the lives of the people and to stand up for our rights, it does not matter who takes the credit. If Sarawak is given her rightful recognition and share of the resources of this country, then everyone benefits.
This is not to say that everything is rosy, although we have made some progress. As I had mentioned earlier, our country is in dire straits. Najib Razak and his cronies do not care about the common people, only about their own pockets. They approve mega projects and award contracts without tender to foreign companies. There is lack of transparency and accountability in the government and the government authorities. All the major institutions in the country have been compromised, and we are now a country where rule of law does not apply. The country is at risk of becoming a radical Taliban-like state, thanks to the efforts of people like Hadi Awang, assisted by Najib in their political games to control the country.
In Sarawak, our people are still struggling for decent schools and basic amenities. Hospitals and clinics are inadequate, especially in the rural areas. The cost of living is steadily increasing, but salaries remain stagnant. Social ills continue to plague us. This week, the government announced that in the north, almost 25% of students tested positive for drugs. Sarawak has been left behind in progress and development and there is a lot of catching up to do.
Five years ago, during Malaysia Day, in my speech at the signing of the Kuching Declaration, I spoke about my dream for Malaysia. I have been called a dreamer and politicians from the BN have said many times that the opposition can only dream of winning the elections. I said then that it is not wrong to dream, no matter how difficult the road looks. No matter how formidable the obstacles, it is only right that we should have a vision, for where there is no vision, the people perish.
Today I wish to reaffirm my dream – to declare my undiminished vision for the ordinary and downtrodden people of Sarawak.
I have a vision for a better life and a brighter future for our children and the generations to come.
In my vision, the wealth of the land is used for the benefit of ALL the people.
In my vision, the landowners reap bountiful harvests from their lands and have plentiful to eat.
In my vision, the government is led by humble leaders who serve the rakyat with integrity, never forgetting that they are but the servants of the people on whose goodwill and co-operation they are entirely dependent.
In my vision, our schools teach a first rate curriculum and our children are given every opportunity to acquire skills and qualifications to properly prepare them to face the challenges of life.
In my vision, the government provides safe and adequate infrastructure for the people and sound policies for economic development and growth.
In my vision, the airwaves and television screens carry balanced and accurate news so that the people are properly informed.
In my vision, the people are free to practice the religion of their choosing without any interference from the religious authorities or any 3rd party.
In my vision, the sick and infirm are given the best medical care.
In my vision, Sarawakians and Malaysians of all races who have the determination and drive are given equal opportunity to succeed and prosper.
In my vision, the judiciary is truly a fountain of justice where all citizens are given equal protection under the law and where the judges rule in accordance with the law of the country instead of under political pressure.
In my vision, the security and enforcement agencies are professional in the discharge of their duties and no citizen is fearful of being victimised for speaking out against unfair treatment and brutality.
In my vision, Sarawak is recognised as an equal partner in the federation of Malaysia and given her rightful share of the resources of the country.
In my vision, Sarawak is given extra allocations to be on par with Malaya in terms of infrastructure, economic progress and social development, as promised by Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1963.
My brothers and sisters, I invite you to share my dreams and vision for Sarawak, for the sake of our future generations. The path is not always easy or smooth, and many sacrifices have been made along the way. In June last year, our brother Bill Kayong paid the ultimate price with his life in fighting for the rights of his fellow Sarawakians. Bill would definitely be here at this convention today had he not been murdered so cruelly. I wish to pay tribute at this point to Bill for his belief in a better Sarawak and for giving his all to pursue his dreams for Sarawakians. We owe it to him, and to ourselves, to keep on striving to make our dreams a reality.
I truly believe that my dreams for our nation can be realised in our time, and can even be achieved during GE14.
True to our convention slogan “Strong, Sustainable, One Hope”, let us remain strong in our aspirations, and sustain our One Hope in a united opposition for the sake of this country.
Together, let us make our dreams come true!
With these words said, I have the honour to officially open our State Convention 2017.
Have a fruitful discourse and May God bless Sarawak.
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak