Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Debate Speech of YB See Chee How, DUN Sarawak May 2017

N.11 Batu Lintang See Chee How Debate Speech text 17.05.2017

Datuk Speaker,

A few days ago, I have read a very passionate message from John Lewis, a 77-years old American Congressman of African-American origin. He wrote:

“Friend --

54 years sounds like a long time ago -- but in the context of our movement, it's only a blink.

It's only been 54 years since I marched with my brothers and sisters from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

It's only been 54 years since we were jailed, beaten, and killed for trying to cast a vote. For trying to participate in democracy, in the United States of America.

This isn't ancient history. It's the experience of my life …”

The American congressman was referring to the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the March on Washington for civil and economic rights, or The Great March on Washington which was held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. It was followed by the historical match from Selma to Montgomery which was in 1965.

The message from John Lewis was significant to me because this seasoned lawmaker - well-built, dark and handsome - reminded me of our very dear friend and leader, our former Chief Minister the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

The date 54 years ago was significant to John Lewis because as the then chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the young John Lewis was standing beside Martin Luthur King when MLK delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

54 years ago, the youthful Adedan Satem was beside his father at the bank of Sungai Sarawak, witnessing the birth of Malaysia, as he recounted to us, not very long ago.

For the two big men, from a very young age, they are living and have lived to contribute to the nation that they have loved, changing the course of history.

For John Lewis, the spirited March on Washington and the even tempestuous March on Montgomery propelled the U.S. government into action on civil rights, creating political momentum for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

For our late former Chief Minister, I can do no better than to join the band of my honourable colleagues in this august House to pay tribute and to credit the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem for leading Sarawak on a march to start anew, to claim and defend what are rightfully ours, the autonomy promised and envisaged, to vigorously pursue the devolution of power.

“I love Sarawak and I want the people of Sarawak to love and care for Sarawak as much as I do,” let it be recorded that the 5th Chief Minister of Sarawak had left this Fairland Sarawak with those parting words.

Indeed, in his 3-years reign, “Sarawak” and “Sarawakians” had meant much more to the people of Sarawak, in the last 54 years.

This fairland Sarawak and her people were on his mind until his last breath.

Correspondingly, the name “Adenan Satem” was carved in the hearts of all Sarawakians. In her moving maiden speech, I am heartened to note that Honourable member for Tanjung Datu had acknowledged that and find solace and comfort in her irreparable loss.

With the late former Chief Minister, we have begun our march for economic and civil political rights for a new Sarawak. That is his legacy. We have to soldier on.

I congratulate Yang Amat Berhormat the Right Honourable Chief Minister for his appointment and I salute him for openly expressing his determination to continue the legacy of his predecessor.

With an open mind, it can be glimpsed from his new administration that the Right Honourable Chief Minister is restructuring the cabinet and making appointment of the ministers and assistant ministers according to what he envisages Sarawak to be in the future and to prepare and organize the executive for the global socioeconomic and political trends and the opportunities for the betterment of Sarawak.

The elevation and mounting emphasis towards education, oil and gas, energy development, digital economy, international trade and e-commerce development, native land development, urban public transportation and the setting up of the State Ombudsman are indicative of his directions to re-engineer the state’s governance and that deserves our due recognition and support.

The message is clear: The march for Sarawak’s economic and civil political rights is on.

I pray that I am right to say, that our Right Honourable Chief Minister is tuning the executive to be ready for the eventual successes in the series of discussions and meetings on the devolution of powers. I am positive with it, for why do we have a Ministry of Education if we do not foresee any headway in our pursuit for education autonomy, Sarawak’s ‘freedom in education’ as our former Chief Minister had set up to achieved? Surely, we do not want our Sarawak Education Minister finding himself not really having any more authority or responsibility than what our present state director of education has.

I look forward to the winding-up speech by Yang Amat Berhormat Ketua Menteri and am hopeful that the Right Honourable Chief Minister will enlighten this august House on the progress of our quest for autonomy and devolution of power.

I must, however, repeat my gentle caution that the re-engineering of the state’s governance will require the fullest support of all Sarawakians, and that warrants the new administration to adopt a new mindset towards the opposition parties in Sarawak, to recognize their positive and constructive roles in checking and monitoring the functions and performance of the administration. The mechanisms and process for “check and balance” should also be elevated and enhanced.

Parliamentary democracy may not be perfect, but it is the best there is. The “citizens initiated referendum” is being used by most countries practicing representative style of parliamentary democracy to compliment representative democracy and strengthen it, lobbying and mobilizing our citizens to participate in major decision-making. The people and the executives, and the government, are one in the march, a true force to claim and safeguard Sarawak’s rights and interests.

Where John Lewis comes from, representative democracy is being practiced. They have federal referendum, referendum at the state level, the district and local government level. Similarly in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines and many other countries that are practicing representative parliamentary democracy. It is, therefore, mistaken to say that only countries practicing direct democracy like Switzerland, has citizens initiated referendum.

Datuk Speaker,
I am particularly concerned with an aspect of civil rights of which our late former chief minister had always, in his administration and practice, advocated and defended but this civil right is always precarious and chanced upon circumstances and the will and pleasure of another leadership.

I am referring to the former Chief Minister’s legacy in upholding freedom of the press, which I hope it will also be the hallmark of the new administration.

Datuk Speaker,
I have the honour to be invited to attend the Kenyalang Journalism Awards held in Kuching two years ago. The late former chief minister was the guest of honour.

In his speech, the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem encouraged the media to be daring in exposing truth and injustice in society in their reports, so that “members of society will ‘wake up’ rather than being mere bystanders, and inspire them be more proactive towards issues”.

This, Adenan said, would enable the people to be more conscious on the lack of facilities in the rural areas as well as those that had been provided by the government.

However, he said it would only be fair that news reports must also touch on the positive happenings and not only highlight negative issues in the state. And he advised the media to also practise fairness in their reports by not accusing people without any back-up points or concrete proof.

“When people talk about the freedom of expression, it is usually seen as a right to support the opposition, it can also mean the freedom to support the government. There must be a balanced picture — do not think that only because one village has no water supply, the whole country is without water supply,” he said.

In simple words, he expressed his clear understanding of the significance of the freedom of the press to a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people, that a free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoings, and it is also a vibrant marketplace of ideas, a vehicle for citizens to express themselves and gain exposure to a wide range of information and opinions.

Essentially, civil rights come with economic rights. The maxim goes as follows: “We want employment and with it, we want the pride and responsibility and self-respect that goes with the free access to jobs.”

The march for Greater Sarawak is on, I pray that the legacy of the late Tan Sri Adenan will be continued. I fervently wish that our Right Honourable Chief Minister will lead all Sarawakians to scale greater heights, for what Sarawak and Sarawakians truly deserved, for the betterment of all and our future generations.

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