The public political conversation in Sarawak can only be described as primitive at best. How I know it! I was engaged in frontline politics for nearly 20 years in Bandar Kuching, trying to elevate the level of political narrative in my home state. It was near impossible, because the media was all closed, and the weight of the Internet had yet to be felt.
Thanks to the Internet, I can read the Borneo Post online everyday these days. Living in Cheras on the edge of Kuala Lumpur as I do, it is my way of touching base with my home state, so to speak.
On June 5, in a story headlined Pakatan Rakyat cannot bring progress, this is what I read about what George Chan has to say.
“Sarawakians should not disappoint themselves by believing that the so-called Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government, which has been pre-occupied with internal squabbles, can bring about progress to the nation.
“In giving this advice yesterday, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan stressed that the state needed stability and a peaceful environment for development and progress.
“It is evident that in Peninsular Malaysia, we have seen many incidents where Pakatan Rakyat is too occupied with its political gimmicks and demonstrations to gain political mileage.’
This is the sort of mindless mind-numbing monologic harangue from Sarawak top politicians one reads on the Borneo Post daily. The sad thing is that there are actually mindless voters who believe in this sort of inane rhetoric.
Sarawak has been ruled by the BN since 1963. We are the state with the richest natural resources, in land, minerals, timber, oil and gas. We have great political stability in that the state government has never changed hands and the opposition is still weak 46 years after independence.
But the last time I checked, Sarawak is still one of the poorest states in Malaysia, ranked 12th I think, ahead of Kelantan in terms of per capita income. Meanwhile, we know how rich the political top dogs in Sarawak are. What is the value of that kind of political stability in our state?
In contrast, the per capita income in Selangor is in the region of RM50,000 per annum. In Penang, the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has just announced that poverty has been completely eradicated in the state; he just gave monthly government assistance to the last few hundred Penang residents who live below the poverty line.
I live in the state of Selangor. Nothing much has changed since the Pakatan Rakyat took over the government in 2008. It has barely been one year, and the new state government is still learning the art of governance. But the water bill in my Cheras home has been slashed to about RM5 a month.
Already, the people of Selangor are seeing unprecedented change. The income of each State Executive Councilors has been made public. Under a committee headed by Eli Wong, they are now preparing a Freedom of Information Bill.
I would like to see a declaration of the personal wealth of our Sarawak top politicians, including that of George Chan. I would like to see the enactment of Freedom of Information in the Sarawak DUN, so that I can have a list of all the timber concessionaires in the state.
As for the PR component parties caught in internal squabbles, we see BN parties washing dirty linens in public, both in East and West Malaysia, especially within SUPP.
I think what George Chan is trying to say is this,”Look at Perak. The PR state government there is so caught in a political crisis that they cannot provide the stability to rule the state. Likewise, all PKR state governments including a future Sarawak PR state government cannot rule the state.
What are the facts? In Selangor, Penang, Kedah, and Kelantan, they enjoy political stability and economic development under their PR state governments. The problem in Perak is the product of the scheming, machination, sabotage, and dirty politics of UMNO, specifically that of the prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. It is BN that is the source of the constitutional and political crisis in Perak.
The only way out is for a state general election to be held now in Perak. That is what BN will not allow to happen, because BN will lose big. Even Dr. M has said so!
In another BP story headlined PKR’s act demeaning for Sarawakians, the reporters Raymond Mering and Lim How Ping wrote these three leading paragraphs:
“Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is sending all the wrong signals with its decision to appoint Perak-born Mustaffa Kamil Ayub to lead the party in Sarawak.
“PKR is probably the first peninsula-based party to actually appoint a Peninsular Malaysian to directly head its branch in Sarawak and it has become a questionable precedence.
“Sarawak’s Barisan Nasional (BN) senior leaders found it all somewhat demeaning for Sarawakians.”
The first two paragraphs are instances of bad journalism, because the two reporters have confused opinions with facts. They put down their own opinions or the opinions of other people without quoting the identity of the sources to make the statement sound as if it is a fact.
This is the cardinal sin of journalism, but it has gone on for as long as I can remember in Sarawak. Perhaps some Sarawakians have come to accept this bad practice as standard and good!
Again, the PKR appointment in Sarawak has been described by George Chan as “crazy”
Then again, we have to recall that in West Malaysia at least, it is common for component parties of Barisan national to appoint a national leader from out of the state to be the head of the party of any state.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is a Pahang UMNO man, and yet he has appointed himself Perak UMNO chief. So George Chan has just called Najib “crazy”, demeaning the people of Perak!
At the end of the day, George Chan’s public statements on those two occasions have nothing to do with the welfare of the people of Sarawak. They were illogical, ill thought out, and plainly simplistic. His purpose was just to use his monopoly in the Sarawak newspapers to put down and demonise his political opponents, without regard for the Truth. It is called sophistry.
The SUPP used to be a great political party, very close to the grass-root in these hey days in the early 1960s, when I was growing up as a primary school student at the KMC flats at Jalan Ban Hock. They used to draw huge crowds at the Song Keng Hai grounds with Mr. Chan Siaw Hee as their firebrand speaker. They really enjoyed the support of the working people.
Then they joined the Sarawak Alliance government in 1970 under the leadership of Tun Rahman Yakub. They sang a different tune. In 1978, I joined the DAP to fight them. It was a tough fight, partly because of the charismatic leadership of Dr. Wong Soon Kai who gave the SUPP a kind of Renaissance.
Now SUPP is under the questionable leadership of George Chan and fast becoming the party of tycoon towkays. He had offered to step down after disastrous defeats at the hands of unknown young upstart candidates from the DAP in Kuching in 2006. Then he changed his mind. What good fortune for the DAP in future elections indeed!
(SKY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )