By Sim Kwang Yang
Yesterday was Malaysia Day, commemorating the 46 anniversary of Sarawak and Sabah independence through forming Malaysia with Singapore and the Malayan Federation.
I purposely did not comment on it, since there are far more people nowadays talking about the meaning of this date. I have also stopped talking about the 20 point agreement signed in a joint memorandum 46 years ago.
We all know that Sarawak and Sabah have had a raw deal from 46 years of Malaysian independence. The thing to think about is how to reverse this trend.
Sarawak has 31 parliamentary seats and Sabah 25 parliamentary seats, which were all but swept by the BN in the 2008 general elections. The Sarawak and Sabah state governments are also firmly in the hands of the state BN.
Given the new scenario in Peninsular Malaysia after the political tsunami last year, UMNO can continue to hold power in KL only because of the BN strength in these two eastern states. Sarawakians and Sabahans have found themselves as the king makers in federal politics for the first time in 46 years.
This is the perfect opportunity for the state governments of Sarawak and Sabah to renegotiate with the federal government for a great deal of the benefits that have been eroded throughout 46 years of independence. They should ask for the oil and gas royalties to be raised from 5% to 20% for instance.
But the Sarawak and Sabah state government will never do that, because they are controlled by the BN. As long as they give unqualified support to the federal BN and UMNO in parliament to ensure that the UMNO president will remain as the prime minister of Malaysia, these state BN leaders can do what they want with the states, and become fabulously rich in the process.
That is why the MACC has been involved with small people like Teoh Beng Hock, but they have left all those giant crocodiles and mammoth anacondas in Sarawak and Sabah untouched. As long as that happens, the MACC does not have any credibility in my book.
The PM Najib Tun Razak has called Sarawak and Sabah “fixed deposit” for the national BN. As anyone who knows anything about public or private finance will tell you, the minute a company or a person lives on his fixed deposit instead of his fresh income, it is like surviving by drinking one’s own blood. It is the beginning of the end.
In short, if the political masters of Sarawak and Sabah refuse to renegotiate a new deal for a new Malaysia, then it is up to Sarawakians and Sabahans to change their political masters at the poll in future parliamentary and state general elections.
This is at stake for the opposition parties at the coming elections. But are they up to the task, seeing that money politics still work in these two states, at least in the rural constituencies. Are they fully engaged with the task at hand? Are they conscious of the Herculean task placed upon their shoulders?
I have left Kuching to live in the Klang Valley since 2002, so I am out of touch with local politics. But friends and relatives from Sarawak will grumble to me no end, about how these opposition leading figures within the same party and within the ambiguous opposition coalition are fighting among themselves, most of the time over the allocation of seats.
Many of those fighting for seats do nothing to build up his or her own constituency during the non-election years, to build up the local communities and help them solve their problems.
Very often, they will quarrel openly in the press with one another over petty issues, making those Sarawakians and Sabahans who are praying for a better future for their beloved states very depressed and discouraged.
Sometimes, a leader from an opposition party will declare in the press which seat the party wants to contest, to lay territorial claim for his party by trying to mobilise public opinion in his favour. Sometimes, the party leader will declare that the party is going to contest in a certain number of seats in the next general election, and they will not compromise on one single seat with another opposition party.
This would draw the other opposition parties to make similar claims and a war of words would ensue, making their supporters even more depressed and discouraged.
Opposition supporters get sick and tired, and they wonder if these fighting cocks so expert at fighting among themselves can ever come to an election pact to make sure the opposition coalition will fight the BN on a one-on-one basis.
Opposition supporters begin to question whether opposition politicians are capable of taking power in Sarawak and Sabah and seize the leverage to renegotiate a new deal for a new Malaysian federation. The way they quarrel so openly, it seems they cannot see beyond seats and their party interest.
Therefore, it is nice to hear that the opposition parties are trying to formalise a structure for their coalition, for them to discuss a whole range of things and for some semblance of discipline. They should stop making public claims on seats altogether and go discuss issues like that in the meeting room, behind closed doors, rather than in the press. Then they can issue joint statements to the outside world to present a common front to the enemy.
They can curse and shout and quarrel and bang the table inside the meetings, but once outside, they must smile together arm-in-arm like old comrades. If they find that too hard to do, then they should go take acting classes.
They should learn, from the old leftists in Sarawak, the doctrine of a united front: the enemy of my enemy is my friend, for now at least.
If these opposition figures cannot be warm personal friends, they can at least be strategic allies on the same side of the fence. Forget all the hurt of the past, and think of the people’s hope for the future.
Above all, they must realise how serious their mission is. Sarawakians and Sabahans don’t care which candidate from which opposition party is appointed to contest which seat. They are interested in busting the fixed deposit of the KL BN, so as to get a better deal for future generations of Sarawakians and Sabahans.
You notice I have not mentioned any names, because I know most of them, except the very young ones. If I have offended you by my remarks, I ask you for forgiveness. But the future of Sarawak and Sabah is far more important than personal relationships. I have to say what is in the silent hearts of many concerned citizens in Sarawak, Sabah and West Malaysia.
Don’t take your task lightly! Think above all how to enable Sarawakians and Sabahans to play the role of national king-makers in the not-distant-future. Nothing else — your party or your candidate least of all — is as important as this single goal.
(SKY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )