Hornbill Unleashed

February 23, 2011

Battle for the hearts and minds of Sarawakians

Sim Kwang Yang

The state of Sarawak is now gearing towards the 10th state elections.

Sarawakians must go to the polls before July this year.

Any state or national election is a major event in the political life of the people.

Malaysia is a working democracy, and voting into power the government of the day is one of the most important events for common citizens.

In the case of Sarawak, the election is unlikely to see a change of the state government: Barisan Nasional still enjoys overwhelming control over the politics of the state.

The Barisan Nasional’s hold on the instruments of power remains rock solid.

But the opposition has enjoyed a resurgence among the urban, mostly Chinese, voters.

In the last state election, the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) won six seats of the 12 contested, with a single seat going to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

By all accounts, the Chinese voters will vote for the state opposition DAP and PKR again in the coming election.

There is a reason why the opposition can find fertile soil mainly among Chinese voters.

Many of the Chinese people are financially independent, and are not very reliant on the Barisan Nasional for fulfilling their development needs.

Theirs are mostly urban constituencies, and they enjoy better infrastructure development than their rural counterparts.

Communication between the voters is far superior in the towns and cities, where the citizens enjoy better Internet and other information technology facilities than in far-flung villages in the rural areas.

The difficulty in interpersonal communication in the rural areas remains one of the main reasons why the opposition parties have made so little headway in rural constituencies.

The ruling Barisan Nasional also monopolises all means of distributing election goodies to the rural voters, including minor development funds, and money needed for infrastructure, such as the building of roads and bridges.

The rural voters know very well that the Barisan Nasional is their only godfather.

In the rural constituencies, the ruling Barisan Nasional also dominates all avenues of mobilising political support groups, the transportation of voters, and the funds for maintaining a large army of party foot soldiers.

This overwhelming advantage has ensured the Barisan Nasional their grip on political power in the state of Sarawak.

The political horizon of the rural voters is also limited and somewhat myopic.

The political concerns of the rural voters, especially in the remote villages, seldom expand beyond their immediate geographical location, such as the next river or the next hill.

The imagination of rural Sarawakian voters is, unsurprisingly, narrow, and national political issues are seldom of immediate concern to these voters.

In recent years, a large number of young, eligible voters have moved out of their rural heartland to work in cities in Peninsular Malaysia such as Johor Baharu, Kuala Lumpur and Melaka.

This massive migration has stripped the rural constituencies of many eligible voters; I have been to many rural communities where young voters are hard to find, for they have all drifted to the urban centres.

Most of these rural young are working in low-paying jobs in towns and cities, and many of them will not be able to afford to return to their home constituencies to vote in the coming election.

The opposition parties are therefore isolated from their natural support base in the rural constituencies – young rural voters more exposed to political information and debates — who might otherwise become agents of social change for the entire state of Sarawak.

By all accounts, the Barisan Nasional government looks set to be returned to power, although the opposition parties may enjoy pockets of support in the urban constituencies.

I am glad that we will not witness the kind of change of government that has happened in Egypt.

Sarawak is a peaceful state, and any political shift in power should occur through the electoral process.

The revolution in Egypt may have been necessary in that faraway land because of the deep-rooted problems of poverty and repression there — worse than our own socioeconomic problems.

In all fairness, Sarawak is still a state that is governed by the rule of law, and people seeking change can still participate in the democratic process.

Malaysia is, by and large, a working democracy, so I would like to say to all you Sarawak voters: go out to vote, and may the best candidate win!


  1. Mr Sim Kwang Yang

    In a nutshell: I sense a tinge of regret in your article that, rural Sarawak will likely not be jumping into the “change” bandwagon, and that in the last paragraph, you had reluctantly reassure yourself and the readers that with the right to vote remaining as the last vestige of democratic principle, change and reforms will still have a chance to make a come back.

    Although I generally agree with the realistic assessment, I have the following “bones/comments” to pick with this article:

    1) I think articles such as this can be disheartening (morale destroyer) to the people who are working hard on the ground
    2) The failure of poor,impoverished rural folk who may not have electricity and water to “get it”,means more work is required
    3) The last GE swing to DAP, at the expense of SUPP in urban constituencies … cannot be taken for granted (implied as a given)

    On rural voters: lets be reminded by history that rural voters did not always vote for the ruling government. SUPP had large support among the Iban population in Sibu when the party was in the Opposition. The same support was enjoyed by SNAP and PBDS when both were in the Opposition at one time.Maybe worth it to go over political history with rural folks, to explain what political struggle means in each decade, to get them up to speed on the modern political big ideas.

    Comment by MERAMAT TAJAK — February 24, 2011 @ 9:54 AM | Reply

  2. Arise sarawakians. The time is now. Gather together for a vision of the new world. When sons and daughters have visions dictators and govts. will fall. A new world will be.

    Comment by sam — February 23, 2011 @ 6:15 PM | Reply

  3. Do not underestimate the power of the “shy” jungle people in big groups !

    Comment by SK Subramaniam — February 23, 2011 @ 1:23 PM | Reply

  4. Yes, agreed with you some part of your message. The rural and poor areas and their old aged voters are still in the mind set of looking for some MRP and grants to repair their roads, the briges, gift of small chicken, some bottles and some ringgit come the time of election. We Dayak are poor and in need, and BN Sarawak know this very well so they are utilizing our weakness in the smartest way and many of our less-informed and less-decided people will still shiver their hands and “X” to vote BN again and again. That strategy has keep BN strong and successful winning and “laughing” all the way down. The laughing also come from our own Dayak elected YBs knowing that their dear stupid and poor Dayaks will never desert them.

    This coming state poll, we will be seeing more down fall of SUPP men and women. You Chinese guys are more informed and decided compared to ours. The thief CM is in no way scaring you guys with even depriving of development funds.

    And we are seeing reduction of ” vote majority” in many Dayak and rural constituencies especially those affected by NCR grab issues. BN is not much worried over us because they will still win; even wining with a vote majoiry is a win. Our people will and can change their MINDS the morning they wake up (some after a Langkau session provided by BN), get on a BN provided vehicle and vote BN with a smile of relief. Some even say that it is a sin when you receive money from BN and you get on a BN vehicle but you dont not vote BN. See how lovely our people. Worst as you said, many who know better the situation of our Dayak future are far away to come home to vote, there again BN is more happy about.

    BN seats will get reduced .BN vote majority will get reduced. This provide PM Najib and gang to re-assess the security and solidness of his PutraJaya fortress. He definitely knows the best timing to remove the Sarawakian Pehin

    Comment by Salah Satu — February 23, 2011 @ 9:45 AM | Reply


      Comment by Freeman — February 24, 2011 @ 7:05 AM | Reply

  5. Daily streaming of unfavourable news on our leaders should make us ponder for a 361 degree turn. Whatever the sweet honey they can shower onto us now by these leaders can be a deadly poison to us all tomorrow. Unfulfilled Promises! May we claim then Sarawakians have had been victimised by the BN for the last 3 decades. Everything were in their demonized hands to an extent the Election Commission helps look forward a favourable climate to chance on the opposition preys. Their trick is very smart. Vice versa, should that have been applied skillfully in the overseas market, the Barats would not be that desperate to abscond Sarawakians revenue. Have we realized that each promise they made create a burnt hole to our pockets. Why the election date has to be so secretive about? Let SIBU 2010 a case histroy, the KEY to liberate Sarawakians. Shame, where is that democracy? Got to catch the Oppositions pants down again.

    Prices in our domestic products are spiralling each day. The ruling government is smart again sending out the Minister and enforcement teams on the pretext of price check under the strong beam of the controlled media. The most important Q is WHO started off with the nation price increase. Our black gold, petroleum should be the M1 catalyst to balance our market force then. There you are, BN hit a jackpot again, killing two birds with one stone. This practice by the ruling government on the inflation mechanism is only good to those who are in the civil service, making them smile with great content. Who? With the extended retirement age a cloud nine thought hurrays to getting extra wives is the last chance be missed as children can live sparingly under the house of Pension. Again, almost all the consumers products in our domestic market had already carried rocketted prices. Do we allow these government to keep squeezing our throats onto us especially our poor rural Sarawakians telling us to economize in such today style of development? Though we are witnessing the generous baits throwing out ceremonies to the various social welfare and volunteering organizations what is the consideration our poor rural folks received. Thus for the goodness sake of our State especially our children and the future generations let’s say STOP to this corrupted type of governance. Even that fellow can say, “Five years ago, ‘nasi lemak’ would cost RM1 but now now RM1.50…”. They can make adjustment on their any budget at their whim AND now does the government realise how these our poor rural folks suffer after each election being held. Manah meh ka kami meli tiket bar, tiket BN tu ka berjalai parai.

    Comment by miaowkia — February 23, 2011 @ 9:43 AM | Reply

    • After all the expose’s and information, we are still talking and no padang demo.

      Comment by Lu Kia Soo — February 24, 2011 @ 7:20 AM | Reply

  6. “The revolution in Egypt may have been necessary in that faraway land because of the deep-rooted problems of poverty and repression there — worse than our own socioeconomic problems.” – SKY

    SKY, that’s a bold statement. You wanna bet? Come back and turun padang.. you’ll see how wrong you are!

    Comment by ibat — February 23, 2011 @ 9:27 AM | Reply

    • Whether SKY is a naive peacenik or not, he did not have to worry.

      This is because (unfortunately) most Saraak heroes slept in and missed the great gathering.

      Someone said “no parang ilang at the padang”!

      That said it all!

      Comment by Lu Kia Soo — February 24, 2011 @ 7:18 AM | Reply

  7. “…our independence which we had for a over 100 years up to 1942…”

    Aiya! How’d u know, smart guy! Bloody ang moh also sold us off to the monkey orang puteh queen who then sold us off some crazy melayu king ! You’re bought, ain’t you?

    Comment by Go Taib go! — February 22, 2011 @ 8:55 AM | Reply

    • Are your comments meant to be sarcastic or to agree with Independence Fighter’s about Sarawak independence ?

      Comment by Lu Kia Soo — February 24, 2011 @ 7:14 AM | Reply

  8. Last night TV7 said he wanna go but may contest in Balingian. Said he wanna decide at last moment during elections.

    Whatever lah …!

    Comment by Go Taib go! — February 22, 2011 @ 8:43 AM | Reply


    Please don’t encourage the illusion of “democracy” in Sarawak. We only have a restricted and controlled right to elect poltical parties which are locked in on the concept of keeping Sarawak a colony of Malaya!

    We lost our democracy and basic right to self determination and real independence with the annexation of Sabah and Sarawak under the guise of “independence in Malaysia” in 1963.

    Who ever gets voted into the DUN or Federal Parliament will have to do the biddings and bow to the orders of Kuala Lumpur.

    How can we claim to have democracy while our country remains just colony and we are colonial subjects without real freedom and all our wealth has been drained overseas?

    This democracy belongs only to those who rule us and those who do the biddings of the foreign ruler.

    There is nothing democratic to boast about. We can only be proud when we are free and independent.

    The solution is for us to regain our independence which we had for a over 100 years up to 1942 (occupation by Japan 1942 by Britain 1946, by Malaya by 1963).

    We must first conquer our fears and timidity in making sacrifices and unite to fight for independence.

    Comment by Independence Fighter — February 22, 2011 @ 8:20 AM | Reply

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