Hornbill Unleashed

March 3, 2011

Sarawak is no Egypt or Libya

Maclean Patrick

Instead of resorting to violence, the people of Sarawak should use the ballot box to demand change.

On Feb 25, the Philippines celebrated the 25th silver anniversary of the People Power Revolution – the popular uprising that swept the repressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos out of power in 1986.

It was a movement that brought together two million Filipinos onto the streets to demand a change of government that eventually installed a humble housewife – Corazon Aquino – as the president of the Philippines.

Some people seem to believe that the People Power Revolution of 1986 is the same in Egypt and Libya, and much needed in Sarawak. Yet, aside from the fact that people rose up to overthrow a government, the People Power Revolution of 1986 is not the same as what happened in Egypt and far from what is happening in Libya.

Yet, is Sarawak the next Egypt or Libya? No. But it can be a little like the Philippines.

For Egypt and Libya, the act of citizens rising up to overthrow a tyrant is much like the French Revolution (1789-1799). The political upheaval of the French Revolution caused the collapse of the feudal monarchy in France. It followed several years of dismantling of religious privileges accorded to a select few and a liberalisation of society’s norms. It was a violent, bloody and horrible revolution. And until today, the image of the guillotine hovers over this chapter in French history.

Egypt and Libya are much like the French Revolution. The dictators will be removed (Egypt has and Libya is pending) by the populace; but in its wake a vacuum will exist and a shattered government will need to be rebuilt.

Lessons for Sarawak

The People Power Revolution of 1986 did not leave a vacant government. Instead, it replaced the old government with a new one. The people took to the streets not so much to ask Marcos to step down; they wanted him to leave and make way for Aquino who, many believed, won the snap election Marcos had called for on Feb 7, 1986.

It was a case of the people telling Marcos that the democratic process could not be skewed to his whims anymore and they had the evidence to prove it.

The initial spark that set off events leading to Marcos’ downfall was a walkout by 29 Commission of Election (Comelec) computer technicians, who protested the deliberate manipulation of the official election results to favour Marcos.

On Feb 15, Comelec pronounced Marcos the winner, prompting all 50 opposition members of Parliament to walk out and the people to take to the streets.

Sarawak can learn from all these incidents. A violent removal of a tyrant will only leave the country in a fragile state where its politics is at the mercy of outsiders. Such forcible removal will only validate the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) argument that only a BN government is capable of holding Malaysia together.

Demanding that Taib Mahmud step down before state election is not prudent, for it opens the doors for puppet leaders or a proxy government to take over… It is a mere swap of characters in a play but the script is still written and directed by the same person.

Propaganda machine

Protesting in the streets for Taib to step down would play straight into the hands of BN. Such actions would only fuel the government propaganda machine, and we all know the type of lies the mainstream media is capable of.

Instead, Sarawakians must vote in whom they feel worthy to replace Taib. The people of Sarawak should take to the ballot boxes, vote for change and demand that your votes be taken seriously.

If there are irregularities in the voting process, then the very people involved or who are witnesses to such acts should be brave enough to own up and stage a walk-out. Inform the people of such irregular practices and let the people decide what action to be taken. This course of action involves the brave efforts of those in the Election Commission, the police force, the civil service, media services and political parties – to truthfully convey the voice of the voting public.

Only after such things have been brought to light, should the people take to the streets in peaceful protest – though I hope this will be the very last measure taken, after all other measures are exhausted.

Sarawak is not another Egypt or Libya.

It is time for Taib to step aside, and since he has thrown down the gauntlet proclaiming that only the Sarawak people have the right to say if he stays or not, the people should take up his challenge but it will not be done revolution style (ala French Revolution) but instead via the ballot boxes (the People Power Revolution).

In a democratic country, the leaders have to be constantly reminded on who marks the “X”s. Forgetfulness strikes everyone.

Maclean Patrick is a webmaster based in Sarawak.


1 Comment »



    There is a lot of promotion of peaceful change being discussed in a vacuum without looking at the real historical facts. This promotion is to help those in power to retain colonial control of Sarawak by telling us to remain docile. It sounds so simple to practise the “democracy” we have!

    Where do we have any right to effect changes when all political complaints are filed in the usual place – the dustbin?

    Much as we may wish, the Philippine People Power revolution cannot be used an example of a pristine bloodless revolution but only as one involving both peaceful and violent methods. This Revolution was actually the culmination of a series of peaceful and very violent events following the assassination of the Filipino political leader Ninoy Aquino husband of Corazon Aquino. The overthrow of Marcos was preceded by much lost of lives. It was not peaceful.

    A summary of these events is provided in this Wikipedia link:

    No one would disagree that it is most desirable to have a peaceful change of power and the way we are governed in Sabah Sarawak or Malaya. But much as we wish, it cannot always happen this way. No doubt peaceful docile Sarawak will likely choose this path for change if the election is conducted fairly without dirty tricks. It will be change within the colonial structure of “Malaysia”. But dirty tricks have already started with the gagging of Baru Bian.

    The last popular street demonstrations in Sarawak was probably in 1962 when many thousands of patriotic people marched and demonstrated (organised by SUPP) for real independence and rejected the fake “independence in Malaysia” (meaning colonial annexation of Sabah and Sarawak by Malaya). Have we forgotten already our proud history of resistance to colonial oppression?

    However, if street demonstrations in Sarawak do occur again it will not be just spontaneous it will have to be organised by the opposition (unlikely) for a responsible and peaceful demonstration and show of force by the people against the Taib regime or the next UMNO puppet regime. The organised violence will be directed by UMNO BN against peaceful demonstrators.

    To demonstrate is a democratic right in any so-call democracies. We don’t have that right.

    However, no one has the right to argue against peaceful responsible demonstrations. Isn’t this an argument to GAG people from freely expressing themselves? Whose interest are we serving?

    That demonstrations often turn violent is because the power elite direct their armed forces to inflict violence on the peaceful demonstrators as in the Red Shirt Revolution in Thailand which saw the assassination of a protest leader and killing of many protesters. Similarly in the Middle East and in Malaya in the November 2007 mass demonstrations for electoral reform.

    It is would misleading to give the impression that Malaya or Sarawak never experienced any violent revolutions. As usual most bloggers have a selective lapse of memory and forgot these facts:

    The violence has already been inflicted by the UMNO ruling party on citizens for 53/47 years in Malaya Sabah and Sarawak TO PREVENT CHANGE. This is counter revolutionary violence.

    Few would disagree that at the moment we are governed by a violent fascist government which silences all opposition by whatever means from trumped up police charges against opposition political leaders, use of FRU and gangster violence to evict NCR landowners and use of fear and intimidation to TERRORISE the people and cudgel the people into silence with their secret Gestapo SB police, ISA and Seditions Acts .

    Also we tend to forget that we live under SEVERAL State of Emergencies declared in 1948, 1964, 1966, 1969 and 1977, which have not been revoked. This is all a form of violence against the people and abuse of “democracy”.

    This is state violence used by a fascist government and is NO different from Nazi Germany to the South American dictatorships and in formerly in Indonesia and Philippines. The UMNO and (puppet) PBB BN governments are no different.

    The latest example is the shocking police gagging of Baru Bain from speaking to his supporters in Lawas without real reasons- in the face of the 1000 angry people. When will the people’s fury burst forth?

    In 1969 UMNO conducted a bloody counter-revolution/coup. The May 13 Massacre was instigated by Najib’s father Razak to oust PM Abdul Rahman and seize power and preserve Malay supremacy (after UMNO lost the elections). This was a violent bloody murderous coup. Have we forgotten the thousands of innocent people murdered by UMNO supporters and the Army? Not 200 as ex-US diplomat Mallot says in his famous comment on the disintegration of the “Malaysia” state.

    UMNO leaders now praised themselves for their bloody genocidal deeds as an act of nation building (not beginning of national destruction) by imposition of a fascist apartheid state promoting Malay supremacy and the dismantling of a nominal democracy envisaged in the Federal Constitution (written to appease the suspicious Sabah and Sarawak politicians into signing away their freedom by forming “Malaysia”).

    In 1974 there was a peaceful popular uprising of several thousand Malay peasants in Baling Malaya which shook the Malayan government and which none of us experts seem to know about or ever talk about. The Razak government typically reacted with violence and sent in their FRUs. Anwar Ibrahim was there but he does not talk about it.

    This uprising was followed by a whole year of major student demonstrations in Malaya against the fascist laws like the ISA, Sedition Act, Universities Act etc. with violent suppression by the FRU out in full force. Thousands of students were arrested and not a few tortured and detained without trial under the ISA.

    This sparked off the worldwide Malaysian Student Democracy Campaign which lasted till the late 1980s. This was a revolution in that many timid students rose to the occasion and cast aside their mindset of being bystanders watching history developed. Today a new wave has begun. The sun shines through the dark clouds of UMNO oppression and opens up the shining path of change.

    In November 2007 the 10,000 strong anti-UMNO Government demonstration for electoral reform was put down with massive FRU violence against the people and the EU envoy described Malaya as being under a state of emergency.

    Yes, there are ALSO the other examples of political violence in our history which have been suppressed or we intellectuals have suffered temporary amnesia. This was the violent jungle warfare in Malaya 1948 to 1989 (Malayan Emergency or Malayan National Liberation War) and Sarawak (North Kalimantan Independence War) 1962 to 1990.

    These are subjects many bloggers have steered clear off for reasons known to themselves. Fear of reprisal for talking about a tabooed subject? It may be forgiven if they suffered from lack of knowledge but cannot be forgiven if they were exercising intellectual cowardice. There is an immense amount of information on the Internet and even new books nowadays- so there is no excuse to discover this hidden knowledge of struggle as part of our history.

    We hardly saw or read about the jungle war in the press in which many died on both sides as the Government carefully screened the news and made it appear that it was keeping country peaceful for its propaganda purposes. Of course UMNO is embarrassed to even acknowledge that it was Dayak soldiers who fought the Malayan communists to keep UMNO in power. Most intellectuals played their part by keeping silent. From the communist side it was their revolutionary armed struggle to liberate their respective countries (Malaya and North Kalimantan) from plunder corruption and exploitation which is now out of control. The Malayan freedom fighters tried to break this UMNO imposed silence with reports of the Malayan struggle on their radio Voice of the Malayan Revolution.

    In 1972 the whole Sarawak Rajang River region (half the size of Malaya) was placed under martial law and curfews under the RASCOM military command. The situation there had reached a revolutionary stage after the Brunei independence uprising in 1962. Thousands of Dayak villagers were resettled to deprive the Sarawak independence freedom fighters support. The war was fought till 1990 when a peace treaty was signed but it does not appear that RASCOM has been dismantled.

    Should we NEVER talk about these historic events or give voice to those who sacrificed their lives for freedom and national liberation from UMNO colonial rule.

    To provide a balanced view we must also talk about these blacked out parts of history.

    The internet is only as a safety valve for angry people to let off steam.

    The point to make here is that we must all work for peaceful change but prepare for a violent reaction from those in power who are being challenged.

    The UMNO BN government typically reacts violently to peaceful street demonstrations. The corruption ridden police force daily engaged in bestial brutality in beating up citzens on the slightest excuse.

    Malayans have more practice in such form of street democracy and in facing the FRU tear gas and truncheons than the people of Sabah and Sarawak where repression is even more severe. The call for a demonstration against Taib on the Central Padang was a dismal failure other than a successful SMS protest around Kuching and successful in putting the secret police and FRU on alert. It probably scared the fascist authorities. The demonstration had to be done in London and Ottawa.

    Only recently it was shown on Internet video how the police shamelessly and illegally gagged Baru Bian in his attempt to speak to 1000 members at a private meeting in Lawas. It was an undemocratic act and breach of his constitutional rights. Yet Sarawakians just watched with hardly any reaction (other than on the Internet). In Sarawak the authorities will push the people only so far without breaking their anger.

    If Baru had smartly resisted the police gagging and he would have be been manhandled by the police and arrested. Do you think the 1000 angry people would take this kindly and not mob the police? Some angry people were even proposing to give them a jolly good hiding they fully deserve (the people’s wrath is long overdue)for being the attack dogs of the UMNO PBB regime.

    It could be said the Revolution is just building up steam as each confrontation between people and government escalates. The Opposition has to act within the law and not be accused by UMNO of promoting violence etc. Usual excuses. It is very much restricted by these gentleman rules.

    Our people like thsoe in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain,Djibouti, Iran etc have had their guts full of years of violent oppression and corrupt government. Left with no other choice the Middle East people had to rise as one to overthrow their oppressors a la French Revolution. Few of these were “peaceful” because many people also lost their lives as in Egypt, Bahrain, Djibouti, Libya so far. Mubarak and his fellow dictators went (quite) peacefully, quietly and quickly leaving many dead people behind.

    One thing about the “leaderless” or “spontaneous” revolution should be taken with a pinch of salt. In all the uprisings there is an unseen leadership directing the movement. This will emerge in time. We should not be naive. The CIA is not either.

    In certain countries not so friendly to the USA like Libya or Iran, the unseen hand of the CIA might be directing the anti-Gaddafi uprising and anti-gov’t demonstrations in Iran or the
    “Colour Revolution” in Eastern Europe and former USSR not long ago.

    In the South Sudan revolution both violent and peaceful, the USA has been friendly forthcoming with support. One must ponder about all these factors. The USA also directed anti-communist pogroms in S. Korea and Japan after the war and in Indonesia in 1965 in the Suharto coup which resulted in more than a million unreported murders by the USA back coup. The Bangawan and other rivers flowed red with blood of people massacred on CIA provided name list. CIA and US Army personnels were also involved in various capacities in the Sarawak guerrilla war. However, they lost Vietnam in one of history’s greatest defeat of a super power by a small country.

    Sarawak will surprise us in the end.

    BTW we only have a NOMINAL democracy, name only no democracy, part of UMNO’s shadow show. The “right” to vote does not equate “democracy” when you have no right to control and use your land and resources for your people’s benefit.

    All our Sarawak (and Sabah) oil revenue is financing Malayan development and lining the bottomless UMNO corruption pockets. Then you have all the anti-people laws and the class of power elite and tycoons who grabbed all the country’s wealth and left all the natives destitute.

    Is this democracy- government of the people for the people by the people?

    We are deluding ourselves with this “democracy” idea and also useful to fool school kids and raise them to be unquestioning zombies.

    Let us not perpetual this myth of “democracy” to prolong UMNO domination.

    We can only practice real democracy by throwing out UMNO PBB BN and installing a clean honest and transparent government. That can only come with planning for it now. It cannot drop from the sky. We support peaceful change.

    Comment by Historystudent — March 3, 2011 @ 12:34 PM | Reply

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