Hornbill Unleashed

April 27, 2011

Reflections on PRN10 Sarawak

Hornbill CornerSim Kwang Yang

My first brush with electoral politics in Malaysia happened 33 years ago, in 1978. I was in Kuching for the summer vacation, a break from my university course in philosophy. I had already enrolled in graduate school, intending to pursue a PhD in that obscure subject.

I read in the newspaper that a group of Kuching people were trying to set up a new branch for the DAP. I knew nothing about the DAP and did not know their secretary-general Lim Kit Siang. But I have always been convinced that democracy is good for the people, in Sarawak or elsewhere. So I walked up to the local contact person and signed up as a member.

Not long after that, a group of local DAP members paid me a visit and invited me to a meeting. I went to the meeting and was duly elected as secretary of the Kuching branch. Very soon, I was sucked into the maelstrom of their local political activities.

In 1979, the assemblyman for Padungan passed away suddenly, and a state by-election was held soon after. I was nominated as a party candidate in Padungan, contesting among a field of five. I had to learn the ABCs of party politics quickly, and I was handicapped by my poor command of Mandarin at the time.

In the by-election, the independent candidate won the contest, and I obtained the second highest number of votes. That gave me great encouragement for the future of politics in Sarawak.

During that time, I was already a Landed Immigrant in Canada, with a scholarship to study in philosophy. I decided to give up my future in Canada, and started to build my career in politics in my beloved homeland.

I worked almost full-time for my party, the DAP. In 1982, I contested again and won the parliamentary seat for Bandar Kuching for the first time. My involvement in party politics then became total, when I began work in my position as a member of parliament.

In total, I contested eight times in various elections, and I won elections for my parliamentary seat three consecutive times. When I retired in 1995, I was much weakened physically, by my problems with my health, and in particular with diabetes. I had to quit from active politics, and I have retired since that time. My poor health has been my Achilles heel, especially after I suffered from a stroke early last year.

Throughout my political career, I have heard many of my friends express their fear of politics. They would rather leave the cut and thrust to the professional politicians, and they often grumble that politics is too dirty for them.

My involvement in active politics at the front line, over almost 20 years, has taught me many things about life in general, and about politics in particular. It was very frustrating to work in the negative atmosphere of fear that is prevalent in our society. This is my chief complaint about my constituents, because they fear every shadow that moves in the darkness, when most of the time there was nothing to fear at all. The people were frightening themselves half the time.

Looking back 32 years later, I am glad I participated in active party politics, though I have nothing to show for it in material terms, except a pension.

I still think that politics need not be dirty. It is as clean as you make it to be. But you have to learn to be critical about yourself, and adhere to the highest moral standards of public service.

From experience, I have learned that the worst enemy of the politician is his own ego. All politicians must remember to guard against hubris, and the danger of his or her own pride. I have seen many politicians destroyed by the greed of their own heart. The best politicians are the humble leaders of the people. All politicians must treasure the sense of humility, no matter how high they climb.

So, we are now on the cusp of yet another General election ( PRU 13 ). Like all elections in the past, there will be winners and there will be losers.

After the election, all parties and candidates must conduct post-mortem examinations, to identify their weaknesses and strengths during the campaign period. It is part of the work of any politician to learn from the mistakes of the past, and derive strength from their achievements.

Win or lose, we are all Sarawakians. We must serve the people first and foremost.

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14 Comments »

  1. YES- NOT CONNED BUT FORCED TO BECOME A COLONY OF MALAYA/UMNO

    Also life was a lot better before 1963!

    Now we have no oil, no tree, no land, no harvest, no freedom!

    Comment by Sarawakbaru — April 30, 2011 @ 12:11 PM | Reply

  2. LEE HUI- IT IS REALLY ABOUT RE-GAINING SARAWAK INDEPENDENCE-

    Why ask for “secession” implying Sarawak was legally incorporated into “Malaysia”?

    Sabah and Sarawak were forced at gunpoint to be part of Malaysia in 1963- after the Brunei Uprising. The Uprising was to oppose the very idea of the neo-colonial “Malaysia Plan” originally dreamt up by the British colonial office in 1942. This was to make Sarawak a colony of Malaya when they withdrew from S.E. Asia. 1942 marked the year when we lost our 100 years of independence with Japanese Invasion, then 1946 with British direct colonial rule and again in 1963 with UMNO/Malayan direct colonial rule.

    We don’t secede from colonial rule – we fight to re-gain our independence!

    Sarawak patriots fought till 1990 for our independence after the suppression of the Uprising. This history has been constantly repeated in these pages. We all do need to be reminded and have time to absorb the history.

    Professor Dr. Ooi Keat Gin wrote about how Sarawak was “conned” into Malaysia.
    http://sarawakheadhunter.blogspot.com/2008/10/how-sarawak-was-conned-into-formation.html

    Below are general comments from the Wikipedia pages on the anti-Malaysia struggle. You may not agreed with the politics but you get an idea of the background which you can’t find in UMNO history text books in these articles:

    Brunei Uprising & Independent North Kalimantan State:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Borneo_Federation

    Continuation of Independence Struggle by Communist Party of N Kalimantan and PARAKU (People’s Army)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Kalimantan_Communist_Party

    May be we should work to demand an independence referendum- and avoid having to rise in arms. However, this at the moment this is just a dream as KL will never loosen its colonial grip on Sarawak and its resources.

    Even if Pakatan captures the reins of the colonial “Federal Gov’t” we cannot expect them to change their colonial attitude and let Sarawak become independent.

    It does not mean the chances are absolutely nil.

    But it is a circular dilemma. Where do you begin?

    Hope springs eternal. The Chinese revolutionary Dr. Sun Yet Sen is famous for failing in his many revolutionary uprisings but then he won in the end and overthrew Manchu rule. This eventually led to the liberation of China and the China today.

    Suggest you do a search on the net – which will reveal a galaxy of articles and topics on Sarawak Independence-
    -views by the British invaders and occupation army and even the Malayan -occupation army veterans etc.
    – the Indonesian views,
    – reminiscences by Sarawak underground fighters
    In around 2008/9 the National Uni of S’pore (NUS) held a conference with ex-Sarawak communists with photos and all including traitor Bong Kee Chok- still alive and kicking. This one is a very rare event!

    You can also google and go to a website called “Free Sarawak” which promotes its idea of an independent Sarawak.

    When you have read these other views you will see that Malaysia was not a “democratic” decision by the people.

    Soon it will be 48 years of the imposition of Malayan UMNO colonisation.

    The scars of colonial plunder and pillage are borne on all the natives who lost their land and timber resources. Sarawak a previously sovereign state for 100 has been sold out by the traitors A R Yacub and Taib who gave away our oilfields. Trillions of dollars plus all the tax money being used to finance Malayan “development” and UMNO corruption.

    Trillions. All of us if needs to be told again would be multi-millionaires if the oil money were to be shared by the 2.5 million Sarawakians. Yet we are all asleep and let this plunder continue and only ask for 20% when we should demand all 100%!

    Why are we being so timid and scared of even our own shadows?

    Only by re-gaining our independence can we regain control of all our territory including oilfields.

    Take back our country!

    Comment by Sarawakbaru — April 28, 2011 @ 12:23 AM | Reply

    • So Sarawakians and Sabahans are the bastardised children when the British colonial master allowed the Federation of Malaya to rape North Borneo and Sarawak and later forced these states to be married with malaya? hehehe

      Comment by Ronnie — April 28, 2011 @ 9:31 PM | Reply

  3. Well, this is a general peeve about things related to political blogging – unrelated to Mr SKY’s passionate post; as the godfather/pioneer of Opposition politics in the state.

    So far the political talk in the blogs among Opposition supporters has centered on the politicians, political parties. The same can be said of the ruling political parties.

    The “narrative” is always predictably a crass demonization of the political enemies using all manner of literary forms rather than providing any new insight on policy options about the subject. This type of writing to change voters mind …. but that’s about all. Pity how the Internet has become to politics, nothing more than screaming billboards, with little else that can invite people to think.

    Why is this not enough ?

    We, the public … expect politicians to be policy makers – or at least, be in a position to evaluate policy options generated by consultants. If they have background in economics, we want them to be able to explore public policy that can stimulate economic growth. We don’t want polemicist, whose only competency is selling dreams of hopes and change of a better life….

    And for the public, and especially the voters – we want them to be educated about the various policy options and the philosophy that underpin each option. Is that too much, to ask partisan bloggers to extricate themselves of the urge to influence readers to vote for their favourite political party but to write meaningfully about the issue, and why voters should support the position of the political party ?

    So far, the topics being selected by Hornbill Unleashed after the State Election – are mostly about political parties …..how the last election was lost and how the next GE can be won. Can the editorial team come up with better subject matter to dish out, to educate the politicians-to-be and the joe public ?

    Comment by MERAMAT TAJAK — April 27, 2011 @ 8:39 PM | Reply

  4. SKY has sown the first seed of democracy in Bandar Kuching and I remember there were banners and fish tail of broken egg (let the egg be broken), literally asking voters of Bandar Kuching to deliver the first ever Rocket from Sarawak to Parliament. That year was 1982 when Rocket Kuching achieved its first breakthrough in Parliament election.

    The DAP was originally the Malaysian branch of the Singapore People’s Action Party (PAP). However, Singapore seceded from the federation in 1965, just two years after the territories merged. Most of the Malaysian PAP members decided to remain with the original party, but those that decided to continue the party, including future President of Singapore Devan Nair, stayed in Malaysia to form the DAP in October 1965. The party formally registered itself as a democratic socialist party on March 18, 1966. In the August of that year, the official party organ, The Rocket, was first published. At the first DAP National Congress held in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur on July 29, 1967, the DAP declared itself to be “irrevocably committed to the ideal of a free, democratic and socialist Malaysia, based on the principles of racial and religious equality, social and economic justice, and founded on the institution of parliamentary democracy”.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — April 27, 2011 @ 5:13 PM | Reply

    • The question Malaysians should ask is “Is Malaysia still a legal nation?”. Malaysia was born when North Borneo, Sarawak, Singapore and Federation of Malaya entered into an agreement to form a nation called Malaysia. With the secession of Singapore in 1965, the joint agreement ought to have collapsed and rendered invalid. A new agreement between the former North Borneo, Sarawak and federation of Malaya should have been inked and spell out any new changes minus Singapore.

      We should invite UNITED NATION to review the position of Malaysia after seceded in 1965. Should both Sarawak and Sabah be entitled to holding a referendum to determine if we still want to be part of Malaysia?

      Comment by Lee Hui — April 27, 2011 @ 9:07 PM | Reply

      • after Singapore seceded in 1965

        Comment by Lee Hui — April 27, 2011 @ 9:08 PM | Reply

        • Correction, Singapore did not secede. Singapore was expelled.

          Comment by colin — April 28, 2011 @ 12:42 PM | Reply

          • All the same, it can be argued that the basis for the existence of the original Federation that had included Singapore,had ceased to exist when Singapore left (expel or secede).

            A new Federation should have been reconstituted/renegotiated, and indeed – a referendum proper should have been conducted if Sarawakian and Sabahan had agreed to be absorbed into the new Federation (minus Singapore).

            Never mind this “secede/expel” argument.The historical account had clearly showed that there were no bonafide referendum to speak of anyway,at any juncture in the annexation of Sarawak into Malaya.

            And until there is a referendum, I truly felt Sarawakian had been conned by Malaya – and the British empire, aided and abetted by the stupidity (and greed) of the few who had misrepresented the interest of the Sarawakian masses.

            Well, even if its on small scale and inconsequential, would be satisfying if a “referendum” can be conducted in the blogosphere. Also, would be most interested to hear of alternative voices, who can argue the case that Sarawak has benefited from the Federation, and how Sarawak would continue to benefit in the future.

            Comment by MERAMAT TAJAK — April 28, 2011 @ 2:12 PM

  5. NO REGRETS

    SKY you led a fruitful life and can be justly proud of your achievements like many other unsung heroes who have sacrificed their time and even family life or lack of one for the good of our society.

    What you said about (political) fear is very true. Our country is full of many such people full of fear – of even their own shadows.

    As one who also felt the fear which was self-perpetuating and sometimes based on paranoia buttressed by many real experiences, I broke my silence a little bit earlier than you. My one regret is not having taken it as far as you have and are still doing.

    There are many of us nine day wonders who still dream and want to contribute to that great social and political transformation of our society in a free independent and equal sovereign state. This is said in a positive way.

    Wishing you smooth sailing against all your adversities.

    Comment by Anonymous — April 27, 2011 @ 3:05 PM | Reply

  6. Where is ex YB Georgie now? Seem no more news from him. maybe honeymoon. Should be thankful to the voters in Piasau for giving him the chance to go for honeymoon.

    Comment by joraktuuh — April 27, 2011 @ 1:39 PM | Reply

  7. I ‘m still remember when I was at primary school leaver, people was talking about opposition party which synonym with DAP and DAP is synonym with SKY. You have contributing a lot to the society of Bandar Kuching eventhough you were in opposition..

    Comment by Kind Rajah — April 27, 2011 @ 1:34 PM | Reply

  8. It should be GE 13, not GE12.

    Comment by Allen Tan — April 27, 2011 @ 11:52 AM | Reply

  9. A sentimental piece.
    Strong sense of purpose. An example to emulate.

    Sarawakians or for the similar matter Sabah, requires to be treated as a different entity.
    We have to move forward with maturity to match the low level politics.
    The sensible and intelligent Sarawakians need to show the way forward.

    Comment by stephen tang — April 27, 2011 @ 7:08 AM | Reply


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