LAST week, Sarawak social media was abuzz with negative and hate comments over the whole ‘#rantaisalib’ issue in Serian, Sarawak. Parents and local community leaders in Serian have criticised a principal of a local secondary school from Semenanjung for barring students from wearing the cross or other Christian symbols at school.
The state government has launched an investigation on the matter and the principal has since been reprimanded for his action by the Serian PPD. The principal has also apologised to the student, the parents and the local Christian leader and community for his actions.
The exact details of the incident aside, the backlash on the controversy which has gone viral on social media is damaging to the already tensed relationship between Sarawak and Semenanjung, or as a Sarawakian like to call it, ‘Malaya’.
Truth be told, this is not the first incident involving teachers from Semenanjung that is in deep waters because of their insensitivity and ignorance of the locals and the culture in Sarawak. Other cases involving government officers from Malaya that is seen insensitive to the ‘uniqueness’ of Sarawakians over the years and has gone viral raises the question whether Sarawakians have become overly sensitive on all matters related to Sarawak?
This and other similar issues such as the argument over whether Sarawakians need to celebrate August 31, the moratorium on Petronas and the demand for 20% royalty has been plaguing social media. At the end of the day, it’s all centred on the same issue; Sarawakians feel that they are the ‘victims’ of ‘orang Malaya’.
Looking back, where did it all went wrong? Sarawakians are known for and proud of their ability to tolerate, accept and live peacefully with over 30 races of different cultural background, religion and beliefs. Sarawak’s unique history and socio-geography has enabled Sarawakians to be the epitome of society living harmoniously.
However, this claim has fallen short of the mark based on the condemning comments and posts by so called ‘Sarawakians’ aimed to create animosity and hatred between Sarawak and Semenanjung. The anti-Malaya and anti-Malaya sentiments is easily propagated on social media. Opportunistic and selfish individuals or groups such as Sarawak 4 Sarawakians and a few short sighted opposition leaders are quick to cash in and fan the animosity and hatred amongst Sarawakians.
It is wise to bear in mind that such incidents do not reflect the overall sentiments of ‘orang Malaya’ towards Sarawakians. Though the unfortunate few may have acted in poor judgement, it is doubtful that it was done deliberately to ‘victimize’ Sarawakians.
We, especially Sarawakians should not be so quick to judge. Our response on such issues reflects on our faith, beliefs, values, morals, upbringing and maturity of our mind. It shows the world what kind of people we are. Why should we fall for the ‘hate-culture’?
Sarawakians, Sabahans, Johoreans, or whatever you may want to call yourself, at the end of the day, we are all Malaysians. We are all part of a larger family, united by our diversity, our hopes and our dreams for a better Malaysia. We are the fruits of our forefather’s struggle and fight for freedom and independence.
We Malaysians are part of a big family. There should be no room for racism, bigotry, hate and fear mongering in our hearts. A famous quote states that “A House divided against itself cannot stand.” In the same respect, a family estranged will never know peace or harmony. Be proud to be Sarawakian. Be prouder to be a Malaysian.
Maryam M. Richardson is an independent analyst and Malaysian Access reader.