Sunday, 7 September 2008

Wow! Suddenly, Sarawak and Sabah become so important

By Paul Sir in Kuching

I WONDER when was the last time the people of Sarawak and Sabah feel so good in being part of Malaysia as these past few months.

Soon after the March 8 general election, the two East Malaysian states, often deemed by Sabahans and Sarawakians as the forgotten ‘old maids’ in Malaysia, suddenly became so important to the centre.

It is as if, out of the blue, the master is making every effort to return to his first wife whom he had neglected for years in favour of a younger mistress, as the tale goes. He knows that there are now better things at home; so he starts to shower his old wife with renewed love and affection to woo her back.

The case is clear: He needs her more than she needs him.

To put it bluntly, Malaya needs Sarawak and Sabah more (now than ever before) than Sarawak and Sabah need the peninsula.

In a way, I enjoy the way Kuala Lumpur has gone about in courting Sarawak and Sabah. The Barisan Nasional government and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat in Malaya — oh, how much they want to woo East Malaysians now.

The prime minister and his deputy had visited Sabah and Sarawak several times since the March polls, each time delivering goodies and leaving with promises of more deliveries. Oppositionist Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim also made similar visits, each time promising better days ahead and each time, leaving his charismatic stamp behind for new Anwarista recruits to savour.

Of course, it is the numbers they want, stupid! What, do you think they consider Sarawak and Sabah so important if we have nothing to offer them? Between the two states, there are 54 seats in parliament — now that’s big deal, man!

Every time the East Malaysian pendulum swings, the guys at the centre will sit up and watch. And right now, the whole nation is looking at September 16.

Will it or will it not happen on September 16?

For the information of the naive minority, September 16 is the day touted by Anwar that the BN government of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will fall and the Pakatan Rakyat coalition which he leads will form the new federal government.

I have written in this column previously that I doubt it could happen. Today is September 6. D-Day is just 10 days away. While it has been said that ‘a week is a long time in politics’, I remain the unbeliever as I write this.

Yah, I know that ‘politics is also the art of the possible’ but the realist in me happens to get the better of me this time around.

Let me put it this cynical way. If there is a new government by September 16, so be it. Or if the same one is still in power on Sept 16, so be it too!

Oh yes, there are talks that a new Pakatan Rakyat federal government will have a Chinese and an Indian as deputy prime minister. That a Kadazandusun will be chief minister of Sabah and a Dayak will helm the Sarawak government.

Then again, the cynic in me will ask what difference does it make if corrupt Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or Dayaks were to be chosen as leaders in the new government? If that is the case, I better retreat into my own fantasy island in Talang Talang where I can find peace of mind in watching the turtles hatching — and no politics.

I do find something disturbing too in the run-up to Sept 16. A cousin of mine rang me from Kuching this week asking whether everything will be okay on September 16. He was worried there would be riots and disturbances. I am actually concerned that there are people in the ‘peaceful and tranquil’ East Malaysian states who are anxious about violence taking place as a result of political upheaval in the country. I thought May 13 only happened in Malaya, not in Sabah or Sarawak.

But let’s take consolation from the notes of one reader that “no concerned Malaysian observes current events without some reminder of May 13, and all the more reason they should not be afraid because to capitulate to the threats of the unprincipled would be to enslave oneself all over again. Anyway this is 2008 and conditions were different then. Today, the conflict is not between races where the battle lines are drawn along ethnic divides but purely political.”

I hope my dear cousin Robert who resides in quiet and peaceful Serian now will stop worrying about his imaginary riots and chaos in the aftermath of September 16. Somehow, I’m still a believer of old-fashioned, orderly power transitions in this country and I doubt anything untoward will unfold on Sept 16. I like to reassure Robert and all that I do really trust this sixth sense of mine on this matter. Ahem!

On a brighter note about September 16, I was very glad to receive a SMS from Diana Ningkan this week. She told me that as September 16 approaches, memories of her late father (Sarawak’s first chief minister Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan) started flowing back and she remembers her dad with so much love and pride.

Diana also mentioned how proud she and her Mum (Puan Sri Rosalind Ningkan) were to see portraits of dad on Kuching streets as Sarawak prepares to celebrate its 46th Independence Day on September 16. I share the joys and happiness of the Ningkan family, whom I’m proud to call my friends, on this auspicious day and moment which their patriarch had made possible.

Finally, on the talks about replacing August 31 with September 16 as Malaysia Day, I really have no preference because everyday can be my birthday as long as I’m happy. I do not have to wait for a particular day to be happy.

However, it’s also important that we get on the right side of history. Malaysia was established on September 16, 1963 while Malaya obtained her independence from Britain on August 31, 1957. So let’s get that one correct!

Meanwhile, Sarawakians and Sabahans can continue to bask in the attention given by the centre.

(Comments can reach the writer at


Anonymous said...

The 16th of September.....never the 31st of August! We can survive without Malaya....that proud thorny Rose of Malaya!

Miss Rafflesia Kentut,
Gunung Kinabalu

Anonymous said...

PM says he will come to Sabah to look at the on going projects. I hope he peers over the Upgrading of the Sabah Railway Project which is supposed to be completed in May 2008.
An insider told me the project is overpaid and not supervised by engineers. One wonder why has no one ever raise this matter at in the Parliament. Lajim is the Deputy Minister. Is he really interested in uplifting the folks at the Padas Gorge or merely warming his seat? There tracks are hardly done in this area.