A confluence of ideals

The political machine triumphs because it is united minority acting against a divided majority.

— Will Durant, American philosopher and historian

It was a rather strange week for our state leaders — being put into the same room to work out their differences, find a solution that all of them finally, can agree on.

I am referring to the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Consultative Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) meeting last Wednesday.
The committee, represented by all political parties in the state legislature, was established in November 2018 as a response to the formation of the MA63 Steering Committee during the Pakatan Harapan (PH)

The steering committee was perceived as being lopsided as it originally only had three representatives from Sarawak at the time.

The meeting, which was called by DUN Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar, was significant for two reasons — the first being the committee postdating its purpose of establishment after PH ultimately
collapsed in late February.

The second reason is that it is reunion of some sort for former Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh with his former colleagues in the state Cabinet.

The topic of the day was to deliberate on the state government’s agreement with Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) on May 8, which caused quite a stir in local politics.

Right off the gate, it appeared as if this meeting will not be smooth sailing for the veteran politician — he basically burned all bridges with the state government following his tirade against them of late after quitting his Cabinet post last year.

It too was not helped by his former colleagues’ remarks during the meeting’s press conference, which reminded the senior leader that he was in a whole other camp.

“Datuk Seri Wong, don’t send any candidates to my kawasan. Send one to Datuk Karim (Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah) instead,” jested Corporate Affairs and Ukas Assistant Minister Abdullah Saidol to Wong.

Both Wong and Abdul Karim simply smiled and laughed off the tongue in cheek suggestion by Abdullah.

Abdul Karim, in concluding the meeting, said among the salient points was that leaders from both political divides can sit down together and find a common ground in the interest of Sarawak.

But in all honesty, such is an example of what the public simply doesn’t see that often — their leaders reaching out to the other side to get things done.

It actually happens more often than we think, but for some weird reasons, it simply does not fly in a society where politics is uppermost and where constant bickering and endless controversies sell, admittedly.

Former British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston once said: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow”.

Time and time again, his words were invoked by generations of politicians as one of the beacons of pragmatism which pervades other relationships: political, communal, marital and personal.

The point I am making is this — if our leaders can put their differences to one side and discuss matters of grave importance, then why are we endlessly bashing each other for ridiculous reasons instead of discussing how we can truly address our problems?

Problems like accessibility to all parts of the state, poverty, dilapidated schools, lack of infrastructure and education standards.

All of these are long standing issues, which in fairness we tried to address only for it to resurface every now and then. Basically, it is the same issue every time a political debate crops up, or at the very least, issues that are closely related to it.

In the ideal world, by 2020, development (or lack thereof) should no longer be the pressing issue, but it is now. I get that we don’t live in an ideal world, but a man can hope.

It is a local issue; it is a Sarawak issue — and it’s one we need to address at the soonest.

That is also why I absolutely oppose the idea of holding the upcoming state election at the same time with the general election if there is indeed a possibility of calling a snap election.

The state election needs to be held separately from the general election. That degree of separation allows crucial issues to be highlighted, deliberated and dissected — not overshadowed by the politics of Malaya.

Our issues need to be addressed by us Sarawakians, not second guessed by the Malayans with their overwhelming circus of sentiments and perceptions.