Wilayah! Just one word and it triggered a barrage of comments in Sarawak.
The scene was set when our Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on April 2 at an event in Kuching said “from now on, we should not forget that Sarawak is a ‘region’, wilayah.”
It is fortunate that he made this speech on April 2 and not April 1 as there would have been even more scepticism and anecdotes that he was pulling a fast one on Sarawakians on April Fool’s Day.
Some people were ecstatic. Sarawak is now a wilayah! they proclaimed. Fortunately, others were quick to respond in chat groups by basically saying “so what”.
It is as if with the simple mention of a word, Sarawak now had autonomy and all the rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 had now come into existence.
Some were clutching at straws and getting stuck with word games.
After the initial burst of euphoria, the dust settled over the next few days. The more serious questions emerged.
Now, there is no intention on my part to belittle the intentions of the prime minister.
However, in politics, it is common to say things that people want to hear to please them at a particular moment in time to get a positive crowd reaction.
The question, however, does arise as to how serious the intentions of the prime minister are to place Sarawak on ‘a level higher than a state’ and what does this ‘higher level’ mean exactly.
Is there any explicit action that has now been taken after his return to Putrajaya to classify Sarawak and Sabah on equal footing as Malaya?
It must be remembered that Sabah and Sarawak are always an afterthought. They only come into the political equation when the Malayan-based parties fall short with their ‘numbers’.
Compounding the current level of scepticism on this matter is the fact that Muhyiddin said “the federal government will evaluate fairly all claims made by Sarawak, especially those involving the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63)”.
I mean, what is there to evaluate? It is all there in the MA63, black and white, signed by all the governments of the day.
Other than leaving behind some confused and disoriented politicians due to the word wilayah, the prime minister also seems to have left a possible ‘Trojan Horse’ issue behind in Sarawak.
By this, I refer to the matter of Bersatu’s alleged intention to have its own candidates stand in the Sarawak state polls.
Since it has been affirmed several times that GPS will stand in all the 82 seats in PRN12 and all parliamentary seats in GE15, how is Bersatu supposed to fit in?
Will it stand against its partner GPS or will it demand GPS give way to it in certain constituencies or will it try to ‘place’ its candidates into GPS?
All these options are not in the interest of GPS and the concept of ‘partnership’. The reaction of GPS supporters and many voters would be, to say the least, negative.
If option two or three above is practised it would be the beginning of a new and unsavoury political landscape in Sarawak — compromising the ‘Sarawak First’ concept of GPS.
Amid all the palaver and trending news in the media, it is important to realise the important role of our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
To date, he has against all odds managed to achieve several milestones despite the fast-evolving and unstable nature of Malayan politics.
One such achievement is the implementation of the 5 percent sales tax on petroleum products from the petroleum companies operating in Sarawak, including Petronas, which initially refused to pay up. This has brought in much-needed revenue to develop Sarawak at a faster pace.
I believe that his commitment, perseverance and track record towards Sarawak will see the necessary amendments, including the term MA63 being included in the Federal Constitution.
To maintain peace, stability and growth in Sarawak and at the same time acquire back its rights will necessitate his skills.
Convincing Malaya to move from a parasitic relationship to a symbiotic one will not be easy.
I am sure that our chief minister’s never give up attitude and spirit will see Sarawak restored to its rightful place within the Federation of Malaysia.
His transformational leadership, diligence and constancy of purpose will help Sarawak achieve the seemingly impossible.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.