When Mukah is featured, certainly it is synonymous with the Melanau ethnic group which is the third largest ethnic in the Land of the Hornbill. Up to today, the Mukah District sits under the Mukah parliamentary seat which is separated under three state assemblies – Balingian, Tellian and Dalat.
This time, the 15th general election (GE15) will witness Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib who is also the former Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) will aim to retain the Melanau seat and will be up against a Pakatan Harapan candidate.
At the helm of women leadership from GPS at parliamentary level, Datuk Hanifah is the hope for all of Mukah and Sarawak in fighting for the rights of Sarawak through her experience in handling ministerial affairs related to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and Malaysian Constitution which formed Malaysia today.
Suara Sarawak had an interview with Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib leading up to the general election period to have a sneak peak into her general election journey as well as her future development plans for Mukah in Parliament.
A humble and kind-hearted Datuk Hanifah is confident that her journey to develop Mukah has not finished and she still has plenty of plans to advance Mukah besides working hard to ensure Sarawak rights to be returned after so long.
Q : Could you share what were your emotions like after finding out that you were the candidate contesting in the coming general election?
H: Assalamualaikum, after finding out that I was the candidate this time around, I felt truly grateful and thanked the Premier Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg for entrusting me to uphold my responsibility to the people in Mukah, admittedly there are several plans that have not been accomplished, and it has only been one term, there is still many more for me to do, as well experience the wonderful culture of Mukah , there are still things to fulfil in Mukah.
Q : Regarding the 15th general election, how is the party’s movement and its team doing in Mukah?
H : Alhamdullilah, it is a journey and a process, despite the various preparations that have been made from the party and the teams on the ground, we need to execute it with accurate information. The relationship that has been built, along with the other state assembly persons. From there we can discuss with the teams on the ground to adapt to the changing of times, alhamdulillah the things that need to be done first, we will work on it, and we will continue to do it to this day.
Q : What are some words to your supporters and voters in this election period?
H: We want the people of Mukah to know that the initiatives made by the State government need to be recognized, and be aware of the efforts made by the State government for the benefit of our future. There have been many uncertainties economically, which have happened to the world of late, therefore to ensure it does not happen to Sarawak, we need to realise the Premier’s plans for the people to achieve further development.
We also have initiatives related to Rajang Delta Development Agency (RADDA) which was introduced previously, it is specifically for the people in the area together with RADDA, the agency could potentially outline a future for Mukah, Sarikei, Igan and Tanjung Manis parliamentary seats because here in Sarawak, however there are difficult terrains geographically.
From there, we could see its uniqueness and its suitability. We look at what industries we can venture into, it is important to us to organise a sharing session to know what are the people’s needs, whether economically or digitally and other matters which we could improve on. Insyallah from an election point of view I will give my full mandate to the people who are entrusted to me and lead them in a direction.
Furthermore, just like the introduction of the Post COVID-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) by the State government, it is also an encouraging initiative because it looks at an overall aspect not just economically but also initiatives to increase human capital to a higher level from a thinking point of view to enhance education especially youth and create opportunities to appreciate nature. Generally, these initiatives are clearLY not to be left out because we want an inclusive opportunity for everyone especially after the COVID-19 period.
Q : Regarding RADDA, in its early stage from a parliament perspective. What are the developing potentials that you see which could advance Mukah?
H : Among the plans made by RADDA is to prioritise the things which have not been accomplished yet and needs to be further developed, however to ensure Mukah is prioritised, something needs to be discussed together. In my opinion we need to do well and ensure other areas are developed and if we do not want to compete and do not do things based on our suitability.
Q : What is your views regarding young voters aged 18 years old who are voting in the 15th general election?
H : When the act was first approved to allow 18 year old voters to vote and also those that have not registered automatically, and the ones who would take voting lightly.
We have the responsibility as parents and family members to explain its importance to the future; they must be given an exposure of the community’s political context. We admittedly understand that it is difficult to execute in Mukah where the area has not fully achieved full access to telecommunication especially in the rural area.
We hope that the youth will also understand their responsibility as voters which could decide the direction of their future; they are the ones who will continue upholding Sarawak’s rights. Youth should also look at the generation before us, so they know how difficult our forefathers have fought. I used to make plenty of generalisations but today I have understood that not many people think the same, and our opinions will be accepted, sooner rather than later we should have open communications between the youth and the older generation.
There needs to be an intertwine between the younger generation and older generation to help one another as there would be some who would not think digitally and we want that to improve.
Q : As a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Sabah and Sarawak Affairs handling the Malaysia Agreement 1963, in the coming general election, will it be an advantage to you for inviting young voters to have interest in its history?
H: I can explain the importance of MA63 because from its beginning, our ancestors have fought for independence and did not want be colonised, it is a spirit which is important and must be valued
If we are unable to continue our culture, customs and how we do things, we want to ensure we continue living harmoniously. Compared to other states, Sarawak and Sabah are the states which consist of many races and religions but I am convinced we can live harmoniously.
I will try my best to protect our harmony and our culture because if there is no culture, we lose our identity. It is important and with regards to MA63 there are conditions to inform that the rights of Sarawak and Sabah are protected, however it is unfortunate that when Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia, based on the agreement, there were many things that were not accomplished, and even if there were it was not completed fully.
We hope that the MA63 agreement is able to help us be on par with West Malaysia. We feel we are being left out, and when we do, we can see the differences. For example, when we want to build roads, roads in West Malaysia may cost RM3 million but in Sarawak it will cost RM6 million because of the rough terrains and geographical locations which affect costs.
We also look at the lifestyle where there are many rivers here and every time we want to build something, we cannot leave out the aspect of building a bridge, instead of one we need to build three bridges sometimes. To ensure the harmony of the state is not shaken, we need to have peace among the races and the different religions available to continue to prosper, we want peace to be protected as well.
According to the Federal Constitution, before the amendment of Act 1(2) and Article 160, there is no element of MA63 in the Federal Constitution, therefore we want our rights to be taken care of. We are grateful for the achievements thus far, but we must proceed and continue to demand our rights.
We cannot make immediate demands because it involves participation from all ministries and to change an Act, we also need to change the policies because we need to ensure the execution is fair and brings justice. These things will take time. We in Sarawak want an improved socio economy, as well as good infrastructure, especially water, electric, telecommunication, roads and transportation among other utilities should be in place across Sarawak but it has not been implemented because it will take time.
To make amendments to the Act would need time as well, these Acts do not just involve our Ministry only, whether it is to make amendments on its definition will require permission to change the Act or involve other states as well.
Therefore, there are several obstacles which we need to face, sooner than later Insyallah we will ensure what we want is not neglected, as of now we have accomplished many things and fulfilled what we can do, however sometimes things can get complicated and require time. Insyallah the direction headed and led by our Premier, we can demand as many rights as we can.
Q : What are your opinions on women’s role in Sarawak politics now that there are more and new women candidates contesting from GPS?
H: I see that as an important aspect because our opinions as women can be different. Insyaallah it will be a catalyst for more women to follow suit and make their way into politics.
In a community where there are many men, women’s rights should also be considered. The way women do things is much softer and it is different compared to how men do things as well.
What is important is the execution of tasks, our focus must be on the rakyat (to the people), if not we will feel that the issues women face will be left out, if there are no women representatives in politics whether at national or state level.
Q: What would you advise voters out there especially during this campaigning period?
I want to meet my voters because I want to inform the plans of Sarawak in terms of its direction, looking at where the world is at, there are many important things which needs to be done and after the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many things which needs to be raised such as job opportunities and encouraging more entrepreneurs to start-ups so we could increase the economy.
We cannot leave out our interactions with the people to inform them of our initiatives for the future of Sarawak, we do not want to be left behind. So, this is the time we hope through the sharing sessions conducted in the area, the people can gain the latest information but also have an understanding of its importance.
Insyallah we pray for good weather, to the voters please prepare an umbrella in case it rains. If things don’t go according to plan then we have to find a suitable option, because our priority remains to the people.