Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, who served as the Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years, used to be considered a very intelligent and visionary premier during his time.  Unfortunately, in his bid to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia for the second time at the age of 93, he has said and done lots of things that do not reflect his intelligence any more.

Besides, he used to be considered a very discipline and straightforward person but by making numerous U-turns certainly contradict such views on him. It was certainly not Mahathir of the yester years for him to call Sarawakians lazy, slow and greedy. Sabah and Sarawak could have developed better if the people didn’t have low self – esteem or if their leaders were not greedy.

He overlooked a lot of things that had contributed to the seemly slow pace of development in Sarawak, which is almost the size of Peninsula Malaysia minus Malacca. Sarawak gained Independence in 1963, seven years later than Peninsula Malaysia.

Sarawak could develop faster if it could have sufficient fund to develop a good network of roads crisscrossing the hinterland and the coastal areas. But infrastructure development is Federal subject. And Sarawak never received substantial allocations for infrastructure development under Tun Dr. Mahathir’s 22 –year rule. Sarawak had to spend a lot of money from its own coffer for the purpose. 

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, during an economic forum at Yayasan Perdana in Kuala Lumpur said people in Sabah and Sarawak need to work harder to reduce the economic gap with the Peninsula. The mentality of Sabahans and Sarawakians is that they try to find the easy way out.

He claimed that Sabah and Sarawak were poor and under – developed because of their greedy leaders. For example, those involved in the timber industry preferred to sell logs abroad for quick profit instead of developing value added downstream industries and infrastructure. 

For making such remarks, political parties in Sarawak and Sabah took aim at him.  They accused him of ignoring both states throughout his 22 years as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. His policies and treatments of both states were largely discriminatory.

Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, who led the Think Tank of Parti Bersatu Sabah from 1985 to 1994 said that during Dr. Mahathir’s 22 years in office, he diverted development funds to Peninsular Malaysia. He made it taboo to talk about Sabah’s rights as he wanted everything centralized in Kuala Lumpur.

Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said during Dr. Mahathir’s tenure Sabah and Sarawak were often treated as “stepchildren.”

He claimed that all requests for better highways, schools, hospitals, airports and other projects were shot down. He was only interested in squeezing Sabah and Sarawak resources, such as oil and gas to support mega projects such as Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Sepang International Circuit and other costly ventures.

Datuk Abdul Karim said Dr. Mahathir description of Sabah and Sarawak leaders as only wanting an easy way out “is derogatory in nature and reflects how he looks down on Sabah and Sarawak.

The President of UPKO, Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau said Dr. Mahathir’s insult against the people of Sabah and Sarawak was disgusting. They were survivors, who worked as hard as anyone else and it is their culture to do their best for themselves and families.

Their ethos, mentality and integrity cannot be questioned especially by Dr. Mahathir who had taken the resources from both states to build his glamour projects such as KLCC, Putrajaya and Formula One race course while depriving both states of development funds.

Datuk Seri Madius Tangau said despite Dr Mahathir’s neglect when he was in power, Sabah and Sarawak, the people were not in any way less hardworking or have poorer mentality than Dr.Mahathir’s billionaire sons.              

Obviously DAP’s grand design to move their strongman candidates to tough seats in Johor, which has long been regarded as fixed deposit of Barisan Nasional when it comes to General Election,  is not going well because those asked to move are not cooperating.

The opposition, DAP in particular this time around, is hoping for the winds of change to blow. It is aiming to win enough state seats to gain a simple majority in the 56-member State Assembly. The opposition is working hard to move some of its heavyweights from   Selangor and Penang to Johor for this purpose.

However, political observers are quick to note that it would be a big disaster for Pakatan to send all the big guns to Johor only for them to be defeated.  It will not be an easy task to bring down the State government of Barisan Nasional, which has been able to bring in economic progress, foreign direct investment, tourism revenue and jobs for the people.

Pakatan Harapan, which has already decided to use PKR logo in 14th General Election, will not be allowed to display pictures of its chairman and Prime Minister designate Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed on campaign posters as Pakatan is not formally registered with the Registrar of Societies as a coalition.   

For example, DAP is reported to be unable to persuade Gobind Singh Deo, the Puchong MP  to contest in Labis where DAP wants to finish off MCA vice President Datuk Chua Tee Yong, who only won the  seat in 2013 General election  by 353 votes;  but none of the  DAP leaders seem  willing to take on him.

It was reported that Gobind Singh Deo and his family had spent a few days in Johor to have a feel of the constituency where Chinese make up 47% of the voters, Malays 36% and Indians 15%.  He came away deciding that he was not suited for the constituency.

The resistance against the party’s strongman politics is also evident in Perak where Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming has indicated he is not contesting in Teluk Intan. Nga, a dazzling but controversial orator told a “Kopitiam ceramah” in Taiping  that even if “you kill me, I will not go to Teluk Intan” where he said he had only 45% chance of winning against Gerakan President Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

DAP’s wipe out MCA strategy is struggling to gain traction among many ordinary Chinese, who see it as self serving political game rather than the politics of benefitting and serving the community.

Rightly or wrongly, there is suspicion in the party among some members that the selective deployment of big names from their power base is to disarm those who are not aligned to Lim Kit Siang – Lim Guan Eng politic.

Urban voters must discard the fallacy that they should vote for the opposition in order to shout at or criticize the government. There is a real danger that areas being lost to the opposition may not get anything. 

That is happening in America, Taiwan; it happens anywhere as that is the rule of the game.    But is that what the people want?  However, the people should not be placed in that position; it is of no use for them.

Instead, the job has been cut out for the people to move Sarawak forward to become a happy and prosperous state for all. They cannot make Sarawak or by extension Malaysia to benefit one group only. If that were to be done, there would be a revolution.

Instead, the people must recognize that they have to do something for all the people.  But that does not mean they can make everybody rich or everybody having the same income. God does not make the people to have the same brain; even our faces do not look the same.

But efforts be made to get something in common which represents the suffering of the people from getting worse. If the gap gets wider, the people are actually tightening the basis by which they enjoy the prosperity.   

That was what happened preceding the May 13, 1969 racial riots; there were opportunities for the people to incite racial hatred to make people between races getting angrier with each other.

Generally, the people must be mindful of the fact that they comprise of people of many ethnic and religious groups; some came to earn a living.  For example, some of the earliest ancestors of the Chinese thought after some time they would go back. A few of them went back but many made up their mind to become Sarawakians. 

None of us can choose our birth. If we are Chinese, we remain Chinese.  But we can change the way we think. That is what we have been doing because we want to build Sarawak for everybody; the people must be conscious about the interests of other races.

If the previous leaders did not think like that there would not be any Coalition Government. The first stable government in Sarawak was the Coalition government since the 1970s. 

Before that, there was instability; there were ups and downs in the State’s   political struggle as some leaders believed races as the basis for their politics. But SUPP in the early days pursued a struggle to fight for the poor; to get the people to come up. PBB also fought for the poor and to get them to come up. Then they talked about development for rural areas.

Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Governor, when he served as Chief Minister, considered himself to be the Chief Minister of the Chinese, Ibans, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and the Malays.  He was in fact introducing a very long evolution of ideas to trying to stop the people from continuing the helpless path without knowing how to come together. 

He did not believe that the country could become prosperous if the people do not make efforts to get all the races to come together.  He tried to bring the people together right from the very beginning of assuming the leadership of the State government.

Tun Abdul Taib said as a leader he knew he had a lot of power to contribute towards a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural Sarawak. That has been so from the very beginning.

Hence, the people, in spite of being poor, have common bond, which must remain a headache for all political parties. The leaders must think of making their parties to become vehicles to move the people in a big way to build a united society and a stable government. 

He believed that it is incumbent upon the people to uphold a working democracy in the common struggle to make the state and country to become more prosperous, progressive and peaceful for the people.

Tun Abdul Taib used to be worried if urban voters succumb to the propaganda to vote for the opposition to bark at the government. Subsequently, the next government may not have Chinese representation. He believes Barisan Nasional should be able to form the next government. But what will happen to the Chinese? That is what they have got to think.

Tun Abdul Taib he thought about the Chinese community too but as he could not speak Chinese, there was a limit that he could do to change their minds towards the government.  Besides, he used to be too busy to go down to debate with some small politicians with all their lies and propaganda.

Urban voters must realize fighting or criticizing whatever the government is doing for the people from outside is actually making criticisms without responsibility.  Generally, the leaders must learn to compromise and if they cannot get 100% at least they can get 50%. That is better than having all or nothing. 

So the rule is to participate and not confront. That should be the rule of politics.  Urban voters, if they believe SUPP has wronged them, should correct the party’s mistake from inside. 

But don’t throw them out without knowing who will take their place.  Urban voters may have their quarrel with SUPP but is the quarrel too big to justify them being thrown away from the power that it has already enjoyed since the early days in the government. 

Participation does not mean that people just keep on talking.  They can make their representation; they can talk and argue their case. If they are proven to be right other people may agree with them.

But if they believe in criticizing from outside, everything that has been done for the people are no good, they risk the country being destroyed in the process.   Participation means to continue with the sharing of ideas.

The government has got its own programmes to develop the country. The targets cannot be adjusted easily based on the whims and fancies of certain people from outside.

Besides, the government does not get money from one group to give to the other groups because of pressure from outside.  That is very sensitive. So if the people talk by shouting, they don’t get results. That is what the people, urban voters in particular must understand.