THE invasion of Sarawak by Malayan political parties has reached new heights with the latest launching of the Sarawak chapter of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) in Bintulu on Saturday. During the launching event, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is also the chairman of Bersatu, told the audience that initially the party had no intention of venturing into Sarawak but “… there are so many requests from the people of Sarawak themselves.”
Tell us, exactly how many requests were made by Sarawakians before Bersatu decided to set up a chapter in Sarawak? Do Sarawakians desire another Malayan party? To answer these questions, I think we need to re-examine the hearts of Sarawak people first by going all the way back to the 19th century when Sarawak was known as the Kingdom of Sarawak founded in 1841 and ruled by three White Rajahs of the Brooke dynasty.
Since day one when the kingdom was established, the Brooke administration was never about colonising Sarawak by joining other Western powers in the race to plunder the wealth of their colonies or to deny the local residents their rights to be equal to their colonial masters.
The Brookes in fact took Sarawak under their care with an ultimate goal to prepare us to eventually achieve self-government. Apparently the Brookes understood the wishes of the people of Sarawak and they were prepared to honour such wishes.
The Brookes’ intention was fully manifested in the Nine Cardinal Principles which form the Preamble of the Sarawak Constitution 1941 edict by the third White Rajah Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, whereby the eighth principle provides that, “…the goal of self-government shall always be kept in mind, that the people of Sarawak shall be entrusted in due course with the governance of themselves, and that continuous efforts shall be made to hasten the reaching of this goal by educating them on the obligations, the responsibilities, and the privileges of citizenship.”
Through the years, Sarawakians were in fact learning and preparing themselves for self-government.
Our dream of self-government never waned even after Charles Vyner Brooke ceded Sarawak to Britain in 1946. In fact the sentiment for self-government came to its boiling point while the British and Malayan governments were devising a new federation by including Sarawak into the big family. Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP), the first political party established in Sarawak, came out strongly to oppose the idea of a Federation of Malaysia, and argued for Sarawak’s independence before setting up a greater federation. Thousands went to the streets to join SUPP in its opposition.
Nevertheless, the new federation was successfully established in 1963 based on the Cobbold Commission Report as well as the Intergovernmental Committee Report which preserved Sarawak’s special rights and position in the amended Federal Constitution for the new nation called Malaysia.
Since the establishment of the new Federation, Sarawak had been governed by a ruling political alliance formed by local based political parties until today. Although Malayan political parties like Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) had successfully established branches in Sarawak before the end of last century and won a few state constituencies in the past, the governing powers of Sarawak remain tightly in the hand of Sarawak-based parties.
With the shocking victory of Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the 14th General Election last May and the formation of a new federal government, all eyes are now turning to the possibility of PH changing the state government in the Sarawak state election which will has to be called by 2021. Therefore, it wasn’t a hard guess that Bersatu being a component party of PH would also eventually set its foot in Sarawak to join its other political allies in preparation for another round of political onslaughts.
The leaders of the local ruling alliance, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), particularly Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who is also the Chief Minister of Sarawak, had repeatedly reminded his fellow Sarawakians that it is critical for Sarawak to be governed only by Sarawak-based political parties, and he even encouraged 100 percent Sarawak-based opposition parties to be set up to prevent Malayan political parties from making inroads into the Sarawak administration.
On the eve of Dr Mahathir’s arrival in Bintulu to launch a Bersatu chapter in Sarawak, some anonymous persons put up numerous banners around Bintulu town with strong words like ‘Anang nerima parti Malaya (Don’t accept Malayan party)’ and ‘Kami enggai ke parti Malaya (We reject Malayan party)’. The display of these banners were a very rare sight considering they were put up during an official visit by the Prime Minister to Sarawak. It constitutes a blatant protest right in front of the Prime Minister. Such things never happened before in Sarawak, a land which is famous for promoting solidarity and harmony.
There it’s quite strange and one wonders if there is much truth to Dr Mahathir’s claim that “there are so many requests from the people of Sarawak themselves”!
Was the launching of Bersatu Sarawak touching the apple of Sarawakians’ eye instead?
Well, maybe a more relevant question for Sarawakians to ask themselves is whether Sarawak governed by Sarawakians themselves is still one of the cardinal principles after all.
• Micheal Tiang, a lawyer by profession, is a true-blue Sarawakian.