Lucy Sebli

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.
General Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State

They are at each other’s throat yet again! It was all over the media, either printed or online.

This time around it evolves around several issues, including but not limited to, the suggestion to appoint new PH-friendly tuai rumah by the federal government, the new-economic development vision called Wawasan Kemakmuran Bersama or Shared Prosperity Vision, the appointment of 1,400 personnel under the Komuniti Harapan Malaysia (KHM) in Sarawak whose work is to be the eyes and ears of the PH-led government, oil and gas royalty and taxes.

As a Malaysian, I do not doubt that these policies are good but how these policies were formulated were not in tandem with the spirit of respecting each other’s differences and observing the state’s autonomy.

Take the suggestion to appoint a community leader in Sarawak — tuai rumah and ketua kampung, for example. I believe that the issue relating to the appointment of tuai rumah should be discussed with the state government before announcing it in the media. The federal authority needs to understand the local history, culture and context before making changes which involve many communities in Sarawak.

It seems that most of the policies or decisions made so far, appear to reflect the Putrajaya’s ignorance of the complexities of Sarawak’s cultural and historical context.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not questioning the capability nor the expertise of the related authority. It’s just that in Sarawak we do things differently.

The honourable prime minister, in his speech during his recent trip to the state to celebrate Malaysia Day, tried to convince Sarawakians that his Shared Prosperity Vision will not only improve Sarawak’s economic development but also arguably, will further strengthen Sarawak and Sabah’s relationships with the federal government.

He also stressed that the federal government will continue to work and support the state government to ensure that the people of Sarawak continue to enjoy the benefits of socio-economic development in Malaysia.

He further urged Sarawakians to support the federal government’s policies so that it can carry its job effectively.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamd also argued that through his vision, the federal government will be able to narrow the socio-economic development gap between Malaya and the states of Sarawak and Sabah and bring Sarawak’s development at par with Malaya.

He also appeared to be genuinely concerned with the socio-economic predicaments confronting Sarawakians when he acknowledged his shortcomings during his tenure as prime minister previously.

Dr Mahathir assured his audience that his new economic vision will correct those shortcomings. One of the main trusts of his vision is to ensure that fair economic distribution and equitable growth at every level, class, race and state happens.

It is hoped that it will bring all Malaysians together harmoniously, and eventually stabilise and unite the nation by 2030.

He also promised to restore Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners to Malaya as stated in the MA63. He further highlighted the development that has taken place to materialise it.

However, the honourable prime minister then changed his tune almost 180 degrees when he addressed the PH supporters.

He appealed to PH sympathisers and supporters to assist the federal government to topple the Sarawak government in the state election by uniting with other parties. He stressed the importance of unity among his supporters if they wish to replace the incumbent state government.

He further lamented that his government has been having a hard time working with the current state government and urged his audience to replace it with a more affable and accommodating one. In short, he wants a ‘yes man’ state government!

He went further by blaming the state government for all of the challenges and shortcomings his administration encountered. It is very difficult to trust someone who keeps on changing his mind at every turn.

I have got to admit that it is rather hard to take everything that the honourable prime minister said to the heart.

Exchange of harsh words will continue to affect state-federal relationships unless both sides are honest with each other regarding their intentions, whatever they may be.

To be honest, the public at large are frustrated with both parties. I truly understood the state government’s frustration when dealing with the federal government.

But, they (state and federal) have to stop bickering and laundering their dirty linens in the public. Both sides need to practise restraint in their attempts to outdo one another.

As Sarawakians, I can assure you that, we are no longer impressed with your performance so far, PH. And as for the state government, be more vigilant and be honest with us.

We will support you if you do what is right for Sarawak. We want to see more results and actions from both the state and the federal governments.

 The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.