Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The often quoted maxim by politicians and historians, including  Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is most likely credited to writer and philosopher George Santayana.

In its original form the maxim reads: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Santayana was known for his powerful and beautiful aphorisms and according to Santayana’s philosophy, history repeats.

Yes, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and of course this statement also applies to politicians and political parties.

ABANG Johari and other GPS leaders during the GPS logo launch.

History shows that those who do not learn history and those who do learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Now that Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) has been registered, it has to learn from history and be mindful of the past mistakes when it was  under the Barisan Nasional (BN).

GPS chairman Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg made it very clear at the opening of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) triennial general assembly (TGA) in Bintulu recently that the coalition must be able to learn from the past and look to the future.

“We in GPS must work together for the sake of the people. What is past is past, what we look to is the future.

“We are here today for the future, we don’t talk about the past, this is a new era, we talk about the future, it is for our young people,” he said.

GPS is sailing through unchartered waters, but with political conviction, determination and sincerity to serve under the effective stewardship of Abang Johari, the ship will safely reach its destination.

As a new platform established on June 12, last year the coalition has to chart a clear destination and goal, knowing that the path ahead is full of trials and tribulations.

Pakatan Harapan as the government of the day at the federal level will pose strong challenges to GPS in the state election and GPS cannot afford to take things lightly.

I believe GPS leaders are aware of the challenges ahead.

For the coalition of four Sarawak-based parties, its first acid test will be to win the state election which has to be called in 2021 at the latest.

Currently, out of Sarawak’s 31 parliamentary seats, 19 seats were won under the BN banner in the 14th general election. PBB won 13, PRS (three), SUPP (one) and PDP (two).

The remaining 12 seats were bagged by DAP (six), PKR (four) and two independents who later joined PKR.

GPS has to move ahead towards a new era in Sarawak politics by putting Sarawak first in line with its motto ‘Sarawak First’.

The launching of GPS at Stadium Perpaduan by Abang Johari tonight is the beginning of a new era.

The date of launching – 19-1-19 – appears to have been meticulously chosen, as was 9-1-19, the date chosen for the unveiling of the coalition’s logo and anthem.

Tonight’s event is not only historical but also significant. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the leaders at all levels, especially at the grassroots’, throughout the depth and breadth of Sarawak to understand the objectives and vision of  GPS.

GPS’ vision and mission are to foster and maintain a cohesive, just, equitable and harmonious progressive Sarawak.

In fact, the GPS Flag Rally which kicked off after the unveiling of the logo and anthem on January 9, signals the beginning of the introduction of the new coalition.

It’s pertinent for the new entity to create awareness about the GPS logo among the voters and the common folk in the villages and longhouses in the interior as they have been indoctrinated with BN’s logo and ideology for decades.

Thus, it is important for GPS to familiarise the logo among the voters before the state election.

Party identification warrants such importance because it shapes a person’s perception of the coalition, provides cues for judging the candidates and issues, and shapes voting choice come 2021.

GPS has to disseminate not only the relevant and  correct political narratives but must also be able to convince the people why GPS is the best choice for Sarawakians. Effective political marketing and political communication strategies are required.

The coalition has to prove not through its words  but by its actions that it is not  old wine in a new bottle as labeled by the opposition to demonise and tarnish its image. GPS has to prove that it is new wine in a new bottle.

GPS does not have to be unduly worried about such name calling because Pakatan Harapan is also comprised of people from the BN regime, like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. There are many more.

Thus, GPS must prove it is the best political platform for Sarawakians to fight for Sarawak’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

More importantly, it needs to understand the struggles and challenges ahead. The coalition has fewer than 999 days before the next state election.

Will it be able to hold on to the seats that it won in 2016 under the BN banner? In the last state election, the coalition won 72 out of 82 state seats.

The coalition consists of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Sarawak United Peoples’ Party  (SUPP) and  Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

PBB and SUPP have been with BN since 1973 while PDP joined the coalition in 2002 followed by PRS in 2004. It was not an easy decision for the leaders to quit BN which put up a dismal performance in Peninsular Malaysia in GE14. It was made after much deliberation, reflection and due consideration.

GPS was formed to fit the changing political landscape, which saw the beginning of change and a push for greater Sarawak rights.

The coalition is a new platform and a new political entity with a new mission and vision. The mission and vision are to fight for Sarawak’s rights and to uplift the dignity of Sarawakians.

Sarawak must be ruled and defended by Sarawakians. That’s where  the motto ‘Sarawak First’ fits in.

In this regard, GPS – using the Hornbill as the logo – has to be trusted in defending the Land of the Hornbill but the people have to protect the hornbill as a  species. It deserves all the protection to avoid extinction as the hornbill is a unique and protected bird of Sarawak.

GPS, obviously, has to be seen and perceived as a new political entity with new strategies and approaches that is committed towards the wellbeing of Sarawakians and Sarawak’s interest and future.

It has to improve the quality of life and the economy, irrespective of race or religion. This is the only way forward for the survival and future of GPS.

The leaders must be down to earth, people-centric and close to the people.

Policies formulated and implemented by GPS has to be inclusive, pragmatic and for the interests of the people.

Issues and problems faced, especially on infrastructure development, including clean water and electricity, have to be solved before the next state election with a sense of urgency.

Whatever excuses given after this on the failure to solve this issue is difficult for the people to swallow.

GPS has to bring a new political light in a new political era for Sarawak and Sarawakians.

Definitely there is light at the end of the tunnel.

To GPS leaders and members, let me quote a maxim by the late British Winston Churchill, who said: “Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”

Will GPS be able to foresee what’s going to happen in the next state election?