People urged to get involved in Sarawak’s future

Prof Dr James Chin of the Asia Institute of the University of Tasmania, Australia delivers his lecture on ‘Past, Present and Future Political Landscape in Sarawak’.

KUCHING: Prof Dr James Chin of the Asia Institute, University of Tasmania in Australia has urged individuals, groups, and youths to get out there, be activists, and change the trajectory of Sarawak.

He said in this day and age, such persons had the power to change the narrative and the future, pointing out that the way the world worked today was very different from the way it did a decade or two ago.

“The centre in Malaysia will impose its political model on Sarawak if there is no resistance and if nobody here offers an alternative model or narrative.

“In other words, if you keep quiet and do not do anything but instead continue doing the same thing you have been doing for the last 50 years, then sooner or later, the centre will take over again.”

He said this in his lecture on Past, Present and Future Political Landscape in Sarawak held online via Zoom on Thursday (July 22) – the first in a series of lectures under an inaugural leadership programme organised by The Sarawak Initiatives (TSI).

Touching on path dependency and how political or other choices made many years ago had caused the present conditions, he said changes must be worked at now in order to change the trajectory of Sarawak.

Prof Chin said people must be able to see that changes put in today would lead to major changes many years down the track.

Nevertheless, he said the difficulty was that whatever changes made now, the results would not be seen until many years later.

“The question is: Are you willing to pay the political price now in order to create something better in the future?”

He said path dependency explained why people kept utilising the same policies and doing things the same way despite knowing it did not work.

“Part of it is that it is usually politically easier and less controversial to just go along with the path already set, rather than take a radical approach or reform or do something new.”

He believed that the current political class seen in Malaysia and the current model seen at the federal level was not able to cope with the rapid global changes.

“We really need a whole new generational change in terms of the way our political structure and process works in Malaysia.

“I stand for generation change. I think it is very important that we move our current failed politics down one or two generations.”

He stressed on the importance of the younger generation stepping up and getting involved.

“Don’t just complain. Get involved in the non-governmental organisations, get involved in active politics, just get out there. Young people do have an agency; you can go out and form your own groups and actually effect change.”

He felt that it was unfortunate that the interesting young political activists were mostly in West Malaysia and less observed among young Sarawakians or Sabahans.

He opined that the lowering of the voting age to 18 would have a profound impact, adding that being able to vote was a very powerful incentive for the youth to take part in the political process. He also supported automatic voter registration.

On another note, he said the key question facing Sarawak now was whether the state is becoming more Malayan or whether it has been able to retain its uniqueness in the past half century.

“In some ways, we can argue that politics and political parties in Sarawak are very much similar to those back in the 60s – because it is mostly personality driven. But the unique thing in politics in Sarawak compared to politics in Malaya is that we are much less driven by the racial angle.”

He said this was where people needed to reinforce why Sarawak is special, as other political forces are trying to make Sarawak and Sabah a mirror image of the Malayan political model.

Prof Chin said Sarawak politics was driven by certain core beliefs, one of them being that Sarawak would always require a coalition government of different races.

“There is a strong sense that we have to accept that Sarawak is a very diverse place and Sarawak is really multiracial and multireligious. There is also a very strong sense of Sarawak nationalism.”

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