We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.
–Barack Obama, former US president
The origin of the word “politics” comes from Greek meaning “affairs of the city”. Nowadays its meaning encompasses many aspects of life.
In terms of governance, it is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the art or science of government … the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy and the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government. In order to do this, a political system is required.
A political system is said to be a combination of principles, laws, ideas, concepts and procedures that are essential to a particular form of government. In Malaysia our form of government and political system is democratic.
Normally, within a democracy, there is a political spectrum consisting of ideologies. This refers to a wide range of political positions or opinions that people and political parties hold.
Within this political spectrum normally there is a range from left-wing liberalism to right-wing conservatism at the other end.
There are also spectrum of radical extremism such as the far-left (anarchism) and those on the extreme far-right (fascism).
Fortunately, most of us could be said to be somewhere in the centre of the political spectrum.
However, even within this central spectrum, there are always political divides with political parties taking a particular stance on issues based on political ideologies.
This is normal and political parties champion causes and create political platforms which people can align with. Political parties then have campaigns to convince the electorate that theirs are the best platforms and that they can deliver their promises.
However, in Malaysia, the normal political divides are complicated and do not fit into the usual political model. We have racial parties, religious parties, and the so-called multiracial parties with one dominant race. As can be seen, race and religion play a dominant role.
To further complicate matters or simplify them (depending on your perspective) several of these parties are part of coalitions.
At the national level, we have Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan National (BN). There are various other parties outside the two main coalitions that are classified as either aligned or friendly to them.
In Sarawak we have our own coalition, Gabungan Party Sarawak (GPS) made up of only Sarawak-based parties – Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).
The Malaya-based Pakatan Harapan also has elected representatives in Sarawak. There are also other Sarawak-based political parties.
In terms of the political spectrum within each coalition, it could be said that there are parties with ideologies ranging from the left of centre to right. Therefore, even within a coalition, there are political divides.
What is important here is that each party in Malaysia has a responsibility to the nation as a whole to ensure peace and stability and to have policies to allow its citizens to go about their daily lives to carry out economic activities and work in a civil environment that is conducive to the well-being of all.
The next round of parliamentary and state elections (with the exception of Sarawak) in Malaysia will be held on or before September 16, 2023.
Therefore, the focus of many political activities seems to be in Sarawak turning it into a battlefield of sorts.
If these political activities, no matter how acrimonious, involve the usual types of campaigns based on policies, etc, that would be alright and considered to be the norm.
However, it seems there are elements of politics of division (more commonly seen in Malaya) creeping into politics in Sarawak.
Recently on social media, many of us in Sarawak have observed an increase in Malayan style politics of division, especially relating to race.
There has been an incessant number of postings instigating and pitching one race against another.
Such an approach is playing up racial sentiments and attempting to sow divisions and hatred among Sarawakians.
Trying to tear apart the peaceful social, cultural and racial fabric of Sarawak will lead to a slippery slope towards civil strife which in turn has the potential to descend into absolute chaos.
As I have mentioned earlier on, having political divides are the norm in democracy. But what is not normal is bringing into Sarawak’s political landscape an extremist racial game plan of divide and conquer.
Sarawakians must not be distracted by cyber troopers trying to create racial discord. This approach to grab power at all cost can have severe outcomes.
Sarawakian voters must be aware of the consequences of placing self-interest before state interests.
They need to fortify themselves against politics of hate and must not let it take root.
We need to increase our awareness about these attempts (both direct and subtle) to sow disunity among us.
Currently, within GPS the voices of Sarawakians from all corners of the state are represented and aspects of the political spectrum are covered.
Leadership with vision, clarity and direction that protects the interests of Sarawakians is of paramount importance.
As long as we adhere to the guiding principle of “Sarawak First” in our approach to evaluating what’s good collectively for all Sarawakians we cannot go wrong in deciding where in the political spectrum and political divide we want to choose our representatives from.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.