Reflecting on one year of PN plus GPS

Learning without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous.

— Confucius, philosopher

On a Saturday, just like today a year ago, Istana Negara — pressed for answers on who the next prime minister will be during the week-long political impasse — turned to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

They wanted to know who Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) was backing. Was it Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin or Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad?

However, their efforts were curtailed as the Sarawak politician was in Sungai Asap, Bakun. Being a remote area in the state, it has no cellular service.

“When I saw my handphone, there was a missed call and then I called back. It was around 4pm,” Abang Johari said.

He said with the mandate that was given to him by GPS, he informed Istana Negara that GPS would go for Muhyiddin.

“At about 5pm, Istana Negara made the announcement (that Muhyiddin) will be prime minister,” he said.

That also marked the final nail in the coffin for the short-lived Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government whose campaign for reform, justice and equality for all ultimately fizzled out in the end.

Today, when we recall the memories of the 22-month federal government, it was ultimately marred by incompetence, controversy and endless political scheming.

Abang Johari would later say that the reason for supporting Muhyiddin was that the latter agreed to GPS’ three conditions.

These were acknowledging Sarawak’s rights under Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), and Sarawak’s rights over its natural resources.

The third was that GPS will not be a part of Perikatan Nasional (PN) — only a partner with PN under the PN plus GPS formula.

These three promises, until now at least, have not been broken.

In September last year, Putrajaya agreed to pay Sarawak its State Sales Tax (SST) owed by Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas).

In December, Petronas agreed to a Commercial Settlement Agreement (CSA) with Sarawak for a greater share of revenues from oil and gas (O&G) found and produced in the state.

Sarawak’s rights under MA63, particularly its autonomy over immigration and disease prevention was recognised by the federal government which just stepped aside and let the state do its own thing.

This allowed tailored Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be implemented in Sarawak rather than just following Malaya’s blanket policy.

For context, the previous federal government had continued to poke and prod Sarawak’s immigration autonomy, where its leaders at one point even suggested that the use of passports for Malaysians to travel to Sarawak is ridiculous.

One year on, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the absence of physical and rousing ceramah which would be a platform for political parties to rally support, all signs point to a handsome win for the state government in the upcoming state election.

University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute political analyst Prof James Chin who predicted that GPS will win the state election was doubtful that the opposition could mount a serious challenge as they could not come together as a united opposition.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) political analyst Dr Arnold Puyok was of the view that Sarawakians will continue to support the coalition as long as it manages the economic problems faced by the people.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Prof Dr Jayum Jawan Empaling shared the same view. As did Universiti Malaya’s Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi.

The question now is where do they go from here — with the elections possibly being just around the corner with recent developments, GPS should not be complacent.

While PH Sarawak is still licking its wounds from being booted out of Putrajaya and Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) still stuck in a ‘will-they-won’t-they’ conundrum on working with PH, the state government must remain steadfast and continue serving the people.

The elections will come — it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. We shouldn’t be fixated on that just yet. The focus now is to get out of this Covid-19 mess that we are in.

If they are able to do that, with a thorough, statewide vaccination programme, declaring total elimination of the outbreak, then I find it hard for the people to not give this government another five years at the helm.