Statesmanship, the Sarawak way

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a statesman as “an experienced politician, especially one who is respected for making good judgments”.

On August 22 Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announced a Cabinet reshuffle triggered by the resignation of Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh as Second Finance Minister and Minister of International Trade and E-Commerce recently.

In the words of the chief minister, “the new state Cabinet reshuffle is in line with the objectives of Sarawak which intends to be a developed state by 2030” and with emphasis on five major sectors — raising domestic exports and imports, boosting the oil and gas industry, modernising the agricultural sector, revamping urban areas and improving public transport, and developing the tourism sector.

He added the “changes made the dynamic operating environment for Sarawak to remain competitive” and these changes have generally been well received and are seen to accommodate all the component GPS parties.

In the new Cabinet lineup, it is good to see an experienced politician, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, appointed as Second Finance Minister. There have been some from PH Sarawak who tried to stir things up by stating that SUPP or a Chinese has traditionally filled this post. However, Abang Johari saw them off by stressing that “we are colour blind”. This statement basically states that in Sarawak, no Cabinet post is reserved for any particular race.

He also created a new portfolio of Transport Minister, to be helmed by Datuk Lee Kim Shin. I am sure being an experienced and a long-standing Cabinet member he will do justice to his post. The only new face is Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting taking up the role as Tourism, Arts and Culture Assistant Minister. He is a popular and well-liked elected representative in Miri. Many here expressed their thanks to the chief minister for making a good choice in a role that I am confident he will do a great job in.

PH Sarawak made statements describing the new Cabinet lineup as ‘lopsided’ and accusing members of PBB dominating key portfolios. At the same time they try to stir up racial sentiments just like Zakir Naik.

PBB being the party with the majority of state assembly seats within GPS obviously will have more Cabinet posts.

Let’s compare this to Pakatan Harapan at the national level. Bersatu has only 12 seats in Parliament but holds the following number of posts — Prime Minister, five full ministers and six deputy ministers.

Their counterpart Amanah won 11 seats but were allocated the posts of five full ministers and five deputy ministers.

In comparison DAP which won a large number of seats, 42, only have six full ministers and seven deputy ministers signifying a less than equitable proportion in comparison. It is indeed strange that DAP can make claims that GPS has “no trait of power-sharing” in the appointment of Cabinet posts based on the above “power-sharing” ratio.

Similarly, PKR that won the largest number of seats with 48 have a disproportionately seven full ministers and seven deputy ministers.

Now, let’s look at PH Sarawak which has contributed 12 seats (same number as Bersatu) towards the alliance. They only have a miserly number of one full minister and one deputy minister. Where is the fairness?

Taking these comparisons into account, it is beyond comprehension how PH Sarawak can claim “there is no domineering component party in PH”, when it is so clear that one person in Bersatu is calling all the shots.

PH hardly has Sarawak in its sights or it is not even a ‘blip’ on their radar. On a November 4, 2017 posting in FMT, Jomo Kwame Sundaram (former UN assistant secretary-general for Economic Development) and now a member of the Council of Elders seems to bear out the above statement when he commented that “for many years, Sabah and Sarawak provided a lot of resources for Malaysia that should be recognised.”

Unfortunately, he said, this has not happened. He further added that the peninsular-based parties “were insensitive to the needs and aspirations of East Malaysians.” Therefore, in comparison, it is very clear on which side of the sea proper statesmanship is being practised.

Sarawakians will be wise to choose who they want as their statesman, one that has a proven track record of being inclusive or a PH bunch that exhibits almost on a daily basis a series of U-turns with no determined direction or goal. It is full steam ahead for our chief minister and his Sarawak First Team.

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