We need steel spines, not weak knees when it comes to political independence.

– Dianne Feinstein, American senator

No offence meant. When Sarawak leaders and citizens recently reiterated their stand on Umno — one-time lynchpin of the country’s ruling Barisan Nasional coalition — that the party is not wanted here, it shouldn’t be interpreted to mean we hate the Malaya-based party. No, it’s just that we are not ready for its fiery brand of politics which many of us view as extreme.

Recently, at a Dayak Bidayuh National Association function in Kuching, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg broached the topic of Umno. His assertion that the Malay-based party will not be allowed to establish a foothold in Sarawak is consistent with the views of past leaders Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.

Abang Johari described Umno as an ‘extreme party’ as some members had harped and are still harping on religious sentiments which are a taboo to peace-loving Sarawakians.

“West Malaysia-based parties do not know our culture. We co-exist in Sarawak. We do not have such problems here. That is why we will not allow them to come to Sarawak — we will protect Sarawak and its people,” he said.

Umno’s political stand is understandable. It is a party of the Malays, by the Malays, for the Malays as the population in Malaya is made up of more than 60 percent Malays. The party has no choice but to pander to the community for their support to stay in power.

The situation in the Land of the Hornbills is very different. No single ethnic group can lay claim to be the majority race. We have a multitude of local communities like Malay, Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau, Kelabit, Kayan, Kenyah, Lun Bawang, Penan, Punan, Murut and Bisaya. There are also several other smaller native communities.

Just to refresh your memory, there are no fewer than 26 ethnic groups in Sarawak. And don’t forget the Chinese, Indian and Eurasian communities.

So far PBB has done an excellent job of taking care of the Bumiputera groups, big or small. I doubt if any other party could come anywhere near PBB’s achievement of keeping the Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera united, and living harmoniously next to each other.

PBB is made up of the dominant Malay-Melanau Muslim wing Bumiputera, and the Dayak-based Pesaka wing. The latter is crucial to the dominant position of the party within the GPS and the state government.

Let’s look at this scenario. Say Umno enters Sarawak and succeeds in recruiting some of the Malay-Melanau Muslim members. But how will it accommodate the Dayaks? It is unlikely that the party will admit Dayaks as full members, for that will dilute the Umno ideology of Ketuanan Melayu

So, you think Umno can fill PBB’s shoes? Dream on lah

One just has to look at what’s happening in Malaya. I don’t have the space to elaborate here. Just keep abreast of current events and you will know.

Sarawak is the only state where Umno has not established any presence. Just as Taib and Adenan had done before him, Abang Johari is playing a key role in stopping Umno from setting foot on Sarawak shores.

There are other leaders like PRS chief and Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing and SUPP president Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian who have vehemently opposed any move by Umno to come in. 

Of course, past Umno presidents and prime ministers should be given credit too for their decisions not to spread their party’s wings to Sarawak. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have kept their promises to our leaders and we say, “Terima kasih!”

Current Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also assured his party will stay away.

“Umno is confident and prays that PBB and GPS will continue to form the state government when the PRN (state election) is held in the future,” he twittered.

Nevertheless, Sarawakians should not let down their guard as I hear there are Umno cronies — especially some businessmen — who are closely linked to powerful Umno figures. There might be clandestine efforts in future to encourage them to set up a branch or division in the state.

In fact, some years back a business group actively attempted to bring Umno in by setting up a liaison committee. But their efforts fizzled out after a while. Just stay alert as anything could happen.

Anyway, the best way to keep Umno away is for us to give our support to GPS. In the words of leading political analyst Dr Jeniri Amir: “Apparently, the best way to ensure that Umno does not come to Sarawak is to ensure that Sarawak’s main local party, PBB, gets the mandate in the coming state election.”

I would like to conclude by borrowing a fellow columnist’s words: “Just stay where you are, Umno. Don’t set foot in Sarawak. Do not contaminate our beautiful homeland and peace-loving people with your extremism and venomous political culture. We don’t need Umno and we don’t want it in Sarawak.”