We’re not country bumkins, Dr M told

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KUCHING: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has no reason on moral or ethical grounds to malign Sarawakians for having the spirit of ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’, said Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party (Aspirasi) president Lina Soo.

“(This spirit) mirrors the aspiration of Sarawakians for self-determination after suffering 58 years of domination, subservience and exploitation — where half of the timespan we were under Dr Mahathir’s watch,” she said in a statement on Thursday (Sept 9).

She said she felt much aggrieved by Dr Mahathir’s recent statement that Sabah and Sarawak were better off being part of Malaysia and that both Borneo states became richer after the formation of Malaysia in 1963, and urged the former prime minister of 22 years not to take Sarawakians for country bumkins.

“If Dr Mahathir is so sure that Sarawakians and Sabahans should be grateful, he should prove he is right by advocating a referendum for the people of the Borneo states to substantiate their satisfaction and happiness level after almost 60 years in Malaysia.

“If Dr Mahathir stands by his statement, he should not be afraid of any findings of a referendum to the contrary,” she said.

She said only a referendum could prove Dr Mahathir’s premise that the ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ and ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ sentiments were needless thoughts to be discarded, so the opinion of the people of the Borneo states should be consulted through universal suffrage as in any democracy.

Otherwise, she said, these sentiments would continue to beat in the hearts of the Borneo peoples and could never be extinguished until these cries were heard.

She also pointed out that before the formation of Malaysia in 1963, Sarawak had no external debt and held fixed deposits parked in European banks, but today, Sarawak had to share the burden of Malaysia’s external debt which had risen to RM1 trillion this year.

In the light of the wealth and standards of living enjoyed by Sarawak’s neighbours — Brunei, who had rejected the merger with Malaysia, and Singapore, which separated from Malaysia in 1965 after a short-lived two-year union — Soo marvelled at the audacity of Dr Mahathir to claim that Sarawak and Sabah had become rich after merging with Tanah Melayu to form Malaysia.

“Dr Mahathir’s statement is akin to sticking the dagger into the heart and twisting it, after rubbing salt into the wound.

“Dr Mahathir takes Sarawakians for country bumpkins and thinks we are blind to the poverty in Sarawak, where our suburban and rural population has no access to piped water, electricity, sanitation, healthcare and decent schools after 58 years in Malaysia,” she said.

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