We’ve thrown off the shackles…

GPS will be officially launched on January 19. With this, a new and critical chapter in Sarawak’s history starts.

So, many are asking, how will this benefit Sarawak? Will GPS make any real difference?

After all, some have opined that it is merely old wine in a new bottle. Their meaning, of course, is that there will be no real change and it’s just a superficial rebranding exercise.

Well, I am sure the desire to make a positive difference is there. After all, which party does not want to hold and stay in office? GPS, a true-blue Sarawak coalition surely does.

A good starting point to evaluate the scenario would be the statement by Muara Tuang assemblyman Datuk Idris Buang. According to him, the fact that Barisan Nasional (BN) was defeated in the May 2018 parliamentary election was a “blessing in disguise”.

Idris, basically said it was good to break free from the “shackles” of BN that controlled Sarawak’s rights, power and resources. These “shackles” had obviously held us back.

It is indeed good to have this kind of positive outlook.

The common adage, “Every cloud has a silver lining” applies here, meaning that we need to move on despite the perceived setback and seek a beneficial outcome for Sarawakians.

Therefore it is an opportune time for GPS to strike out without the “shackles”. However, GPS needs to produce both tangible and intangible results. It has about two years to do this or maybe less if elections are held earlier.

Although the PH government has made several blunders from Sarawak’s perspective, GPS cannot rely on their failures to win the next state elections.

Once its officially launched, GPS needs to very quickly come up with a detailed and comprehensive plan. These initiatives have to be communicated clearly to the people and very importantly in a form the people can understand and support.

  The execution and results of these initiatives also need to be published and communicated effectively. It must fit in well to the people’s perspectives and desires.

Of course, there are already various good initiatives launched such as development plans for the rural areas, the drive towards a digital Sarawak, Petros, Debos and several more.

However, additional confidence and morale-boosting initiatives should also be added.

Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting Chiew Yew recently made a proposal in the last DUN sitting to set up a Sarawak sovereign fund or oil fund.

He said, “We need to plan for the future that one day the oil and gas resources will come to an end. Such fund will ensure that the future generations continue to benefit from the oil and gas revenues and at the same time, provide financial security for Sarawak … ”

These are the types of ideas which should be carried out as they show long-term vision and also the desire to secure the future of Sarawak and its children.

From my perspective and I am sure of many others, what is so difficult about doing this. Just do it. Look at the Norwegian Oil Fund and its success story.

We just make sure it does not become like the other sovereign fund, 1MDB. We have to ensure the right checks, balances and transparency practices are put in place and implemented.

Another strongly supported move would be to rename our Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) to Sarawak Parliament or Parliament of Sarawak.

Pujut independent assemblyman Fong Pau Teck in 2015 submitted a motion to change the name of DUN to Parliament.

This was when the “shackles” were still in place. Therefore, it was strongly rejected by BN Sarawak and was sadly referred to as a “ridiculous motion”.

However, and at the right time, I would say, our Minister for Local Government and Housing Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian recently also made a call for our DUN to be renamed Parliament of Sarawak.

He also referred to our DUN as Parliament a couple of times during his speech at the recent DUN sitting.

Our DUN, was initially called the Sarawak General Council and was established on September 8, 1867. In 1903 it was renamed Council Negri followed by another name change in 1976, renaming it to the current Dewan Undangan Negeri.

Therefore, we already have established precedents for changing the name of our state legislature.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association website also refers to our state legislature as “The Parliament of Sarawak, Malaysia” and has been a member of this association since July 21 1951.

It is about time the oldest legislature in Malaysia be given the due recognition of being called a Parliament. So again, let’s just do it.

We also have issues with our territorial waters. Since Sarawak’s boundaries are within our purview we should rename our territorial waters as Sarawak Sea.

This would at least symbolically send a strong message and increase our pride that we are taking a stand that the oil, gas and other resources belong to Sarawak.

There is a precedent for this as well. Indonesia recently renamed their sea around the Natuna Islands as the Natuna Sea.

Moving on, there have been various calls for us to take back our education and health services. If we are to be serious about this, there needs to be a proper education and health blueprint for Sarawak.

GPS will need to paint a picture of this blueprint that people can visualise and support. The details in the blueprint must also be able to withstand scrutiny. Ultimately, it must be workable and beneficial with established milestones.

I am sure GPs and other political parties realise that there is a huge trust deficit about all things political by the people.

To bridge this gap GPS needs to reach out quickly to its grassroots and the people with actionable initiatives and need to build trust across the board.

Confidence-building measures are essential and a new template is required by GPS.

Our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has said that GPS is a “freshly brewed wine in a new bottle”.

I would say that with the shackles removed (and placed on PH Sarawak), let this freshly brewed wine mature into a high-quality desirable wine.

We Sarawakians should give him the support to bring Sarawak forward from the current silver lining opportunity to a golden era for Sarawak.