Sarawakian voters and ‘Orang Malaya’

By Pak Bui

The paradox of Sarawak’s upcoming election campaign lies in the dependency of PBB on Umno and Umno on PBB, or indeed on any subordinate Sarawakian BN party that can deliver thirtysomething parliamentary seats to keep Umno in power.

Umno needs Sarawakian BN seats to stay in power, to keep raking in the money. RM40 billion for a Mass Rail Transit mega-project, RM5 billion for a 100-storey mega-tower in a congested part of KL, RM12.5 billion for PKFZ mega-blackhole, RM7.3 billion for the Bakun white elephant, the sums available for “leakage” are dizzying.

You can see in your mind’s eye, the smiling fat-cat licking his pink lips, at the thought of all the handbags he will buy for his scary wife. You can imagine the dazzle of diamonds encrusting the soles of her shoes.

In return for power at federal level, and 95% of oil royalties, Umno has left Taib and PBB to do anything they want in Sarawak – and Taib has obliged, indulging in a 30 year orgy of asset-stripping.

But here is the paradox: during the campaign, PBB will still preach that a vote for the DAP or PKR is a vote for ‘Orang Malaya’, for so-called ‘peninsular parties’. It is a tribute to Taib’s ability to divide and rule, and to keep so many Sarawakians poor and semi-literate, that many Sarawakians still believe him and will vote for BN.

And here is another paradox: some peninsular Malaysians, angry that Sarawakians and Sabahans voted overwhelmingly for BN in 2008, allowing BN to cling to power, call us “stupid” and “hopeless”.

They are happy to complain, but will not lift a finger to help remove Taib from power. And therefore they will not be surprised if they do not see the electoral result they hope for.

Showing concern for Sarawakians

There are notable exceptions among the ‘Orang Malaya’.

Suaram, the Center for Orang Asli Concerns, the Women’s Aid Organisation, the Women’s Centre for Change, the Bar Council and NGOs in the Penan Support Group have worked to highlight the suffering of Sarawakian girls raped by loggers.

The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Halls have launched a donation drive to build two pre-schools in Penan villages in middle Baram.

The resourceful Democracy4Now mavericks have traveled tirelessly to remote hamlets in Sarawak to register voters in an effort to empower them. Malaysian Election Observers Net (MEO-Net) have shown tenacity in trying to preserve the democratic potential of one man, one vote.

Journalists like sacked RTM producer Zhou Z Lam, Malaysiakini’s Joseph Sipalan, Mariam Mokhtar and Wong Teck Chi, and the Nut Graph’s Gan Pei Ling, Jacqueline Ann Surin and Ding Jo Ann, and others from Malaysia Today and Free Malaysia Today, have turned the fickle attention of all Malaysians on injustice in Sarawak, at least for a while.

The state governments of Penang, under the DAP, and Selangor, under PKR, have also pooled funds to alleviate the hardship of Penans in middle and upper Baram, caused by the plague of loggers released by Taib.

All talk and no action

But there are still those bloggers and internet commentators who refuse to take concrete steps to support Sarawakians’ efforts to improve their government. These ‘Orang Malaya’ are all talk and no action. They sneer that Sarawakians are ignorant and ‘deserve the government’ we have, and ‘should not complain’ when the BN government vandalises our state.

It is true enough that many Sarawakians lack awareness, and many are easily bought over come voting time. It is also true, though, that Taib’s firm grip on the state for three decades has been made possible only by the overwhelming might of Umno and successive federal BN governments.

These BN governments have been voted into power in every single election since 1955, thanks to the perennial support of peninsular Malaysians. We remember how Mahathir, and even Abdullah Badawi, won landslide elections in the past.

But it is not too late for us Sarawakians to learn from the mistakes of our past, as well as those of peninsular Malaysians. We must start with working together to remove the dictatorship of Umno and PBB, and the tyranny of blinkered racial politics.

Pakatan Rakyat needs to invest in Sarawak, both politically and economically, and put its money where its mouth is.

All Malaysians must come together to work for justice in Sarawak, both during the state polls, as well as afterwards. Nation building does not only happen during general elections.

Pakatan Rakyat must promise, and deliver, transparent and equitable use of development funds in Sabah and Sarawak. There must be an end to the lopsided use of natural resources: oil royalties must be returned to these two poor states.

The current neo-colonial relationship between west and east brings dishonour and shame to all parties: peninsular Malaysians, Sabahans and Sarawakians.

Malaysians have turned their eyes away from the horror of corruption and poverty in Sabah and Sarawak for too long.

Whenever I am troubled by this neglect, I am reminded of a short story by the great Chinese writer Lu Xun, called “New Year’s Sacrifice”. The story has been translated into English by Julia Lovell, in The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China.

In Lu Xun’s tale, a maidservant, known only as ‘Xianglin’s wife’, has been widowed twice. Therefore, she is considered to bring bad luck to those around her. She gains sympathy initially when she tells her fellow villagers, again and again, the story of how she lost her three year old son, how he had been taken and killed by wolves.

Part of the story is reproduced below:

Her story certainly had an impact on those who heard it. Men would walk awkwardly away, the smirk fading from their faces, while women exchanged their looks of contempt for sympathetic profusions of tears. Some old women – those who hadn’t heard her recitation about town – would seek her out specially to hear her tragic story. When she broke into sobs, their own tears, ready at the corners of their eyes, would also gush out; then, with a sigh, they would leave, perfectly satisfied and still discussing it animatedly among themselves.

Over and over she repeated it, gathering small groups of listeners about her. But soon everyone knew it too well – from memory – and even the town’s most devout lady Buddhists were left unmoved. The moment she began, her audiences felt only irritation.

‘I was so stupid –’

‘Yes, yes, you knew wolves came down into the villages when it snowed, because there was nothing to eat in the mountains,’ they would impatiently interrupt before stalking off.

She would stand there, mouth hanging stupidly open, watching as they distanced themselves, before moving on herself – as if she, too, were bored with her own tragedy.

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One Response to Sarawakian voters and ‘Orang Malaya’

  1. Borneo1963 says:

    So right. our roti money is for us only. come and begs from us later, see how much left after termite stole from us, unless he returns it

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