By Shannon Teoh
Barisan Nasional (BN) has held on to power in Sarawak through intimidation, but could still fall just like the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall, said the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has turned into an internet and radio crusader against Tan Sri Taib Mahmud’s administration.
Clare Rewcastle Brown, who operates radio station Radio Free Sarawak and blog Sarawak Report from Covent Garden in London, told The Malaysian Insider that “every person I have spoken to is scared of the fact that the BN government will know how they vote.”
But she said that even though voters “face naked threats that BN will withdraw vital services from longhouses that vote against them,” the tide of opinion can subtly change and “wash away the foundations of power without anybody quite realising.”
“The collapse of the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall took the world by surprise and almost happened overnight,” she said, recalling her experience as a reporter with Sky TV when the wall fell in 1989.
“I remember the shock of it all, as the grip of communist power had seemed so immovable for so long,” said the 51-year-old investigative journalist who began her career with the BBC World Service in 1983.
The Berlin Wall was the physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain, a symbolic partition between the communist and democratic halves of Europe until it fell in 1989, marking the end of the Cold War era and then erosion of communism globally.
Rewcastle-Brown made the comparison between the Iron Curtain and Sarawak in an interview with The Malaysian Insider today.
In the interview, she said that Radio Free Sarawak, which broadcasts to the state over short wave, a long range band of frequencies, has fed what “seems to be such a hunger for news in the jungles of Sarawak … that they seem to be back tuning in to these old fashioned radios.”
The two media that she publicly took responsibility for on Wednesday, have repeatedly accused Abdul Taib and his administration of corruption and illegitimate political practices.
However, these allegations have also been made by others before and have not prevented the 74-year-old chief minister from holding power for 30 years.
Rewcastle Brown, who was born and raised in Sarawak until the age of eight, added that the opposition parties in the state have also realised that they need to unite and “are now putting normal political bickering and personal ambitions aside.”
Although Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties had ensured straight fights across the peninsular in the 2008 general election, Sarawak saw 15 state seats that were contested by more than two candidates in the 2006 state polls.
However, with state polls expected in April and the assembly’s mandate expiring in July, DAP, PKR, PAS and also the Sarawak Nasional Party (SNAP) have begun negotiations over seat allocations in a bid to ensure one-on-one battles with BN. – MI