COMMENT: What is Rais Yatim to Sarawakians?
Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Dr James Masing kind of sums up how Sarawakians really feel about the social and cultural adviser to the Federal government when he took him to task for saying that that State government’s move to make English its official language could sow discord between Sarawak and Malaya.
In a rather stinging response to Rais, Masing said:
“Malaya has just recognised the Dayak as a race after 50 years of independence.
“Rais had never mentioned anything about Dayak as a racial group during his stint as a federal minister.
“When he was the menteri perpaduan (national unity, culture, arts and heritage minister), he only treated the Dayak as patung (puppets) and models for his cultural photographs on his billboards and television advertisements.
“That was never good for integration.”
Masing went on to ask what this son of Yatim had done for Sarawak when he was minister.
For Rais to answer that satisfactorily he would have to dig deep into his PhD memory, meaning he may have to scratch his balding head until every strand of hair he has up there comes loose.
But before he suffers himself to that end, let us help him remember what he had done but failed to do.
It was July 11, 2011 and Rais, the Minister of Information, Communications and Culture, was speaking at the 2011 Gawai Dayak national level open house at Rumah Wilson Begat anak Bakir in Penom, Ulu Paku, Betong.
Rais had proposed that all traditional longhouses more than 50 years old be declared national heritage buildings, saying: “The society is fast moving towards modernisation and relevant efforts must be made to ensure that we still keep our very old and traditional longhouses for posterity’s sake.”
Gawai celebrants numbering in the thousands gave him a big hand and rounds of applause as he smiled from ear to ear looking like a full-blown goblin.
When Rais was done with speaking, it was the turn of then Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who said he agreed with the proposal provided “longhouse chiefs and the residents must first agree to the suggestion”.
Muhyiddin proceeded to declare Rumah Wilson Begat Bakir as a “key site under the National Heritage Act”.
Another big hand and more rounds of applause.
Muhyiddin, Rais and the rest were treated to a feast of food, drink, music and songs, and cultural dances – all fit for kings and queens.
When the whole thing was over, folk spoke of the bright future of longhouses and longhouse living because the Federal government, through Rais and Muhyiddin, would see to that.
Now close to four years and four months have passed, nothing is heard about Rais’ proposal while folk of Rumah Wilson are asking what it means to be a “key site under the National Heritage Act”.
Unfortunately, Muhyiddin is no longer the DPM, so perhaps, just perhaps, he is in no position to answer why there is nothing done to Rumah Wilson.
But Rais, while he may no longer be the Minister of Information, Communications and Culture, he is today the social and cultural adviser to the Federal government, therefore, he should still be answerable for what he said in Betong that 11 July 2011.
On that day, four years and four months ago Rais had done something. He had made a proposal, which was agreed to both by the people and the State government of Sarawak as shown by a Borneo Post report on 9 Aug 2011 that runs thus:
KUCHING: Sarawak is looking at funding more longhouse conservation projects, following the Federal government’s recent inclusion of Rumah Wilson Begat Bakir, the state’s second oldest longhouse, into the National Heritage registry.
“We have many longhouses, and we’ll have to do our research first, say by a panel of historians, to see which longhouses we can declare (as heritage buildings),” Tourism and Heritage Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said on Sunday.
If Rais’ memory has failed him all this while, he is kindly reminded he had made a grand proposal to the people of Sarawak on 11 July 2011.
What is clear is he has not made good on that proposal after four years and four months.
Rais cannot fault Sarawakians if they don’t see much in him. – The Ant Daily