Sarawak state election: Déjà vu or clever election gimmick?

by Mariam Mokhtar

OUTSPOKEN: When it suits them, the authorities will bend over backwards to please the rakyat, in the run-up to an election. In the five-year interval between elections, they couldn’t care less if you exist, or not. So, have the Sarawakians been lulled into a false sense of security?

Sarawak goes to the polls, soon. Adenan Satem, the Chief Minister reduced electricity tariffs, abolished tolls, stressed the importance of English and promised that the Pan-Borneo Highway would be completed in a joint public-private initiative?

How many times have we heard about the “completion” of the Pan Borneo highway? Nothing new about English, as it has always been held in high regard in Sarawak. When the indigenous people were re-settled for dam building, they were promised cheap electricity, but that did not materialise.

Should we revisit the events which happened before and after, previous elections? Are Adenan’s overtures, another “wayang”? What do the Sarawak people really think?

Of the 1.3 million Dayaks in Sarawak, 80% are Christian. Is it a coincidence that we have not heard anything untoward about conversions and other religious issues? Has Adenan warned Putrajaya and their agents to tread carefully in Sarawak?

There is pandemonium when Muslims are allegedly converted, in churches throughout Selangor and Perak; but when Muslims are accused of converting people of other faiths, against their will, the response is muted. It has happened in Sarawak, Sabah, including Kelantan.

In May 2014, a peninsular-based NGO, Himpunan Lepas Institusi Pendidikan Malaysia (Haluan) was alleged to have set up “religious camps”, under the programme called “Anak Angkat”, in schools in Kuching. Concerned parents voiced their fears about the alleged conversions to Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Dr James Masing.

A few months later, in October, parents told the Sarawak DAP vice-chairman Leon Jimat Donald that their children had been enticed into converting to Islam, in schools, in Betong. Bibles were banned from the MRSM boarding schools and boys had been forced to wear the “songkok”.

Jill Ireland is a Melanau Christian and in 2008, while on transit in Kuala Lumpur, before returning to Sarawak, eight CDs, which she had purchased in Indonesia, were seized. The CDs were deemed to pose a threat to public order, because they contained the word “Allah”.

Seven years later, the Appeal Court agreed with the High Court and directed the Attorney General to arrange the return of Jill’s CDs.

Similarly, 30,000 Malay Bibles, destined for Sarawak, were seized at a port in Sarawak, in 2009. Former CM Taib Mahmud must have realised the impact of the seizure on public opinion.

Just before the 2011 Sarawak election, Home Ministry officials released the Malay Bibles, but they had  defaced several thousand, with the government’s seal. This was despite reassuring the Christians that the bibles would not be defiled.

The authorities treat the rakyat like imbeciles. They claim that the use of “Allah” in non-Muslim texts could confuse Muslims, and even entice them to convert.

Actually, they do not believe that, but it is a convenient ploy.

First, Christians are forced to be at the mercy of the authorities after an election. Then in the run-up to the next one, reconciliatory gestures are made to make up for their bad behaviour.

With the Sarawak election due soon, will you be able to see through the BN farce?

Come to think of it, what happened to the promise at the Sibu by-election to complete the flood defences? – The Ant Daily

Mariam Mokhtar is “a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth”.

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