Zahid, don’t push us Sarawakians

By Francis Paul Siah

COMMENT | So Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has issued this stern warning: Those fanning “Sabah for Sabahans” and “Sarawak for Sarawakians” sentiments will be severely punished.

“The actions of certain quarters inciting the people with these slogans are against the Federal Constitution. We must fight those playing with fire, and who are trying to create anarchy and national instability,” Zahid said at the launch of the Umno wings general assembly on Tuesday.

That leaves me wondering whether his words were targeted at NGOs and social activists in the two East Malaysian states or specifically at leaders of the Sarawak government.

You see, it’s true that there are “Sabah for Sabahans” and “Sarawak for Sarawakians” (S4S) groups in Sabah and Sarawak but what they have been fighting for the past decade is for Malaya to honour the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and to reclaim those eroded rights.

And it is not wrong to conclude that the S4S groups have the tacit support and understanding of the state government, certainly so in Sarawak. Let’s say – their goal is the same.

For what was louder and clearer were the strong statements made by Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg and his predecessor, the late Adenan Satem, on MA63.

This could be something which Zahid finds intolerable – even his BN partners in Sarawak, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) leaders in particular, have been very vocal about reclaiming the rights of Sarawak as enshrined in MA63 for being party to the creation of Malaysia.

While Zahid might be camouflaging his warning towards activists, he must also understand and accept that state government leaders are in the picture as well.

The Sarawak chief minister is also demanding that the state’s rights be returned too, and Abang Johari has been more vocal in recent days, thanks to the MA63 debate challenge by Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia.

For us in Sarawak, we would like to respectfully tell the deputy prime minister that his statement is actually a warning to 2.7 million Sarawakians, for every single Sarawakian wants the fine print of MA63 honoured and respected.

Zahid, can all the prisons in the country hold 2.7 million people? If not, then start building the “accommodation” for 2.7 million Sarawakians. Don’t forget the majority of Sabahans too – another three million or more?

An honest confession

Dear Zahid, let me tell you something honestly and sincerely here. I wouldn’t want to lie to you nor would I dare to, for you are a powerful home minister and you could put me in jail anytime.

I consider myself a Sarawakian patriot. I was only in Primary One in 1963 when Malaysia was formed. I played no role in the creation of this new nation but for 54 years, I knew only Malaysia as my country and Sarawak as my homeland.

At first, Malaysia was good to me, a Sarawakian, or so I thought. But over the past decade or so, this nation which I was once proud to call my country has left me wanting.

You see, Zahid, even a simpleton like me from “ulu” Sarawak finds the rise of religious extremism, the racially-biased policies and rampant corruption and abuse of power, just to name a few of the wrongs in the country, simply intolerable.

I’m sure you will understand why I find myself slowly but surely detaching from Malaysia. I have very little bonding left with Malaysia.

In secular Sarawak, there is genuine religious freedom. No one talks about the use of “Allah” or crucifixes being hung in public areas. No one is bothered about how loud the azan call for prayers is. Buddhist and Hindu processions during their religious festivals are watched and participated in by all.

English is an official language in Sarawak because the late Adenan Satem said so. We love to use English in our home state but over in Malaya, one of your senior Umno colleagues, Nazri Abdul Aziz, demanded that the advancement of English be stopped. How absurd is that! Is that an official Putrajaya policy now?

Over in Sarawak, Muslims and non-Muslims can sell food alongside each other in the same coffeeshop and we can all have breakfast and lunch together. Nobody has to display a “halal” sign. Why is this not possible in Malaya?

Why is there such a silly restriction in our everyday life? Why must we make life so complicated and difficult for Malaysians? Are we not supposed to be uniting Malaysians and getting them together? Why are we segregating them in this manner?

So Zahid, you cannot accuse me of playing with fire if I were to let the whole world know that I feel more at home, more safe and happy in Sarawak than in Malaya.

And since when has shouting “Sarawak for Sarawakians” been against the Federal Constitution? Why is the slogan “Malaysia for Malays” not against the Federal Constitution?

And what about those asking Chinese and Indians in the country to go back to China and India? These are the people who are playing with fire, and who are trying to create anarchy and national instability, not Sarawakians who only want what is rightfully theirs returned.

So Zahid, please don’t push us Sarawakians. We respect you as the deputy premier and home minister, but we know what to do and how to run our own affairs.

The whole of Sarawak was with Adenan Satem when he started negotiating with Putrajaya over MA63 in 2014.

Now, all Sarawakians are with Abang Johari. You push our chief minister into a corner, you push us all.

So, don’t!

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at

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