By Francis Paul Siah
COMMENT | I have been informed that Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg was not too happy about my article, “Time to be a leader, Abang Jo”, published in Malaysiakini on May 27.
A BN state assemblyperson, who I consider a dear friend, contacted me to say that although he could agree with some of my views, he also felt that I was not being very respectful to the chief minister.
This was my response to him: “There is something which I must make very clear to you. I am not in the business of pleasing politicians, you my friend, and the chief minister included.
“When something is way wrong and out of hand, don’t be a coward. Speak up. The trouble with you, BN politicians and others too, is that all of you have personal interests to protect. There is nothing I want personally from you, the state BN or from Abang Jo. That is the difference between you and me.
“However, like many Sarawakians, I expect Abang Jo to be a leader and to stop being a follower. Most importantly, to stop taking instructions and carry out orders from the Astana.
“He is also my chief minister and I want him to succeed too for the sake of Sarawak and its people. So far, he has nothing tangible to show in his 16 months as chief minister, according to public feedback.
“Political leaders have to stop thinking that whenever people criticise them, it is always done with malice and contempt. They do not look at the sincerity and noble intention of the critiques. If Abang Jo falls into that category, then I’m sorry for him.
“Please go back and report to your boss what I’ve just said.”
More hard truths
Of course, I’m aware that my BN pal meant well in his attempt to advise me to lay off. But I have no reason to. In fact, I’m more determined than ever to tell the chief minister more hard truths, even if they hurt.
A few days before Nomination Day on April 28, a close family member of the chief minister contacted me, saying that he has something very important to tell me. We met in downtown Padungan in Kuching one late evening.
Abang Jo, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud were the gist of the hour-long conversation. I am not at liberty to divulge the details but there was some fresh information which I have not heard before.
In a nutshell, Abang Jo’s position as chief minister is shaky. Even some of his family members are beginning to believe the perception that he is a weakling.
If Abang Jo continues with his usual, nonchalant ways and carries on under his normal steam as CM, he could be in trouble very soon. As the CM, Abang Jo should know that not every day can be business as usual.
I’ve said this before and let me repeat – Sarawakians are very disappointed that Abang Jo has made no effort to step out of Taib’s shadow. For heaven’s sake, doesn’t he realise that he is now the chief minister and that Taib, being governor, has no business dabbling in politics?
Surely, the chief minister and other BN leaders in Sarawak are not blind to Taib’s abuses and excesses.
Are they really in the dark about what’s going on when even village idiots and country bumpkins, myself included, in far-flung corners in Sarawak are aware? Hey, his plunder and rape of the state’s resources have been going on for more than 30 long years and are also well-documented.
Do Abang Jo and co ever ask themselves, “What else does Taib want? Why is he still so adamant to call the shots and control everything in Sarawak, even up to this day?”
I’m aware there are also decent and hard-working BN politicians in Sarawak. A friend in Kuala Lumpur once commented that the smartest politicians in Sarawak are in PBB. Yes, in some ways I agree. They are smart but they are subservient souls, afraid to rock the boat because of their selfish interests.
I wouldn’t blame them. Because if my boss, the chief minister, is unprepared to act, why should I? So it’s all sighing and whining behind the chief minister’s and governor’s back. This is the cancer among BN leaders in Sarawak.
Take for example, the recent case of Taib’s Syrian-born wife (photo), Ragad Kurdi, being accorded Melanau status. Everyone knew this was not proper but none uttered a squeak. “Mr Untouchable” in Sarawak remains the untouchable.
Abang Jo and co are probably telling themselves, “Just let the old man do what he wants and gets what he wants and everything will be alright”. That’s the impression of most, at least.
But it is not alright for Sarawakians. We have had enough of the untouchables in our homeland. We respect the office of the Sarawak governor, not necessarily the current occupant of the Astana in Kuching.
Similarly, we respect the office of the Sarawak chief minister but we are not sure whether the current holder of the post deserves it.
If Abang Jo and co still learn nothing from the downfall of the seemingly invincible Najib Abdul Razak, then I fear the worst for my beloved homeland.
The next state election is three years away. I dread to think of how much more harm a despot could inflict on Sarawak within that three years.
I sincerely hope that my chief minister will soon wake up from his slumber and work earnestly to right the wrongs in the state and help ease the sufferings and miseries of so many of his fellow Sarawakians.
If you cannot do that as the chief minister, Abang Jo, then I have to tell you that you are part of the problem. No disrespect meant. – Malaysiakini
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.