By Francis Paul Siah
COMMENT | July 22 was barely two weeks ago. It was an auspicious day for Sarawakians. It’s Sarawak Day, or rather, independence day for this former British colony.
On this day, for many Sarawakians including me, we remind ourselves that Sarawak is our beloved homeland. It is the only home that we have and the only land we can call our own.
We will happily and proudly call ourselves patriotic Sarawakians. It was on Sarawak soil that we were born and it is where we intend to die and be interned when that hour dawns. I believe I speak for many of my fellow Sarawakians on this.
For Sarawakians, July 22, 1963, was the day their hornbill state gained independence from Britain. Even the state government has recognised July 22 as independence day for Sarawak.
Why, it has to take decades for Sarawak leaders, past and present, to pick up the courage to declare July 22 as the true independence day for Sarawak.
Why are we, Sarawakians, so subservient to Malaya and for so long that we didn’t even dare to tell the truth but had to hide a significant historical fact as our real independence day? Thankfully, things are different now.
Hari Kebangsaan, Aug 31, holds little meaning now for Sarawak and Sabah. It is a day for Malayans to celebrate their independence day. Of course, Sarawakians and Sabahans can rejoice with Malayans on their National Day, but Aug 31 has no significance for those in the Borneo territories.
Today, all of Sarawak and indeed, all of Sabah too, will tell that straight into the faces of national leaders in Malaya: “That is your day, not ours but we rejoice with you too and wish you all well.”
Unfortunately for me, personally, July 22 this year holds little meaning too. My little note to friends who sent me “Happy Sarawak Day” and “Happy Independence Day” messages tells why:
“I find little meaning on this day for Sarawak, although it is an auspicious occasion and supposed to be a happy one.
“Why? I am a very disillusioned Sarawakian today. And why not when my fellow Sarawakians at the top have no qualms about continuing to do what they do best – stealing from the state coffers and robbing those who already have very little of their lands, depriving them of their livelihood in the process.
“Those in power in Sarawak are responsible for perpetuating such crimes and as for the few with a little conscience left, they choose to keep quiet because they have personal interests to protect.
“And all of them are my fellow Sarawakians. How sad or shall I say, how disgusting is that!
“Please don’t go to churches or temples to pray or perform multiple umrah with that guilt in you. The sins of hypocrites will not be absolved by the One above.
“Feel free to celebrate this day by all means. It is Sarawak Day, after all. As for me, I’m in no mood for any celebration. This is why I have not reciprocated with a single ‘Happy Sarawak Day’ greeting to any of you.
“Hopefully, by this time next year, I will see some changes for the better and be less disillusioned. God bless you all.”
Big problem in Sarawak
It has been a fortnight since I shared my disillusionment with friends and over the past two weeks, my disillusionment with Sarawak leaders turned to sheer bewilderment interspersed with anger as I was given more information and feedback into the worsening state of evil deeds perpetuated by evil men in Sarawak. The corruption in Sarawak is worse than I thought.
It’s fortunate that those who were attached within the corridors of power are more willing and prepared to come forward now. Perhaps the “New Dawn” after GE14 has given them more courage.
When the “whistleblowers” requested to meet me in private, I accepted their invitation. We met, not in Kuching or Kuala Lumpur, but in other places in the peninsula.
What did I learn? The Sarawak civil service is corrupt to the core. Not that I didn’t know but the extent of the wrongdoings is simply mind-boggling. Nothing gets done without the palms of the department heads being “greased”.
Most civil servants are honest, hard-working folk but their department heads, including some at the district level, are greedy and corrupt, ever ready with the excuse that they have to take instructions from the top.
All these crimes could only have been committed when the top guy in the Sarawak civil service is similarly tainted.
It is also reliably learnt that Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg (photo), had summoned the heads of departments to express his disappointment that his many on-the-spot announcements of minor projects in the districts and kampung were not implemented.
It seems that we now have the case of a chief minister in Sarawak whose instructions to his civil servants are not taken seriously, if not ignored altogether. Is there a hidden hand who is more powerful than the chief minister?
It’s clear we have a big problem in Sarawak. I am not at liberty to reveal more. The civil service issue is just the tip of the iceberg.
At the moment it seems that the Pakatan Harapan government has its hands full. I’ve said this before and I will repeat: Sarawakians have to resolve their own problems. We cannot depend on Malaya to do it for us.
It’s really shameful what our fellow Sarawakians are doing at home, shamelessly stealing from the state and people at every given opportunity. Indeed, man’s greed knows no bounds.
Will anyone ever be happy when they have everything in the world while their fellow citizens are left with nothing, not even the crumbs under the table?
There is enough to be shared by 2.7 million Sarawakians but will those in power ensure that the wealth of the state trickles down to benefit the people, the lower strata of society in particular?
Until that day dawns, many Sarawakians will shed tears for their beloved homeland, including me.
The state has so much to give its people but the greed of a few has left the majority of Sarawakians wanting.
To the few, may this fly right in front of your faces each and every day of whatever is left of your sojourn on earth: “Shame on you!”
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.