Dr M, spare Sabah, Sarawak the sermons


COMMENT I have said in the past that when we need to speak up and tell our prime minister some hard truths, we have to do so with respect.

It is true that there are some politicians for whom we have little or no respect, but this is Dr Mahathir Mohamad, our elder statesperson who is 94 years old, not a man of 30 or 40 whom we can whack as we please without any remorse if they go off track.

Unfortunately, of late Mahathir has been seriously vilified by Malaysians, including some of my fellow Sarawakians, rightly or wrongly. To many, the writing is clear on the wall. His time as prime minister is up.

In an online chat group, a friend recently challenged me after I called for decorum in the language used against Mahathir, asking what respect I still hold for the prime minister after all the misgivings against him, his dictatorial decisions and for allowing racial and religious taunts to prolong, in particular.

This did not come from a politician whom we could brush aside as an adversary, but an ordinary professional whom I know has zero political ambition. Things are not looking rosy for Mahathir indeed.

I only have sympathy for the grand old man. Surely, a man of 94 should be spared such animosity and spite, hate even. My worry is that the longer Mahathir stays on in the job, the worse it will be for him. 

Only Mahathir himself can decide whether he wishes to be spared more public attacks, ridicule and misery.

What is my beef with Mahathir now? His statement on Friday that the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ mentality was unhealthy, adding that everyone should think of themselves as Malaysians and not individual territories.

“We may live in Sabah, Sarawak, or on the peninsula, (but) we are Malaysians and we talk like Malaysians,” he had said, stating his disapproval.

I’m sorry, but I have to express my disapproval too, for the slogans were coined for good reason. The prime minister must practise what he preaches. Mahathir is the one who has to lead by example by thinking that he is a Malaysian first and not a Malayan.

If he thinks that the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ mentality is unhealthy, then the prime minister must also discard his ‘Malaysia for Malayans’ mentality.

For 56 long years, it has all been about Malaya and worse, that only the interests of Malayans of a certain race were given priority. It has reached a point where Sabahans and Sarawakians just did not feel a sense of belonging in Malaysia.

The ‘Malaysia for Malayans’ mentality is not only unhealthy, but also dangerous in a multiracial and multireligious country like ours because Mahathir is the nation’s powerful chief executive.

The recent pronouncement by Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin (photo) that ‘Malaysia is for Malays’ cuts a deeper wedge, especially when the prime minister did not tick off the mufti for his racially stinging remark.

What about Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin’s ‘I am Malay first, Malaysian second’ declaration some years ago? No one chided him.

So, I have to ask Mahathir to spare us his sermons of thinking like Malaysians when he did not bother to tell others the same thing in the past. Please, don’t preach to Sabahans and Sarawakians now. It smacks of double standards. It is even hollow.

It’s disappointing that an elder statesperson like Mahathir is still unable to see the growing disillusionment among Sabahans and Sarawakians against many of his ‘one-man’ policies, both past and present.

One recent example is his decision to set up Bersatu branches in Sabah and Sarawak, even against the wishes of Pakatan Harapan allies in the Borneo territories.

Don’t blame the people of Sabah and Sarawak for feeling that Mahathir’s desire is to see Malayan parties in control of their homeland. The powerful Bersatu chairperson has insisted that his party must have a presence in the Borneo territories even when support is minimal.

Why? Because to a leader like Mahathir, Malaya must always be in charge. Sabah and Sarawak will have to take and follow instructions from Malaya. This is something we resent and will no longer tolerate.

In a way, the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ and ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ slogans are our way of telling Malaya that we have had enough of playing second fiddle for the past 56 years. We have to chart our own destiny now, with or without Malaya’s approval or support.

If Mahathir really wants Sabahans and Sarawakians to have a sense of belonging in Malaysia, he should know what to do first – stop pushing us against the wall.

As it is today, Malaya has many issues to resolve. The controversies surrounding Zakir Naik, khat, Dong Zong, Selangor conversion bill and the sex video are all Malaya’s creations.

We do not have such problems in Sabah and Sarawak. Those are Malaya’s issues to resolve so don’t burden Sabah and Sarawak with them.

In fact, if Mahathir and other Malayan leaders were able to think and act like Malaysians, we would not have to face such disturbing issues of race and religion in the first place.

Who is responsible for perpetuating and prolonging them? Why is the most powerful man in the country today dilly-dallying in putting an end to these contentious issues once and for all?

And that is my way of telling our grand old man some hard truths with the utmost respect.

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FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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