By PETER JOHN JABAN
COMMENT: Sarawakians have seen with some concern photographs of PKR leader Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim at a weekend meeting with Abdul Taib Mahmud, the current Governor and the richest man in the state who has faced multiple allegations of corruption and ongoing calls for investigations into his vast wealth.
As such, Solidariti anak Sarawak and Sarawak 4 Sarawakians are asking Pakatan Harapan to make clear, in the period before the next state election, the policies that they intend to put in place to uplift ordinary working Sarawakians and also to confirm unequivocally whether they intend to extend the promised clean-up operation, which brought them to power in the federal elections, to the Borneo territory.
Pakatan Harapan, as a West Malaysian coalition and the current Federal Government, will not find it so easy to penetrate a state in which the ‘return of our rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963’ remain the primary issue in a state election.
They are facing a Sarawak-based coalition which has picked up on the ideas of autonomy and restitution under MA63 as vote winners with some speed, and so PH will need to offer Sarawakians a real and meaningful alternative for a better future. All Sarawakians are deeply and painfully aware of the effects of corruption within their home state and at Federal level.
This is why PH were able to win so many unexpected seats at GE14, even in rural areas where campaigning was scarce, offering as they did a promise of a cleaner and more responsive government. However, this photo seems to suggest that they intend to maintain the status quo in Sarawak.
With our Sarawak identity and rights under MA63 at stake, where is the incentive to switch sides at state level?’
‘Oil revenues will be a decisive issue at the next state election. GPS have already set out their stall on this matter.
But to see Anwar Ibrahim standing next to the very man who oversaw the passing of the Petroleum Development Act 1974, under which Sarawak was stripped of control over its own natural resources, puts PH in a very difficult position.
It would be a grave mistake to believe that Sarawakians are stupid. We can dissect the complexities of Taib’s former party championing the dismantling of the PDA 1974, against the new West Malaysian leadership cosying up to their former leader who first promoted that devastating piece of legislation.
Both sides, East and West Malaysia, will rely heavily on those revenues for their future development, not to mention any undiscovered reserves. The only question is which side will use those revenues for the benefit of their real owners – the voting public of Sarawak and Malaysia as a whole.’
The people of Sarawak have watched political posturing, a threatened ban of Petronas workers from West Malaysia, the setting up of Petros, cases against Petronas brought and dropped, and private meetings and negotiations with great interest.
All this against a backdrop of whispers of Taib’s vested interest and a failure by PH to stand by their election promises of a 20% oil royalty to the state on the basis that a clean-up operation would be required before Sarawak could be entrusted with so much revenue.
Yet, now we see the leader of PKR, and what may say is the Prime Minister in-waiting, standing next to Taib himself. With zero transparency from either side, Sarawakians can only speculate as to the deals that are being done.
There are two potential sources of great wealth to provide Sarawakians with the progress and development that they have been so long denied. These are their rightful shares in their own oil revenues, as guaranteed under MA63, and the vast stores of corrupt money from Sarawak that are now invested internationally.
Malaysia has just demonstrated the power of the ballot box. So Sarawakians face a difficult decision as to which side is most likely to provide them with restitution and with a future of basic amenities, economic and social progress and the respect that they deserve as a founding partner in the nation.
Photos like this one only serve to muddy those waters and it is up to PH to clear them with open communication as to what they are offering Sarawak. Only then can the people decide what is in their own best interests.
• Peter John Jaban is an activist involved with Solidariti anak Sarawak and Sarawak 4 Sarawakians