By PETER JOHN JABAN
COMMENT: Sarawak Day was celebrated in a big way this year. Since it was gazetted as a new public holiday by the late (Chief Minister) Adenan Satem, it seems that no one has really known what to do with this day other than enjoy another day off. This year, it was feted fully by numerous groups in different places, including the State Government which staged a massive event at the stadium.
The result of the last general election has turned Sarawak’s position within Malaysia into a key political issue, with the various interested parties trading promises and insults in the press and social media. So, what is Sarawak Day for?
It is a day for all Sarawakians to reflect on our shared interests, to remember the unique history and culture that made our state what it is and to focus ourselves on our common goal: the ongoing struggle to reclaim in full, our rights and position under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 as a founding partner in this nation.
This should be something that all Sarawakians agree on. Yet, we don’t.
We are always described as a harmonious and unified state and we are in every respect except our politics. In politics, it remains divide-and-conquer. In politics, we are always trying to pull each other down. I myself have been attacked from numerous quarters, accused of receiving payoffs (millions of ringgit) from almost every side: Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and GPS!
A PR company hired by our former Chief Minister and current governor has admitted to being paid to spread fake rumours about me and yet I have to endure accusations of being on his payroll. Beyond that, various figures looking to make a name for themselves in politics have taken to social media to attack me and S4S, questioning its motives and its affiliation.
In fact, S4S is very simple. It is just Sarawakians, each with their own ideas, goals and lifestyles, coming together for a common cause: the restitution of our rights under MA63, the founding document of our nation. As Sarawakians, we must forget the petty squabbles over percentages and profit shares.
We must forget the fights over whether local-based parties are better than national ones. This only serves to promote the interests of one small group over another. The only fight that matters is social justice for Sarawak and Sabah, and that is something all Sarawakians should all agree on. All other squabbles only serve to make us weak.
The Malaysia Agreement 1963 exists and cannot be ignored. It is not a matter of political opinion. It is a promise made to all Malaysians about how their country should be formed and how it could be successful. Our current Prime Minister and his new cabinet have shown themselves to be committed to a new meritocracy among the races, and this must now extend to our regions.
Sarawak and Sabah are the two most deprived states in Malaysia, enjoying few of the benefits of federation. This is also a matter of fact and not political opinion. The Malaysia Agreement 1963 was negotiated to avoid this very outcome and this is why it is the proper basis to right this wrong.
All Malaysians, East and West, should feel saddened at the inequalities in their nation, whether racial and regional, and now is the time to redress the balance.
For this Sarawak Day, we must celebrate our state in a spirit of unity. But we must also come together as one for the struggle ahead. The Malaysia Agreement 1963 is something we must all agree on. Our forefathers negotiated it on behalf of future generations of Sarawakians. We are that future generation and we have a responsibility to reclaim those rights.
No matter what our party, our race, our religion, MA63 is there for all of us. So let’s stop fighting amongst ourselves and start fighting for our rights. Oil revenues, education, healthcare, development, employment – this is not for the promotion of one party. Sarawak is not an opposition state. We are a founding part of this Federation of Malaysia and we deserve better.
Our struggle is not with each other, it is for the betterment of our state and the betterment of our nation. We must all share in that.
• Peter John Jaban is a founder of SAS (Saya Anak Sarawak/ SOLIDARITY anak SARAWAK)