Looking east – to Sabah and Sarawak

By Sim Kwang Yang

The running joke going the round in Sabah and Sarawak for decades has been that you hear about these two East Malaysian states only during the daily weather report following prime time news on TV.

Overnight within our new political landscape, these two large and largely forgotten, marginalised and neglected states have been the focus of media attention, thanks to the rumours of mass defection by Sabahan and Sarawakian MPs to the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

On my recent trip back to my home town of Kuching, I was told that a senior BN Dayak politician has been informed by Anwar Ibrahim that if the federal government should change hand, the chief ministers of Sarawak and Sabah would be a Dayak and a Kadazan respectively. For those who know the politics and the demographic of these two unique states well, such an offer would tip the political scale there in a radical manner.

Then, there is the open offer by Anwar that if the Pakatan Rakyat should take power at the federal level, the oil and gas royalty for Sabah and Sarawak would be raised from 5% to 20%, one way or another. This is a sensitive issue that has hurt the feelings of Sabahans and Sarawakians since the early years of their independence through the formation of Malaysia.

Although the people in these two Borneon states face different problems, they do share a long-standing, widespread, and deeply felt disdain for all things West Malaysian. Though the seething undercurrent of resentment has seldom been aired openly, it has always festered beneath the surface, smouldering from one generation of Sabahans and Sarawakians to the next.