When parochialism takes over


Salleh Said Keruak

I am very concerned about talk by some Sabahans that Malaya annexed Sabah in 1963 and that Sabah needs to conduct a referendum as to whether Sabahans still want to remain in Malaysia or opt for independence and the creation of a Republic of Sabah.

Those from Sabah may have certain issues with Putrajaya, and some of these issues may even be warranted or justified, but talk of secession and the creation of a separate republic is dangerous and irresponsible talk and is a very extreme solution to whatever problems we may be facing.

The fact that the Islam-Christian divide (brought on by the Allah word and the Bahasa Malaysia Bible issues) is being cited as one of the reasons Sabah must consider leaving Malaysia makes this talk even more dangerous.

We must never forget the death and destruction in Yugoslavia around 25 years ago when they chose this same route. After the death of Josip Broz Tito, the President of Yugoslavia, in 1980, the people of Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian ethnicities began to become more parochial and called for a referendum to decide on the breakup of Yugoslavia.

For ten years tensions simmered below the surface and Yugoslavians no longer considered themselves Yugoslavians. Around 12 years later in 1992, armed conflicts broke out and the four-year war saw about 100,000 casualties.

The war came about as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Following the Slovenian and Croatian secessions from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991, the multi-ethnic Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was inhabited by Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats, passed a referendum for independence on 29th February 1992.

This is not the route that we must consider because nothing good can come out of such a solution and such talk will only heighten the tensions even further.

Putrajaya must be made to understand the unhappiness of Sabahans and this can only be achieved through dialogue and not through threats, especially threats of secession.