Playing the Sarawak independence card to win votes

(FMT) – Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) president Voon Lee Shan claims that the party’s push for Sarawak’s independence from Malaysia is starting to gather traction in rural areas, where people’s awareness of their rights used to be low.

Voon said the message of independence had previously failed to reach the ground in rural areas, where internet coverage was poor.

“Even newspapers could not reach them,” he told FMT. “I think that’s why people were not really aware of the matter of Sarawak’s independence.

“But our election candidates have been going deep into the interiors and villages to tell the people of PBK’s plans to lead Sarawak to independence. They now realise that we have a right to independence.

“The idea has caught fire. They had never heard of such a thing before but their eyes are now opened.”

Voon, who was elected the Batu Lintang assemblyman in 2006, said rural folk would be particularly incensed by “Malaya’s” control of Sarawak’s oil and gas resources.

He criticised the recent constitutional amendment giving Sabah and Sarawak equal status with Peninsular Malaysia as insufficient, saying Sarawak should be given a bigger share of seats in the Dewan Rakyat.

Currently, Sarawak has 31 of the 222 Dewan Rakyat seats.

Voon said it was better for Sarawak to chart its own path by going independent, adding that there was no need for a referendum to be held if PBK were to form the state government.

“That would mean people are supporting us to be in the government and to give us power. With that power, we will negotiate for independence with the federal government.”

He also said a loss for PBK would not spell its end, noting that the fight for Sarawak’s independence had been going on since the 1960s.

Voon, a former policeman turned lawyer, said PBK’s pursuit of independence for Sarawak must be through legal and peaceful means, like Mahatma Gandhi’s fight for India’s independence.

“I wish for Sarawak to be independent in my lifetime,” he said. “That’s my dream. If we form the government, it will not be a long process. A nation can be born in a few days.”