Sarawak is not a state in Semenanjung Malaysia
(MMO) – Sarawak never changes.
Bar a miracle, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) will form the state government again next week. It was BN Sarawak in the elections before, and within this reality lies a clue to the future.
Is GPS just a rebrand, or has the coalition and perhaps the state itself been moving steadily and stealthily in a different direction?
Think about this seriously.
This week Sarawakian politicians said it was vital to be in Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysia Agreement debate and vote, placing it in the Constitution.
Because the prevailing sentiment in East Malaysia the past three years since the general election is to emphasise the distance between the two halves of Malaysia. What has been whispered in bars and kopitiams in Miri and Tawau has become openly screamed on top of buildings, even if the skyscrapers are in Malaya.
Look at the steps, look at the messages.
Up the oil and gas share, demand for more autonomy on language in public schools, moderate Islamic rigour as evidenced by conversion cases and reject outright any kind of effort to divide and rule based on race.
The message: “This is Sarawak, this is not a state in Semenanjung. Here, we do not dominate. Here, we share the state equally.”
In terms of the elections, GPS’ opponents are outflanked. Pakatan Harapan is Semenanjung. Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional stay out officially. Pejuang makes it a point to stay out as its advisor is busy on a book tour. MUDA is going to be registered but prefers not to upset other parties. More pertinently, the only viable opposition, Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) looks to be out of ammunition as it cannot attack GPS for being a Semenanjung stooge or associate it with the perceived corruption of Taib Mahmud.
GPS is unapologetically Sarawak first.
Post-election, what does this mean to the federation? More demands. Sarawak is coming into its own, finally.
With 19 out of the 20 poorest districts being in Borneo, it is welcome that Sarawak, and surely Sabah in time, asks for more from the system.
With the continued drama of the main parties in Semenanjung — preoccupied to show they are the true champions of Malays — Sarawak, even if Sabah lags, makes moves to up its autonomy.
This is because no coalition in West Malaysia can be in power without the support of Borneo. And the support is conditional.
The next step is to ask for more parliamentary seats in the east. In the past, because of the volatility of Semenanjung politics and the pliant nature of Borneo politics, the ruling coalition was partial to increasing the number of seats in East Malaysia.
But they are not as pliant, not as accommodating now as regional spirit rises to the surface.
This puts both BN and PN in a bind. The same rationale for more seats in Kelantan, Pahang or Kedah on the basis of land mass and not population will be the basis for Sarawak to ask for more parliamentary seats. Sarawak is a fraction smaller than all 12 Semenanjung states combined.
The pressure is going to mount after the next general election which is expected to be a stalemate in Semenanjung. While the West is in turmoil, the East begins to see opportunities after years being put under and controlled.
Was it to be avoided? Was it inevitable?
It is moot, but the column would like to point to the development unseen by many. The East is slowly rising to claim its own destiny.
Incidentally, tomorrow, Sabah-based Warisan goes national. While Sabah’s experiment to offer its solution for the whole country may end stillborn, the boldness of Sabah politicians to turn around and say “we have a better idea for the whole country” is courage personified.
The willingness of Warisan not only to regain Sabah after losing it last but to lead the country shows a new level of boldness.
While Warisan goes on with its adventure — watch this space — Sarawak’s GPS is more pointed.
The message is, while it started with Dayak power, which was usurped with Semenanjung infiltration, and continued with a lengthy dynasty, today it is about Sarawak. That no party can win if it sets aside the state agenda regardless of what Putrajaya thinks.
The election is not the story. It is the growing support for a state agenda despite and perhaps in spite of Semenanjung is the story. That is more than about GPS. Because if they abandon the Sarawak First policy, they’d be displaced.
So you see, the initial line is wrong.
Sarawak is changing, we from the Semenanjung are not seeing it.