Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Sarawakian voter’s dilemma

By June Rubis

APRIL 14 — Sarawak has never seen anything like it: the focused attention from Peninsular Malaysia during a state election. 

From the political celebrities flown here especially to entertain us with their ceramahs, to the constant barrage on social media to vote for either "ubah" (change), or to keep the status quo. We should feel so special.

After all, it's only taken 48 years for Peninsular Malaysia to finally get clued in that Sarawak (along with Sabah) is a vital part of Malaysia. And what happens in Sarawak would start the ripple of change for the rest of Malaysia.

Or as proud Sarawakians would adamantly declare, Malaysia is PART of Sarawak. I beg to remind you that if it weren't for Sarawak and Sabah, there will be no Malaysia. It would just be Malaya. 

This state election is indeed exciting. For the first time in decades, we may possibly see a political change for Sarawak. For the first time, both coalitions are equally balanced in the media front, albeit the Pakatan Rakyat-favoured media is only available online.  

For once, I am able to read the news and feel that for the most part, the political parties are being given a fair chance to have themselves heard. 

Except, of course, for the Sarawak-based party SNAP and the independents running in the race. They have been equally bashed by both coalitions, and all the reporting in the mass media reflects this. Pakatan Rakyat and its supporters dismiss SNAP and the independents as just tools of Barisan Nasional, and have worked very hard to discredit them to Sarawakian voters. 

Barisan Nasional runs SNAP and the independents down with its usual haughty condescension, and reminds voters that a vote for SNAP and the independents certainly does not equal a vote for BN. 

There was a time in my life where I was so hopeful for PKR in particular. At a recent LoyarBurok retreat when we were asked in an ice-breaker game (if my memory serves me correctly) whether Pakatan Rakyat would be the saving grace of Sarawak, I confidently stood in the line of "Agree" and passionately spoke up for Baru Bian. I assured my friends that nothing could be worse than what we have governing Sarawak now. 

And then, the fallout between PKR and SNAP occurred, and the former went on the complete offensive along with its cheering media section. 

This aggressive move was very dismaying for me, and it made me wonder whether Peninsular Malaysian politicos and media were able to see east Malaysian political parties as more than just their subordinates who will move when commanded to. 

And when they don't, the assumption is that they have to be manipulated by someone else somehow! 

Who is pulling the strings? Who is going to rule Sarawak in proxy? Peninsular Malaysians hankering to either get or maintain control of Putrajaya? Foreign funders disguised as free media? Shady funders wanting to preserve their assets? 

So here lies the conscientious Sarawakian voter's dilemma. 

We want change, we do. 

We do not want the same state government we have had for the past 30 years. We want a government that listens to its peoples, and is fair to all, and not just its cronies. 

We want fair, balanced government policies. We want a government that doesn't constantly challenge the courts' decisions that are in favour of indigenous people when it comes to the rights of native customary land. We want EIAs conducted for projects that would irreplaceably change the geographic face of the state, in the name of "development" that we supposedly want but were never consulted about. 

And yet, when I sit and watch the race between the two giant coalitions, I can't help but feel sad. 

I do not believe that either have altruistic intentions for Sarawak other than for their own political destinies. Do not tell me that one is the saving grace compared to the other, for they both wear the same mask to me.

Yet come April 16, I will cast my vote. And I will cast my vote for the political party that has not yet been represented in my constituency. 

And then after the 16th, when everyone has had their excitement sated from the results of the polls, and has returned home, Sarawak can start rebuilding. 

But we have to realise that it starts with us. And not with Peninsular Malaysians, or well-meaning foreigners.   

We need to remind ourselves that April 16 is not the end date for change. It is not. 

Whatever government gets voted in, we cannot absolve ourselves from the responsibility of making the changes we want in our society. This means taking an active role in civil society, be it in the NGOs of the causes you support, and the associations and places of worship that you are part of.  

With a strong Sarawakian civil society that is united, we can then make our demands heard by the government of the day, to remind them to put Sarawak first, beyond personal political ambitions. 

And then perhaps one day there won't be a voter's dilemma any longer. 

For ordinary Sarawakian rakyat would be charting our own course, with meek politicians in tow.

One day.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Sumber: The Malaysian Insider
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device via Vodafone-Celcom Mobile.

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