KUALA LUMPUR: Former minister Zaid Ibrahim has told Sarawakians not to fall for the “rhetoric” of state Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders whom he said would increasingly criticise the federal government and demand Sarawak’s rights ahead of the 14th general election (GE14).
In his latest blog post, he said their demands for change would only be for show, to appease the people of Sarawak.
In reality, local BN leaders were subservient to Umno and the prime minister, he added.
“They talk as if they want to renegotiate the Malaysia Agreement 1963 or the Petroleum Development Act. But it’s not the agreement that is the problem. The problem is that local BN leaders are afraid of the prime minister, and are not willing to do anything that will upset Kuala Lumpur.”
Real independence for Sarawak would mean being unafraid and independent of the control of Umno and federal leaders, he said.
“For 50 years, you have tried BN, and after all this time you still have not seen the Malaysia that you want – that you were promised – come into being.
“Umno will always want to dominate and control you, and this will not change in another 50 years. You need new federal leaders if you want meaningful change in Sarawak, and a healthy, productive relationship with the federal government.”
Zaid said Sarawakians and Sabahans would not be able to change Umno by regularly pleading with the prime minister on matters that were important to them.
Sarawak’s interests, the DAP member said, required Malaysia to be an open democracy and a modern pluralistic society where the national agenda was rooted in economic growth, high quality education and national unity.
“I am sure you want Sarawak to remain a place where people of all nationalities live together, where different cultures can flourish alongside each other, and where politics remain free from religion.
“You want a Sarawak where a non-Muslim Dayak or Iban can become chief minister. You want a Sarawak that receives a fair share of its own resources, which means more money from oil revenue. You want to be able to determine your own educational system and syllabus, and to have English as the medium of instruction in your schools.”
He said the intention of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 was clear: to protect the special characteristics of Sabah and Sarawak by giving them special powers that are not available to the peninsular states.
“It was intended that Sabah and Sarawak have control over key administrative and policy matters, but they never used these powers because they were either afraid of the prime minister or too eager to please him.”
He said those in Sarawak did not need the “peninsula’s money first, Islam-first and Malay-first” policies.
However, what they did need was for native rights and native customary land to be protected, and to be able to convert from one religion to another without fuss as they believed in religious freedom.
“You do not want federal interference or federal dominance in your affairs.”
Zaid said Sarawak must decide whether to be a useful partner in the governing of Malaysia, or to just follow what Kuala Lumpur dictated.
“Sarawakians are helpless because your BN leaders have failed you. Your leaders are mainly very wealthy politicians. Local wealthy BN politicians will always be subservient to the prime minister and Putrajaya; otherwise, the gravy train will stop feeding them.
“That’s why your BN leaders are not able to effectively bring about fundamental change to Sarawak.”
He added that BN parliamentarians had not been vocal in defending the rights of Sabah and Sarawak in Parliament.
“Sabah and Sarawak have, through their own neglect, forfeited their rights under the Malaysia Agreement and the constitution. They have lost their bargaining powers by their own default.
“They are unwilling to engage with Peninsular Umno leaders on important issues and are always content to play second fiddle. What a waste, when they have special rights.”
Zaid said he expected voters in Peninsular Malaysia to boot out BN but was afraid that those in Sabah and Sarawak would come to the coalition’s rescue by voting for it.
“This will be the greatest disservice to your people, one you will come to regret,” he added.