It is to the credit of PKR and DAP that they have long endorsed the call for Sarawak autonomy. Indeed, it would be naïve of any political party not to do so. It is, after all, an issue that is close to the hearts of Sarawakians.
However, recent news reports make one wonder whether the two opposition parties are sincere in their support for the autonomy call, or indeed whether they understand the concept at all.
Baru Bian, who is Sarawak PKR chief as well as state opposition leader, has complained that party leaders at the national level had diverged from the original agreement on seat distribution reached by Sarawak PKR and Sarawak DAP.
The seat allocations were decided in Kuala Lumpur by DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng and PKR Deputy President Azmin Ali. Apparently, Baru and his concerns were ignored.
It now appears certain that there will be some multi-cornered fights in the coming state election.
It is not surprising to hear of an East Malaysian leader like Baru being left out of top level talks in West Malaysia. Indeed, some years ago in Sabah, the PKR leadership appointed Azmin as the party’s liaison chief in the state, to the dismay of local leaders, of course.
It smacks of insincerity on the part of PKR and DAP national leaders to preach autonomy when they still want to have a final say over seat allocations. If they cannot even grant the Sarawak chapters full autonomy over election arrangements, it is inconceivable that they would respect the calls for autonomy in state administration and other crucial areas.
We’ve heard Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen criticising Chief Minister Adenan Satem for failing to get “true autonomy” for Sarawak. But Adenan, unlike Baru or Chong, appears to have the autonomy not only to keep peninsula-based BN parties out of Sarawak, but also to choose the BN candidates for election. He has even pulled one federal minister, Douglas Uggah Embas, back to Sarawak to stand for a state seat.
It also has to be noted that Adenan’s push for greater autonomy extends beyond political chess, as seen in his decisions on the UEC and on English as an official state language. These decisions are out of sync with Putrajaya’s policies.
In preparing for the coming state election, PKR and DAP could have demonstrated what Sarawak autonomy meant to them. Unfortunately, in failing to go by what their state chiefs have agreed on, PKR’s and DAP’s top guns have shown they do not fully understand the Sarawak dream.