Timah Now, what next?

I have read the statement by YB Wilfred Madius Tangau calling on the 5 ministers from Sabah and Sarawak to speak up in Cabinet for the right of the manufacturer of Timah to keep the name of their award-winning whiskey, and I support his statement in its entirety. Sarawakians and Sabahans are witnessing with alarm and disdain the nonsensical political games being played in Malaya on a regular basis, especially when the Malay-base political parties feel the support of their grassroots flagging.

Over the past two decades, we have seen our basic freedoms gradually being curtailed by the authorities, always with the excuse that the Muslims would be confused. What an insult to the intelligence of the Muslim populace that their leaders think so little of their ability to see simple facts. What disturbs me even more is that leaders who have in the past been said to be liberal or moderate, have jumped into the fray, spouting what they think to be sage advice about the need to be conscious about sensitivities and so forth.

This is not the Malaysia our forefathers signed up for. When the idea was put forward to them about forming Malaysia with Malaya, one of the concerns of our leaders in those days was about dominion by the Malays. The Cobbold Commission report states in one part:

“Although there are no ideological overtones here, we have found that the prospect of Malaysia as viewed by non-Malay natives in certain parts of Sarawak within the framework of their unhappy recollection of Brunei domination in the past, which is regarded as Malay domination, and of their fear of its return with the new federation.”

and,

“Opposition to Malaysia springs from a genuine fear of discrimination after Malaysia, a feeling among the Chinese that their status would be reduced to that of ‘second-class citizens’ and among the natives that their customary laws and practice would be affected. Similarly, there is concern that Malaysia would entail migration from the other territories of the Federation, and also that such safeguards as may be given could be removed at a later stage by the Central Government”.

Speaking at a conference in 1962, the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, said that no one single race must try to dominate the others in the proposed Malaysian Federation.

Tragically, this is exactly what has happened. Sarawakians and Sabahans are seeing the nightmare of our forefathers coming to life. The Central Government is seen to be only concerned about the rights of the majority race, never mind the rights of other races as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. Bowing to the bigots’ demands that the name Timah should be changed is a clear indication that the ministers in this government are more concerned about their positions than about defending the rights of all citizens. Moreover, we have just been presented with a budget that is heavily biased towards the Malays and the Islamic agenda.

In Sarawak, the feeling of dissatisfaction, disaffectation and discontent with the Federal government is growing stronger by the day. The PM’s Keluarga Malaysia slogan is viewed with skepticism and scorn. The ministers from Borneo, and also the MPs should dig deep to find the courage to stand up to the Malayan ministers to defend the rights of all Sarawakians and Sabahans, and indeed of all the minority groups. To remain silent is to consent to be oppressed, insulted and disrespected by those who are meant to be our equal partners. GPS leaders should take note that Sarawakians are waiting for them to show real leadership in the federal arena.

*Baru Bian is a Member Parliament for P214 Selangau

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