SARAWAK recently celebrated its 175th anniversary of its founding day by James Brooke on Sept 24, 1841. Though the event was celebrated only by a small group of Sarawak 4 Sarawakian (S4S) supporters, like all thing Sarawak, it’s just another reason for a celebration and merrymaking.
On top of the Sarawak Day celebration last July 22, Sarawak boasts as having the most number of Public Holidays commemorating independence related events compare to the other states.
S4S claims that this would not be possible without the persistent efforts made by the Sarawak nationalist movement to highlight and fight for ‘Sarawak rights’ as enshrined in the Malaysian Agreement 1963 (MA63).
Though there is little to prove such claim, there is no doubt that there has been a rise in the Sarawak Nationalism movement. This so called ‘awakening’ of Sarawak for Sarawakian nationalist mentality can be contributed to several factors; growing awareness on the Sarawak’s history, local social activist movements just to name a few.
However, Sarawak Nationalism sudden surge in popularity and momentum can be attributed to Adenan Satem’s leadership and popularity, especially following Team Adenan’s landslide win in the 11th State Election.
Playing the nationalism card, and with the backing and support of both the BN Sarawak’s component parties and the local opposition parties, Adenan Satem has portrayed himself as the champion of Sarawak’s autonomy and rights. His people-centric policies and gung-ho attitude in fighting for more devolution of power from the Federal Government has fuelled the Sarawak Nationalism in all Sarawakian.
Though the nationalist movement is good for Sarawak, it is, in actual fact, a double-edged sword. Swing it wrongly and people will get hurt. Behind the driving force of the nationalist movement lies the feeling of discontent and anger in the voices of Sarawakian. For over 50 years, Sarawakian sees themselves as being marginalized and was handed the short end of the stick by the Malay led Federal government.
Since the Proclamation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963, there has been a departure from what was agreed upon within the MA63. The 18/20 points of Sarawak and Sabah, the Cobbold Commission and the IGC Report has all but forgotten and replaced with the various Parliamentary amendments that has seen Sabah and Sarawak fall behind compared to its West Malaysia states.
Though the Sarawak government has made leaps and bounds in reclaiming and restoring Sarawak’s autonomy, the resentment Sarawakian have towards West Malaysia is slowly growing, darkening the their hearts and clouding their minds.
Sarawak has long been the embodiment of what a multicultural and multi-ethnic country should be. With over 30 ethnic groups with different languages, culture and beliefs, Sarawakian’s prides themselves as an epitome of what Malaysia should be; living in peace and harmony with everyone else, regardless of the differences.
However, some individuals and radical groups try to abuse the spirit of Sarawak nationalism for their personal gains. These selfish people are taking advantage of the current situation by fanning the flame of dissension, spreading lies and half-truths, with the sole purpose of creating misconception and conflict between Sarawak and West Malaysia. If left unchecked, they will create disharmony and plant seeds of discord in the hearts of Sarawakian everywhere. These will then manifest itself into anger and hatred, not only towards fellow Sarawakian, but towards Malaysians everywhere.
For over 50 years Sarawak has been able to develop and progress due to the ability of the people, regardless of their differences, to work together in harmony. This brand of Sarawak Nationalism should be preserved and strengthened as Sarawak moves forward to become an equal partner and a part of a developed and prosperous Malaysia.
Maryam M. Richardson is an independent analyst and Malaysian Access reader. Article written is strictly her personal view. Malaysian Access does not necessarily endorse the opinions given by any third party content provider.