Former premier Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was recently feted to a welcoming party by Sarawakians. How is it that a man once reviled for contributing to the underdevelopment of the Hornbill state now be so well-received? Sarawak’s Pakatan Harapan has of course deflected any blame towards the former strongman. It was quick to point out that the erosion of Sarawak rights enshrined under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 occurred under the leadership of then prime minister Tun Hussein Onn while the ability to control its own natural resources diminished with the passing of the Petroleum Resources & Petroleum Development Act 1974 happened during Tun Abdul Razak Hussein’s tenure.
Tun Mahathir’s visit to Sarawak is timely as the political parties all gear up ahead of the next general elections, which must be held by August of next year. As chairman of the opposition coalition Tun Mahathir has been hitting the campaign trail steadfastly promoting Pakatan Harapan as an alternative to the incumbent government. Yet his speech had failed to deliver anything concrete for the people of Sarawak. Vague assurances and equally unconvincing promises were all that Pakatan Harapan had to offer. Political rhetoric was certainly the order of the day.
What is truly disappointing is that Tun Dr. Mahathir has refused to acknowledge his role in the lack of development in East Malaysia. It is one thing to easily shift the blame to the late prime ministers but it is an entirely different thing when a leader does not owns up to his lack of action. Tun Dr. Mahathir was in power for 22 years. He had over two decades to undo what the former leaders had done. He could have restored Sarawak rights as envisioned under the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Likewise Tun Dr. Mahathir should have amended the Petroleum Resources & Petroleum Development Act 1974 so the state would receive a bigger amount of oil earnings. But neither materialized simply because he benefitted from the status quo. Tun Dr. Mahathir lacked the political will to act in the interest of Sarawak.
It will be the first time in Malaysia’s history the upcoming polls will be fiercely fought by all parties. As a seasoned politician Tun Dr. Mahathir has honed his skills to perfection. The electorate should be wary of his false pretenses