Kapit MP Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi recalls his grandfather and answers the question of whether S’wak is better off without Malaysia.
MY grandfather was a very kind and caring man.
He was a leader who truly cared not only for his immediate family, but also extended families, his community and even people outside his community such as the Chinese, Malay and of course, British offi cers.
For this, he was fondly called ‘Apai’ by the people, especially by those in Kapit.
Over the course of his life, he held many important roles in the history of the state until his death in 1981.
He was always a leader somewhere and hard to forget as he was a fatherly fi gure to many.
His values and commitment in serving the people of Kapit, the Dayak community and the state of Sarawak wholeheartedly are truly an inspiration.
I think being ‘Apai’ to the people was the highest recognition a person could have.
His work went beyond just becoming a leader, he was a humble father figure who treated people on an equal footing with him, a teacher who guided and educated the people and a listener who heard and reached out to the needs and concerns of all.
The people were his children.
Even in those days, development was in the forefront of his mind.
He was clear on what he wanted for the Dayak community and for this state – a fair and better deal.
My late grandfather played a signifi cant role as representative of Sarawak in the formation of Malaysia, when he convinced the indigenous people to join and support the formation.
He was also one of the signatories to the Malaysia Agreement representing the Dayak community.
Back then, before the formation, numerous safeguards were incorporated into the agreement, promises made so that the indigenous people would have a better life.
Today, many ask if Sarawak would have been better if we had not helped to form Malaysia.
Past leaders like my grandfather believed that decisions and arrangements made in those days was a fair deal as it emphasised on the terms and conditions to safeguard and protect the rights and interests of peoples of Sarawak.
The pertinent safeguards included: religious freedom, status of the English language, immigration, land, representations in the federal House of Representatives and Senate, special status and privileges of indigenous, and disbursement of development grants.
I believe that if my grandfather was still alive today, he would not be fully satisfied with the way Sarawak has progressed thus far.
There are still too many areas where development has not come up to expectations.
In respect with the agreements that have earlier on been laid out in black and white, today it is up to our leaders to uphold them.
There is no need to question whether being part of Malaysia was a right move or not.
Nothing can be perfect because times have changed and it is up to us, the leaders and future leaders to bring the best out of this land.
What we need now are leaders, both in federal or state, who should be conscious enough of our needs to achieve a fair deal for the Dayak community and Sarawakians as a whole and be mindful of what was agreed to prior to the formation of Malaysia.
In accepting our fate, we have come as far as 48 years now and how are we different from the visions of our forefathers who also wanted only the best for this state and its people?
As such, it is the present and future leaders’ duty to make sure that Sarawak continues to prosper and progress in terms of development, economy and social stability.
In fact, we have progressed and moved forward from where we started, but of course there are rooms for improvement.
There will always be space for improvement. Here I want to emphasise that there must be a fair deal for all.
Fairness in providing opportunities for all in all aspects no matter how small a group is, leaving little room for inadequacies.
The standard of living for Sarawakians, especially in the rural areas, should be improved upon.
We cannot depend on the decisions of our founders to determine our fate today as we also need to work towards it, for our people, for our future generations.
If there are weaknesses and problems now, we cannot blame the founders because they put the state on a good footing, a good start.
It is now our responsibility, the government, leaders and the people who should come together in strength to build this state.
Getting the ‘fair deal’
We, in particular the Dayak community, are still lacking in achievements, especially representations in the civil services. After 48 years, there should be more of us in senior positions today.
The government should increase the number of Dayaks with capabilities and qualifications to occupy meaningful positions in the government as well as in the federal so that they can contribute to Sarawak positively.
It makes me optimistic, however that a Sarawakian in the form of Tan Sri Idris Jala was handpicked by the Federal Government.
It may not be because he is a native of Sarawak but that he has the ability to be there.
In terms of business opportunities, more assistance should be extended to the Bumiputera community, especially the Dayaks, to help them get started.
The Dayak community is very far behind in this aspect because we started late.
However, with assistance from the government, the people should be bold and brave enough to take up the challenges as well.
When the door of opportunity opens, we should grab the chance and give our best towards satisfying result. The Dayak community needs to work hand in hand in order to progress.
The saying that goes, ‘there is no free lunch’, holds true. Of course, everyone welcomes development plans that will help in improving their standard of living, for instance Native Customary Rights (NCR) land in Sarawak.
However, the government should consider the interests as well as concerns of our multiracial people in the implementations of development plans.
A good deal will bring balance to each community and minority group should not be left out or feel marginalised from the mainstream development plans.
The rakyat has been through rough times.
Today, they recognise what they really need and in turn, have become more calculative.
Simply because we are in a transition phase as we strive to become a high income nation, the actual effect of the development cannot obviously be seen yet.
The policies outlined do not single out the Dayak communities, for example the Outline Prospective Plan (OPP) and the subsequent tabling of the budgets.
I wish to stress that the government needs to be more affi rmative in their actions to make sure that Sarawakians, in particular the Dayak community, are getting a fair share from all the development plans.
Defining ‘a fair share’, however is rather relative. We cannot set a quota considering that the Dayak people may make up only a small population.
On the brighter side
The Prime Minister has set up a special committee by appointing non-Malay ministers from Sarawak and Sabah to look after and monitor the interests and concerns of the minority Bumiputeras.
This special committee would advise the Prime Minister as well as the government on what seems to be lacking in a spectrum of areas in these group of people.
There are also many ministers holding senior positions in the state cabinet now.
With stronger representation, the voices of the Dayak community could be heard.
Besides that, more Dayaks have risen to become professionals and businessmen compared to the past.
Looking into this positive progress, it is important that the government provides people more opportunities as well as assistance to push them further.
On the other hand, I also hope that the Dayak community will continue to improve themselves in all areas and play their parts in moving Sarawak forward.