CM’s call for more state autonomy reflects sentiments of Sarawakians, says political observer

KUCHING: The remarks made by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem during the recent Gawai Dayak official gathering in Betong have been taken as an actual reflection of what many Sarawakians are feeling.

At the June 2 event, the chief minister stressed that the state would not allow itself to be treated as a ‘stepchild’ by the federal administration with regard to equal status within Malaysia.

In pointing this out, political veteran Datuk Peter Minos said Sarawakians who had studied, worked or visited the peninsula could see the glaring disparity between the two sides.

As such, he highlighted the question of why Sarawak could not have highways, ports, educational institutions and other well-furnished public facilities as those found across Peninsular Malaysia.

“All these have created the perception that Sarawak has not been treated fairly; hence, the feeling of being benignly neglected and treated as a ‘step-child’. As such, it is important that Putrajaya (the federal government) must have a re-thinking and give greater care to the progress and development of Sarawak.

“This can be done by accelerating the development in Sarawak via sufficient funding and, where necessary, guidance and expertise. Empty promises are not wanted,” said Minos, the former deputy publicity chief of PBB.

He singled out the proposed Pan-Borneo highway project as one promise by the federal government which Sarawakians had been really hoping for. On behalf of all Sarawakians, he also supported the push for the 20-per cent royalty share from oil and gas to really be looked into.

“The usual excuses of ‘lack of fund’ and ‘projects need planning and budgeting’ are not going to make Sarawakians happy. Sarawakians also seek fairness in federal positions within (government) agencies and the civil service, as well as openings into universities that include educational loans and scholarships.”

Minos believed that if Sarawak and also Sabah were on a par with Peninsular Malaysia across all aspects, it would create greater national unity – something that is very much needed now in the country.

“Sarawakians are not asking for the moon. They just want to be treated fairly and justly, in that Sarawak would not be seen and perceived as being too far behind the peninsula. I think such an aspiration is a fair and legitimate one,” he said.

Minos recalled that in 1963 when he was 14, Kuala Lumpur promised to help Sarawak such that one day the state would be on par with the peninsula in all areas. This promise, he believed, was used to entice Sarawak towards creating Malaysia together with then-Malaya, Sabah and Singapore.

“But 52 years later, Sarawak is still far behind the peninsula in many things – this needs to be rectified. Sarawakians will always feel that they are being unfairly treated, even neglected, which is not good for national unity.”

Adenan, when speaking in Betong on June 2, said Sarawak fully deserved a development growth  parallel with that in Peninsular Malaysia.

Two days later at a Barisan Nasional (BN) rally that was also attended by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the chief minister said Sarawak would strive to have the federal government grant it more autonomy in enabling a smoother decision-making process on matters of the state.

Najib, on his part, gave the Sarawak BN government the assurance that whatever it requested, he would try his best to assist in fulfilling.

Referring to Adenan’s call for the state autonomy to be recognised, Najib acknowledged that it was only proper in the devolution of power.

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