Thursday, August 6

A New Dawn


722 is a special day for Sarawakians.

LS was assigned to cover the event at the Song Kheng Hai Ground.

Keeping pace with Edmund, her Usain Bolt look-alike athletic colleague, she ran the full length and breadth of the former rugby field with her camera and writing pad, eager to capture every moment of excitement and festivity that filled the open air turf.

The crowd was equally thrilled by her passion for the Day. She painted the yellow, black and red Sarawakian flag on her otherwise spotless left cheek.

Her other colleague TP was cool. It was his off-day but he woke up early nonetheless, drove 25km with his friends to join the 5000 strong crowd. He should have painted his shinny shaved bald head with the 722 colours.

But he had just wanted to come to enjoy the festive atmosphere, not to be hunted by his peers and the drones which were hovering above and turning him into an Independence Day luminary.

Ramli and Ah Hui, partners of a thriving firm servicing government departments and agencies, are not to be outdone. 722 is a holiday for the company. The proud bosses and their loyal workforce were in full 722 gears.

Russell, a young law student who returned from UK just in time for the celebration, was an early bird and found a space in the crowd that formed the giant figures “722.”

He firmly stood his ground despite the unusually hot morning sun, busy calling all his friends to join him and inch into the figure.

Standing nearby was the ever pleasant 70-year old Uncle Song, gleefully chatting and laughing with the youngs and olds who were squeezed into the giant figures.

These were the faces that almost filled up the extensive lawn of the Song Kheng Hai Ground. But humming with the new excitement was the vast majority who were not the familiar faces that had featured in previous rallies and gathering.

The exchange of gentle smiles, handshakes and pleasantries among all who were unfamiliar with each other, regardless of race, creed and gender, warmed Sarawakian hearts more than the scorching sun.

For the few hours, at least at the Song Kheng Hai Ground, party politics appeared to have evaporated into thin air. In those few hours, it was only evinced that all are but one Sarawakian.

As I firmly believe, and have faith in my fellow Sarawakians, not even one soul came up to me to show the slightest resentment that a member of a national party is not being welcomed at the gathering.

There were just endless questions and discussions on Sarawak’s autonomous position and special rights within the Malaysian Federation, the erosion of such special position and rights and what should we do about it.

What are the constitutional safeguards for the terms and promises made in the Malaysia Agreement and whether a state referendum may be possible to restore our autonomy and special rights.

At that moment, it dawned on me that many have looked through the social order built around us by the Brookes, the British and the government of the Federation — the divide-and-rule tactics embedded into the policies, functions and generally the governance in the country.

At that moment, there was the flicker of light that our ingrained prejudices resultant of the system that divide and control our population, were beneath the green grass trampled under our feet.

For a moment, the people were united and all began to look at ourselves and things around us, from a new Sarawakian light.

It is for us to reflect on the historical past, to learn the lessons and begin an era to bring Sarawak forward to ever glorious future, for all Sarawakians.

It is an opportune time for the government agencies and civil groups to organise seminars and forums to rationally and vigilantly examine these issues to ensure healthy and earnest discussions, providing the right direction for our desired Sarawakian destiny.

Yes, the government agencies. Time has changed. The unexpected large crowd have sent out a clear signal that Sarawakians have lifted themselves onto a new plane where they are bold and vocal for what is right and deserving for Sarawak.

Will the usual witch hunt and threats or warning of prosecution pull them back? Unlikely. But the federal agencies surely will not give up trying.

The state administration has certainly reacted positively and reasonably. And we are not to spare the credits due to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

Sarawakian netizens are generally unhappy with the CM’s warning about the redline, declaring that the state would not entertain the idea of seceding from Malaysia. But, this is a CM who would not allow emotion to overrule his head.

We should appreciate what he has said at the concurrently held state function to commemorate Sarawak’s independence from British rule, echoing the common Sarawakian aspiration that we believe in full autonomy for Sarawak under the constitution and devolution of more federal powers to the state.

The CM further pledged that the state government would insist on its autonomy based on the 18-points agreement, and a special committee has been formed to work out the details of certain powers that could be devolved back to the state.

The concurrent 722 commemorative events have set the stage for Sarawak to enter a new era. The thread that have run through the Song Kheng Hai Ground and the DUN compound in Petra Jaya is to unite all Sarawakians to work for the common Sarawak destiny.

It is to bury the ghoul of divisive tactics and forces implanted in our system to divide our population – the Sarawakians.

“Sarawak for Sarawakians” is a neutral phrase, a benign expression. There is nothing sinister about it. It is the iniquitous use of phrase and the attributes that come with it that caused it to be casted in bad light.

No Sarawakian would want a Sarawak for Sarawakians who are corrupted, a society infested with poverty, ignorance and injustice, a state of mismanagement and poor governance, anyway.

For me, “Sarawak for Sarawakians” is a fitting expression for the occasion of commemorating the independence of Sarawak from the colonial rule, as 722 is, a celebration of freedom.

But we are not free, as the two commemorative events have shown. Maybe we should summon ourselves to use and practise “Sarawakians for Sarawak” until the next 722?

We should be reminded of the famous quote from John F Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

To aspire for a Sarawak for Sarawakians, all Sarawakians should be united and contribute to the cause for that greater Sarawak that we aspire.

What are we as Sarawakians to do for Sarawak? How are you to contribute to our fair land we called Sarawak?