Friday, June 25

The bi-focal leaders


YOU know durian season is nigh when you begin to see durian flowers being sold at the market. Similarly, elections are also preceded by some telling signs. However, in the case of Sarawak, the harbingers take many forms. They may take physical forms, like big blue plastic water tanks; or unusual human behaviour, like men not normally associated with sanitary infrastructure, suddenly taking interest in drains; or more prevalently, just torrential downpours of promises.

At this juncture let me just go off a tangent by going to a karaoke to sing a few songs. First off would be that strangely titled song ‘It’s Raining Men’. Of course I would have to change at least one word. Though I must say I would struggle with the rhythm because ‘promise’ has more syllables than ‘men’. Then there is the rather appropriate Bee Gees’ number, ‘It’s Only Words’.

As we get nearer the D day – the day when we, the ordinary folks, are transformed into kings and queens, albeit only for a brief moment (our high status evaporates as soon as we place the X on the ballot sheet) – the words uttered by some of the ‘servants of the people’ wannabes, which by the way, has been re-branded as ‘winnables’, take a nastier turn. They start to throw dirty linen and vituperative remarks at the wannabes of the opposite camps; some even make a song and dance of it all.

However, the enduring image is that of these generally better-schooled individuals masquerading as manual workers for a while. Of course, it is fair dinkum, as the Aussies would say it; they have to give the impression that they are ready to serve the community. What better way to demonstrate that than to show that one cares about homes getting flooded during the rainy season?

These are some of the down to earth issues that the communities are most concerned about. However, I submit that there is more to being a servant leader (I think I heard this term being bandied around, though sometimes only impliedly) by just focusing on such basic needs. There is a concept that is being coined in the training circle called the Bi-focal leadership. This is a skill that demands seeing the big picture and at the same attention to small details – in other words, to have a macro and micro view. Well there is nothing more micro than having the people’s representatives taking up hoes and digging drains. This is micro-management in the extreme and in my opinion, a dedication rather misplaced. The maintenance of the community’s services and amenities is the responsibility of the respective town or city councils. Needless to say the actual hewers of wood and drawers of water are the workers employed by the said councils. I would rather the people’s representatives go after the councils to keep them on their toes.

Now here comes the touchy part. The main responsibility of the people’s representatives is to attend the State Legislative Assembly (and Parliament if they are members of parliament) and ensure that our country’s resources are utilised effectively and distributed fairly. They have to partake and vote in the debate on issues that affect citizens’ rights at national and state level. I expect my Yang Berhormats to be cognisant of nationally significant matters.

In the case of Sarawak and Sabah, there is nothing bigger than the dilution of our partnership status in the Federation of Malaysia. In commerce, there is a phenomenon called the dilution of the value of shares. This occurs when the share value of the original investors is reduced when the company issues additional shares. Take for example the case of two brothers who entered into a partnership with a distant relative from across the water to form a new entity. Actually in the real story, there were four original partners. One of them, who was smarter and more alert, decided to leave when he started to smell a rat. Well, let’s not go there for now. Back to our story, just over 10 years after the union, one of the partners decided to bring in his siblings and accorded them status equal to the founding partners. The irony is that decision had to be agreed upon by the representatives of the two original partners. And agree they did. Huh?

When I told this story to some of my friends, one of them said, “Hey, that story sounds very familiar.” He then sent me a posting by one Mr Tay.

“Note that when the Federal Constitution was amended in 1976, Sabah and Sarawak were ‘demoted’ from a ‘sibling’ relationship (vis-à-vis Malaya) ie, Malaysia = Malaya+Sabah+ Sarawak+Singapore to become a father-child relationship alongside all the states. When Malaysia was formed on September 16, 1963, the Federation of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore signed the Malaysia Agreement, and thus Malaysia was born. Malaysia in 1963 to 1965 was a four-nation federation. Then in 1965, Singapore was separated from Malaysia. So from 1965, Malaysia was a three-nation federation.

“Then in 1976, Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution was amended to say Malaysia comprises 13 states – Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, Johor, Pahang, Terengganu. Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak. With this amendment, Malaysia no longer exists. It was replaced by Malaya masquerading as Malaysia, with, may I say, the tacit approval of the BN government of Sabah and Sarawak.

”What then President Sukarno was saying in 1962/63 in opposing the formation of Malaysia came true – that it was a transfer of the Colonial Headquarters from London to Kuala Lumpur.

“And may I add also, that instead of white-skinned expatriates from the United Kingdom lording over us, we get brown-skinned expatriates from Malaya doing the same. This the stark reality which we must face.”

Wow! That is a stark and unpleasant fact. I wonder who were our representatives in Parliament in 1976 and who presumably agreed to this act of reduction of our status, a status that now reduces us to having to go begging for what is due to us.

My plea to the ‘winnable’ and ‘wannabe’ people’s representatives is please put on your bi-focal glasses.