Sunday, May 26

The ant and the contact lens


C_PC0014785ELIZABETH Elliot who died last June, was an author, speaker and one of the most influential Christian women of our time.

She once told the true story of a woman who lost a contact lens while rock-climbing one day.

Just like wearing a monocle after losing one contact lens, the woman, Brenda Flotz, was only able to see out of one eye while halfway up a cliff.

She looked around but could not find the missing lens and had to be helped by her companions to the top of the cliff.

At the summit, her friends helped search through her belongings – boots and clothing – but the contact lens was nowhere to be found.

Brenda turned to the Lord, asking Him to search for the missing lens. She quoted from 2 Chronicles: “The eyes of the Lord search the whole Earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

Again helped by her friends, she made her way down and met a group of climbers at the base. One of them suddenly shouted: “Hey, anybody lost a contact lens?”

According to the narrative, Brenda rushed over and saw an ant carrying a contact lens across the rock. She knew it was God’s way to strengthen her faith.

Brenda’s father is a cartoonist. When she told him what happened, he drew a cartoon of an ant lugging a contact lens with the caption: “God, I don’t know why you want me to carry this load. I can see no good in it and it’s awfully heavy. But if you want me to carry it, I will.”

I read this story some years back or was it from one of the church sermons? I couldn’t remember but it did come as a timely sharing from my dear pastor Rev Lenita Tiong on her Facebook.

I was “complaining” to God about being burdened by a slew of happenings of late. I was also wondering why all the chaos and furor in the State – with the politicians at each other’s throat over autonomy issues.

It was very much a rhetorical, if not polemical, slugfest. There were arguments and counter-arguments that the issues raised had form but no substance. Both sides claimed the lettered high ground. And, of course, which side you agree with depends on which side you are on.

The word “substance” is borrowed from State Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club chairman Abdullah Saidol who said: “What is more significant is the question of substance pertaining to Sarawak’s claims for autonomy from the Federal government within the fundamental provisions or philosophy of the Malaysia Agreement, at first instance, and within the ambit of the Constitution. Nothing more, nothing less.”

The word “form” is borrowed from Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How who said: “It is diverting efforts for the devolution of federal power and returning autonomous power to Sarawak, towards unnecessary arguments of form at best.”

Local Government Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian’s call to the Chief Minister to take the lead not to call Sarawak a state (within Malaysia) but a region last Saturday has certainly won him rounds and rounds of applause.

“Sarawak should refer itself to just Sarawak from now on and not Negeri Sarawak (Sarawak State) in order to be seen as serious in fighting for autonomy,” he was quoted as saying.

Have they (the Chief Minister, his Cabinet and the whole State Assembly) not been serious in fighting for autonomy from the beginning?

While those following the issue closely understand Adenan has succeeded in getting back some State powers from the federal government, there are, however, still some doubters as to whether he is truly fighting for autonomy.

Indeed, Team Adenan has convinced Sarawakians the Chief Minister is serious about fighting for state rights. After all, from the very outset, it’s known to all and sundry that Sarawak joined Malaysia as an equal partner, not just as one of the states in the Federation.

This indisputable fact is not lost on Sarawakians and as such, the call from a member of the State Cabinet for the Chief Minister to take the lead in not calling Sarawak a State (within Malaysia) but a region, even before the start of negotiations, does appear out of kilter.

Time and again, Dr Sim claimed he had spoken with the Prime Minister about the matter and the PM agreed Sarawak and Sabah should get back their special rights under MA63 and the Inter-Governmental Committee 1962 and the Cobbold Commission Reports.

If it’s that simple, then what is the point of having a team of legal counsels under the State Attorney General to advise Adenan and the State Cabinet?

We know it’s not simple to get back the State’s autonomous rights and special privileges that have eroded over the years. Certainly, it will take some hard bargaining and plenty of political capital to accomplish the task at hand.

Arguably, if we want to have “three regions” – Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah – enshrined in the Federal Constitution, we should, first and foremost, effect the constitutional amendment accordingly to revert back to the pre-1976 period.

But how do we propose to restore Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to the pre-1976 period since a two-thirds majority in parliament is needed to amend the Constitution?

Therefore, it’s not doing negotiations for state autonomy any good to utter emotional words that might stymie efforts of the state government to get back the special rights and privileges Sarawakians are entitled to as an equal partner of Malaysia.

Do we not need the MPs from the other peninsular states to support the amendment? Why should they support us when we are so indiscreet as to call them “Malayan.” They might not be able to take it as sportingly as the people of the Borneo states could for being called Sarawakians and Sabahans.

Regardless, it’s not the time for politicians to outdo one another to gain mileage or show they are better informed than others or have better connection at the federal level or with the Prime Minister.

And to paraphrase See, the least we need now is unnecessary provocation that may elicit retaliation that will hurt the evolution of a nourishing and meaningful Sarawakian nationalism and hamper all efforts in the negotiations for devolution of federal power and returning of our deserved autonomous power to Sarawak.

After all, being referred as “State” (whether uppercase S or lowercase s) does not in any way derogates Sarawak and Sabah. The substance is to claim what is due to us as promised under the MA63.

The message from Brenda’s cartoonist father should speak to the good sense of our politicians from both sides – that negotiating for state autonomy is neither a stroll in the park nor a shoo-in.

Reassuringly though, Adenan’s initiative to open negotiations with the federal government on the matter is irrevocable proof that the Chief Minister and his Cabinet are committed to delivering the best for Sarawakians as per their motto – Sarawak First.

Perhaps, Adenan can include some more learned people in his team regardless of their political leanings.

There is a saying that God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

We pray that Adenan, with God’s grace, will be able to do the same in his quest to reclaim autonomous rights and special privileges that legitimately belong to Sarawakians.