KUCHING: Sarawak Day is an important reminder of a date when Sarawak attained nationhood, said Universiti Putra Malaysia professor of politics and government Prof Dr Jayum Jawan.
“This is what Sarawak history reminds Sarawakians of this particular day. As such, the day is significant for a state that was formerly colonised because it signals the separation of the state from its former coloniser,” he said when asked to comment on Sarawak’s short lived independence from July 22, 1963 until Sept 16, 1963.
Sarawakians celebrate Sarawak Day (or independence) on July 22 with the first official celebration held in 2016. July 22 has since then been declared a public holiday in Sarawak.
Jayum however harbours some reservation on the issue.
“But in term of Sarawak, is this perception correct?” he asked.
“Sarawak Day would have been very significant for me as a Sarawakian if Sarawak indeed was colonised by the British in the first place and in the truest sense of the word. Was Sarawak ever colonised by the British? I beg to differ because I do not think so. British government never colonised Sarawak as the former did for states in the former Federation of Malaya.”
He pointed out that the British government through the Colonial Office in London was asked to govern Sarawak at the request of the state and the people of Sarawak, which was an independent state then.
“This independence had been attained from Japan that had occupied the state during the Second World War between 1941 and 1945. Before the Japanese Occupation, the Brookes also did not conquer Sarawak (1841-1941) but was given the state after some arrangement between James Brooke and Raja Muda Hashim,” he said.
Furthermore, James Brooke was a British subject and not a British officer at the time of his taking over the government of Sarawak and neither did James Brooke came with guns and army to take over nor conquer Sarawak, added Jayum.
“Nevertheless, Sarawak Day as acknowledged by the state as a day of return to full self-government by locals and for locals would in my opinion be more appropriate to call and therefore to celebrate,” he said.
Since then, Sarawak has come a long way in self-government and has along the way shown itself to be a model state where people of various backgrounds based on religion, language and culture could exist side by side peacefully.
“Sarawak is the last bastion to stop unhealthy trend in inter-ethnic relations that has been seeping into the country. Sarawak and its people must not only resist this but should continue to show the way by which people of different persuasions could and should live harmoniously and share the benefits of growth that the state, Sarawak and also the nation-state, Malaysia can offer,” Jayum said.
Under the leadership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is returning for the second time as Prime Minister, there is much hope for the re-engineering of a “new” Malaysia that will be, among others, fair, just and inclusive to all, he said.
He noted that in the first 100 days of the PH government, there are many signs that Tun Mahathir’s leadership and government are doing many initiatives that reflect a paradigm shift towards reforming structures and functions of various key national institutions in moving ahead towards moulding a ‘new’ Malaysia.
Acknowledging that Sarawak political leadership is already seen receptive towards this new federal initiative, Jayum said this is good so that the state leadership is more responsive to its stakeholders, the people of Sarawak and in line with how Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government wishes to bring about the ‘new’ Malaysia.
As such the people of Sarawak should give time to the restyled state government, the Coalition of Sarawak Parties (or GPS) to re-align its political leadership and focus in order to be more transparent and responsive to the needs of its multi ethnic constituents, he said.