KUCHING: This year not only marks the third year that July 22 is celebrated officially as Sarawak Day, but on the 55th anniversary of its independence — or self-government as some would term it —it is also appropriate forSarawakiansto celebrate the occasion in the context of the new government and the new political landscape in Malaysia.
Works Minister Baru Bian, who said this in his Sarawak Day 2018 message, also regarded the short period of self-governance in 1963 as one meant to lead to an era of growth and development in partnership with Malaya, Sabah and Singapore in a new Federation called Malaysia.
“Our forefathers joined in the formation of Malaysia with high hopes of advancement and catching up with Malaya, but we have been disappointed in our expectations.
“Instead of catching up with Malaya, Sarawak has remained far behind in development,” he remarked.
Baru, who is Selangau MP and Ba Kelalan assemblyman, said in his Sarawak Day speech in Long Luping last year, he recalledhow the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem voiced his frustration about Sarawak being left behind in development by stating bluntly: ‘If we are left behind by 10 to 20 years, I can still understand; but if we are behind by half a century, I can’t tolerate it anymore’.
“His (Adenan’s) statement expresses what every Sarawakian feels.
“Up until the 14th general election, the mood of the country was sombre and angry as citizens were faced with increasing costs of living and at the same time, learning about the excesses and corruption of the country’s leaders.
“Many factors came into play during the period leading up to May 9 this year when the citizens turned up in huge numbers to cast their votes. Without any obvious sign of a change approaching, the election result came as a shock to many, but was a cause for much rejoicing and renewed pride in the ordinary citizen of this country,” said Baru.
He pointed out that in Sarawak, Pakatan Harapan (PH) managed to capture 12 seats – showing that ‘the message of change has reached the heartlands of Sarawak’.
“With the change of government for the first time since the formation of Malaysia, our spirits have been lifted. There are many new leaders with sincere intentions to bring change to the lives of the people. It is as if we were a nation reborn, and with these new leaders in the driver’s seats, I see a revival of our forefathers’ vision and of the real possibility that their hopes and dreams will be realised in our time.”
However Baru, who is also Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sarawak chairman, also stressed that for Sarawak, the battle of its people for the real recognition of their native customary rights (NCR) continues. In this view, he said the framers of the recent Sarawak Land Code amendment have couched the amendment in terms that have ‘obfuscated the issue and diluted and restricted the rights of our people to their NCR land’.
“Let the winds of change continue to blow so that we too can steer our beloved Sarawak in the direction of real development and economic progress for all Sarawakians, and not just the favoured few. Looking at the way forward, I see reason for optimism and hope. Today’s celebration of Sarawak Day is indeed truly significant and meaningful for us in Sarawak.
Happy Sarawak Day — God Bless Sarawak, and God Bless us all,” he said in concluding his Sarawak Day message.