Sarawak elections: Would Abang Johari dare say…

By P. Ramakrishnan

P Ramakrishnan poses a few pertinent questions for Abang Jo.

Abang Jo, GPS chairman

Would Abang Johari dare say:

“I don’t want the Chinese to be called ‘pendatang’,

 “You can use ‘Allah’ any time you want. No problem.”

“I am my own man. He (‘White Hair’) doesn’t tell me what to do.”

“You (federal government) listen to me. I represent Sarawak.”

“Whether they agree with me in the Semenanjung (peninsula) or not, I don’t care.”

These are the challenges to Abang Johari of GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak). Will he utter these sentiments and statements forthrightly and boldly? It would take courage and conviction to take such a bold political stand.

He has four days before Sarawakians go to the polls. Will he take up this challenge? This was the stand taken by his predecessor, Adenan Satem, during the last state election:

“I am Adenan Satem, I am not ‘PekMoh’ (white haired). I am Adenan Satem and I do not want Umno to come to Sarawak. I am Adenan Satem, and I keep my promises.”

Breaking away from the traditional ways of politics in the state, he created his own legacy, thus setting a new tone for his administration. He took up the mantle and started on a mission to re-establish the rights and autonomy for the state.

“I am Adenan Satem. I am not ‘White Hair’ (former Sarawak chief minister Taib Mahmud).

“I am my own man. He doesn’t tell me what to do.”

“I am Adenan Satem, give me a big mandate so I can speak up to Kuala Lumpur (federal government).

“You listen to me. I represent Sarawak.”

Among many of his measures include his announcement in 2015 to make English the other official language in the state alongside Bahasa Malaysia. He said this was to prepare Sarawakians for future challenges in a world that is heavily dependent on English.

The decision was met with criticisms from all sides, many even questioning his patriotism.

This was his response: “Whether they agree with me in the Semenanjung (peninsula) or not, I don’t care.”

He bluntly told off those who called Malaysians of Chinese origin as “pendatang” (immigrant), saying there is no such term as far as the people of Sarawak was concerned.

“We cannot have divide-and-rule tactics … Sarawak is for everybody and Sarawak is big enough for everybody,” said Adenan.

He went further when he instructed to do away with the word “lain-lain” (others) on the race column of government official forms, a move later approved by the Cabinet.

“You can use ‘Allah’ any time you want. No problem. Just use it with respect.”

His independence from the other Barisan leaders was beyond question when he encouraged Sarawak to reject outdated policies and firmly stated his decision to have the state’s education determined by Sarawakians themselves.

Will Abang Johari have the guts to take a similar stand?

The Election Commission has disfranchised many Sarawakians living outside the state because they are not able to spend so much air fare to travel to Sarawak to cast their vote. The EC has not taken any concrete step to ensure that every Sarawakian of voting age is able to vote.

Aliran had called upon the EC to extend postal voting to these Sarawakians working or domiciled outside Sarawak so that no voter is denied and deprived the right to vote on economic grounds.

So far, there isn’t even a squeak from the EC. Hasn’t it the moral obligation to explain why postal voting is not viable? What has happened to its mandate to hold a free and fair election?

The EC’s role so far seems to be pro GP. It has failed to live up to our expectations. It has gone beyond that to deny Sarawakians their vote.

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.” – Larry J. Sabato

Cast your vote for the Opposition to show your disappointment with the EC.

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

13 December 2021

P Ramakrishnan is the long-serving former president of Aliran who served three and a half decades on its executive committee, and has been with Aliran since its inception in 1977. Now an ordinary Aliran member, he continues to highlight issues of public interest to a larger audience.

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