FOR the second time in less than six months, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem assured the Chinese in the state they belong where they are, have a legitimate right to that belonging, and merit a role in deepening the bond through stronger participation in the state’s governance. Terrence Netto of The Malay Mail writes:
In September last year, Adenan, who took over from Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud as chief minister earlier in the year, told a convention of the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) that he rejected any attempt to label the community as pendatang, the term Malay chauvinists use to estrange nonMalays from the land of their birth, loyalty and toil. On that occasion he used “crap” four times to convey his disdain for the arguments used to justify the application of the label to the Chinese.
This time round, in extending Lunar New Year greetings, Adenan elaborated on the case for Chinese legitimacy in contravention to attempts to label them as aliens. He adverted to their role in
business and economic develop ment, which he said were crucial to the development of the state. He thanked the business community for its role in building the state’s economy.
Essentially, his remarks were the same as those he aired at the SUPP convention several months before, only this time he was keen to emphasise the community’s role in the political development
of the state. He said this role was critical to building consensus, to forging cooperation, and to fostering the give and take spirit that under pinned coalition politics in the state.
This second Adenan paean to the contributions of Sarawakian Chinese has come at a time when Chinese in the peninsula were riled by the remarks of a Cabinet minister who blame some al legedly obstinate Chinese traders for what he said were unjustifiably high prices of goods after the plunge in fuel prices that should have lowered them.
The minister’s remarks caused a furore because he implied that Malay consumers were victims of gouging by Chinese traders and that the former should wake by boycotting their exploiters. The remarks were irresponsible and led to rounds of accusation and counteraccusation and de mands for retraction and apology, the usual ritual that follows hard upon the airing of incendiary
comments by someone of standing in society. Though this controversy did not involve people and personalities in Sarawak, it must have drawn the attention of citizens there, which was why Adenan’s New Year’s remarks that lauded the contributions of Sarawakian Chinese would have come as balm on the lacerated feelings of that community, whether resident in the state or in peninsular Malaysia. Listeners, in particular, would
have been heartened by Adenan’s decrying of the divide and rule tactics employed by some of his fellow Barisan Nasional leaders when he gave the assurance that the state rejected this approach to
governance. James Masing, president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak, a member of the ruling state BN coalition, in endorsing Adenan’s remarks, placed matters in mollifying per
spective by saying; “Most of us in Malaysia are pendatang, except perhaps for the orang asli of Malaya or the Penans of Sarawak, who may have been here for hundreds of years.”
“The Malays, the Indians, Chinese, Dayaks and Kadazans were at some point in history immi grants to Malaysia.” No doubt, Masing’s comments would have drawn the broad con currence of not only Sarawakians but also other Malaysians, save= supremacists of race and religion. Although suspected to be a small band, the latter enjoy a vocal power disproportionate to
their numbers. Latterly, they have been rocked back on their heels by the emergence of moderates who have decided to speak out in support of the policies and positions that
are associated with what is called “Middle Malaysia”, a term coming into vogue because it is a catchall phrase for viewpoints and practises that Malaysians have come to recognise as, well, Malaysian.
Earlier this month, when it was the 112th birth anniversary of the country’s founding father, Tunku Abdul Rahman, proponents of the Middle Malaysia perspectives availed themselves of the opportunity to reminisce about the Tunku and sought to vivify his dormant legacy of a multiracial and multireligious Malaysia. It was an exercise in nostalgia, useful at getting Malaysians of advanced middle age to raise a furtive finger to flick away a teardrop of remembrance of those times in the 60s when the country was in the charge of the “happiest prime minister in the world”, which the Tunku claimed he was.
Not many know that on his last visit to Sarawak a couple of years before his death in December 1990, the Tunku, enthused by the evident ease the people exhibited towards their ethnic and religious diversity, said Sarawak was a model for the Malaysian experiment in peaceful pluralism.
By the time of his visit, the Tunku’s fondest hopes for his country were beginning to look not only tattered and frayed at the edges, but also coming unstuck at the centre. This was probably why he
viewed the visit as tonic for his flagging spirits and his vision for the larger nation and pronounced Sarawak a model of what he had in mind when he midwifed the birth of the nation in 1957 and its enlargement in 1963 when it be came Malaysia.
Today, the prevalent peaceful pluralism of the state makes it a lonely outpost in a country straitened by the twin bugbears of race and religion. ‘ Adenan and his cohorts deserve’ bouquets for their effort in sustaining the Tunku’s vision.
Source; The Malay Mail