VOTERS have elected candidates from the Barisan Nasional in 72 out of 82 seats of the State Legislative Assembly.
The big victory may have raised eyebrows, but I am not surprised. I have predicted in this column that Barisan will win big, mainly due to the “Adenan” factor.
The voters seem to be convinced by Adenan’s moderate and liberal policies, especially on accepting English as an official language and pushing for religious freedom and tolerance.
The Chinese are swayed by the recognition of the UEC (Unified Examination Certificate) by the state government.
Another big factor is that Adenan is certainly a breath of fresh air after the decades-old leadership of Taib Mahmud, now the TYT.
Most Sarawakians also seemed to be convinced by his push for greater autonomy. Adenan has stolen the thunder from the opposition and played to the hearts of Sarawakians.
While I can see why we aspire for self-determination and autonomy, I am concerned that many Sarawa-kians are caught up in the hype without really appreciating the real issues.
Let me urge caution. Sure we want a greater share of our oil money. “Not fair, peninsula has so many highways, we have none” “We want control over education. We want toll-free highway.” “To Tanjong Datu to open up more forest?
I empathise with some of these gripes and I agree Putrajaya has a lot to answer for.
But is it just the fault of Putrajaya? Is it also safe to say that our state leaders over the past have failed to do their job? Why we do we have to build the coastal road to open up more land for oil palm (contributing to the haze) and ignore the Pan Borneo highway?
To me, greater autonomy must mean greater responsibility, accountability and integrity. For those who say that our oil money must be for Sarawakians, then folk in Baleh, Bakun, and Murum and Baram will have every legitimate right to say that their land is for themselves and not for mega dams to generate electricity, for export and for city folk to drive around in “pollution free” electric cars. Bintulu folk may say only they should have a highway since oil is from there.
The track record of the state government in matters where we already have full autonomy (land, labour and immigration) does not give me any confidence.
Why do we have so many land grab issues; not just NCR land for oil palm, but also beach-front land and ex-government quarters demolished for condominiums and commercial shophouses?
On labour, we stopped the Federal Employment Act (EA) in a bid to protect jobs for Sarawakians. As a result, investments in services sector such as call centres and off site processing and outsourcing services is minimal, so we don’t have high value jobs . It was only after almost 50 years that the hopelessly antiquated Sarawak Labour Ordinance was finally amended to provided basic rights for workers in 2008
Since then key improvement to the EA on part-time workers and prevention of sexual harassment at work place are already in the EA, but has yet to be amended in the SLO – despite the fact that the Human Resource minister is from Sarawak.
The minimum wage is lower in Sarawak simply because employersin the state have been paying much lower wages for the past five decades.
Our state controlled immigration is only effective in picking up and deporting peninsula MPs and mentri besars but seems to let in thousands of illegal workers, hawkers, traders, including North Koreans.
Everyone rejoiced when the state government announced that it would recognise the UEC. Seriously? Really? Don’t we realise that it will put a damper in efforts to promote the use of English as a medium of instruction?
We should remember that the Chinese educationists were against the teaching of Maths and Science in English because it would reduce the use of Mandarin.
The recognition would mean that more students will switch to the UEC. So our children will grow up on separate and distinct schools hurting unity and racial relations.
I congratulate Adenan for his big victory. The challenge ahead is to ensure that all promises are kept and that the people’s trust in him is not misplaced. Issues on governance and corruption must be tackled. The campaign against illegal logging has yet to yield a significant prosecution.
Issues of illegal foreign workers must be resolved. We must create decent jobs with decent wages. Otherwise, the fear is that he may go the same way as Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.