Deputy Prime Minister, Zahid Hamidi, has issued vague, but ugly threats towards any individuals in Sabah or Sarawak, who express views in favour of separation from Malaysia.
Even more that that, people just uttering sentiments such as ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ or ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ will face “severe punishment” he has announced:
“The actions of certain quarters inciting the people with these slogans…are against the Federal Constitution.We must fight those playing with fire, and who are trying to create anarchy and national instability,”
Yet, ought not a state put its own people first, rather than the interests of wealthy politicians in KL? And why shouldn’t these regional people speak out, if they feel they are being treated as second class citizens in their home states, right or wrong?
Not that many months ago a referendum was conceded in the United Kingdom to decide the views of self-proclaimed separatists in Scotland, who wanted independence. The debate ended with a vote to remain united.
However, separatist politicians remain in powerful control of the regional Scottish parliament and they express their views freely every day – their belief is still that Scotland should be independent.
No one has been locked up for holding such views or expressing them nor have they been condemned as criminal ‘anarchists trying to create national instability’. Without doubt, one reason why the majority of Scottish people decided to stick together in the UK is because they appreciate living in a country where individuals are treated with respect and allowed to argue out their views.
It was the United Kingdom that surrendered the Borneo states, as part of an agreed process, into the independent Malaysian federation in the first place. But they did so on the basis of a strict mutual agreement between all parties that Sabah and Sarawak would be treated as equals and not inferiors to be bullied with threats from the Peninsular.
Democratic principles were established as the foundation of that agreement, which held that the inhabitants of all Malaysian states were to be treated as equal and given full respect for their personal beliefs, including religion and the right to freedom of expression in political and other matters.
Indeed, without freedom of expression how can you have a democracy, which is what Malaysia still alleges it is?
So, the Federal Government did not take over East Malaysia as a form of conquest, with KL imposing some sort of foreign rule and domination. To the contrary, this was an agreed unification and a willing partnership. There was no ban on a divorce, should that be the wish of either side – let alone the criminalisation of separatist views, expressed peacefully.
Furthermore, KL’s federal authority over the region was only consolidated thanks to UK military intervention, after Indonesia made its own powerful bid to take over the region. In that they would have surely succeeded were it not for those British troops.
That union was agreed and then protected by the British on the basis that is was to become a free democracy of consenting and equal states, whose inhabitants would be permitted their universal freedoms and democratic rights. It has served peninsular folk very well. The Borneo states brought into Malaysia a fabulous dowry of riches, which has benefited the country ever since – oil in particular.
Yet, fifty years on, we find Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi issuing thuggish threats and acting like a bullying husband, who moves to hit the wife that wants to leave him, instead of questioning why she wants to leave him and considering whether it might be the fault of his own behaviour?
What laws does he think exist, within the original agreement and constitution of Malaysia, to allow a minority government in KL to lock up, punish or do anything else to people for simply speaking out or peacefully protesting their views on separatism or anything else they might feel strongly about?
Democracy involves persuading the majority of people to follow your argument, not threatening them down the barrel of a gun. What is in fact illegal is this crackdown on criticism, which amounts to a gross abuse of authority and power.
It has now been made clear by the DPM cum Home Minister that if someone writes “I have come to the conclusion Sabah/Sarawak ought to become independent” on their Facebook wall, he has ‘severe punishments’ in store for them.
He needs to be reminded that politics is meant to be the art of persuasion, not bullying.
Does this Number Two in government feel so incapable of offering a good argument for people to remain within Malaysia that he needs to criminalise critics? Certainly, if he were to hire Sarawak Report, this writer could think of very many good arguments for the union to remain, but illegal threats to punish dissenters would not be among them.
This snarling thuggishness betrays a great weakness on BN’s part and it draws further attention to the reasons why so many East Malaysians do now seem to feel utterly fed up with rule from KL. The fact is that, as Zahid knows full well, Sabah and Sarawak do have every reason to believe they have had a raw deal from a regime that has entrenched itself into a kleptocratic exploitation of the federation for a solid 50 years.
US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, put the situation perfectly this week, when he called the Malaysian situation ‘kleptocracy at its worst’. So, who can be surprised if folk, from East Malaysia or any other state want to be rid of such a regime? To many in Sabah and Sarawak independence would seem the simplest answer. They ought to be met with respect and countered with reasoned rebuttals, not prison.
It is BN’s failings, therefore, and not ‘seditious’ individuals, that must take the blame for the present talk of separatism in East Malaysia. Poor governance has provoked the discontent and it is not just in East Malaysia that people are fed up.
For six decades Sabah and Sarawak have provided the lion’s share of the natural resources and wealth that has kept the ruling BN bosses comfortable in their luxury lives, whilst most folk in those states (and elsewhere) are left impoverished.
Faced with a growing desire for democratic change in the face of such corruption, this greedy regime has engaged in every possible illegal tactic to remain in power and defy the electorate in this so-called democracy. Just this week Malaysia was rated just one step up from Zimbabwe on the electoral integrity list – we can soon expect to see the positioning reversed, since that African country has at last got rid of its own kleptocrat dictator.
So, Zahid should find his own humility at a time when the regime he represents has disgraced his country before the world.
He ought remember that the people who should be facing punishment are those guilty of genuine crimes, such as grand theft and abuse of power: people like Zahid’s boss, whom he so avidly protects.
Zahid should look to his own misdemenours as a leader of a criminal regime, therefore, before he threatens others for saying they want out of it.