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Friday, May 13, 2016

Sarawakians voted against arrogance and the politics of hate and insults

Giant billboards and banners screamed ‘Ubah’, ‘Mana RM2.6 billion?’ and ‘Tolak GST’.

Campaigners screaming through loudhailers paraded up and down the streets of towns and cities and the ruai of longhouses, demanding for ‘Change’, ‘Where is the RM2.6 billion?’, and ‘No to GST’.

Some said the state election was a referendum against GST, alleged corruption and corrupt leaders.

But on May 7, all the screaming came to naught when Sarawakians gave Chief Minister Adenan Satem 72 of the 82 seats contested.

The biggest loser was the loudest of the screaming lots – DAP, which was left with just seven of the 12 seats it won in 2011, and its ‘Impian Sarawak’ dream of uplifting the living standard in rural Sarawak left in tatters when even the party’s leading Dayak front Leon Jemat fared miserably.

Leon, who spoke so highly of DAP’s rural adventure, managed just 695 votes out of the 8,205 turnout in Simanggang.

Rural folk just aren’t interested in DAP’s dream.

Even Independent Ngu Piew Seng did better, collecting 2,705 votes, but still far from enough to steal the seat from Francis Harden, the man said to be most hated by many Chinese and Chinese-based NGOs.

So did members of all those Chinese-based NGOs vote for Ngu?

Or, did Francis win on just the votes of the Dayaks and Malays?

Most of all, where did DAP go wrong?

Where did DAP go wrong in Pakan where turnout was 7,993, but its candidate Rinda Alexander managed only 285 votes?

Where did DAP go wrong in Ngemah where turnout was 6,398, but its candidate Richard Lias garnered just 243 votes?

PKR probably would like to believe it fared better, retaining every seat it won in 2012.

But if Baru Bian, See Chee How and Ali Biju made it to the state legislature yet again this time, there are those other PKR candidates who contested only to ‘ngeruh ai’, which is Iban for ‘making the number’ or literally translated, ‘to muddy the water’.

Among those who contested to cause clear water to turn muddy were Thomas Laja Besi who garnered 394 votes from a turnout of 6,396 in Ngemah; Sim Eng Hua with 777 from a turnout of 8,080 in Dalat; Nicholas Bawin Anggat with 532 from a turnout of 7,888 in Engkilili; and Alexander Lehan with 463 from a turnout of 4,674 in Belaga.

Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen said his party’s poor performance was due to low voter turnout while PKR vice-president Xavier Jayakumar asserted it had to do with the lack of opposition unity.

It may or may not be so, but if one cares to see the vote counts closely, in seats where both DAP and PKR contested even their combined votes couldn’t match those of the BN.

There had to be other reasons for the oppositions’ poor showing.

In fact, according to political analyst Jeniri Amir of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, the main reason for BN’s impressive victory was that Adenan was popular with all communities, including the Chinese.

He said Adenan’s popularity was the main factor that saw BN winning 88% of the seats as well as the popular vote.

Someone else, however, suggested the Malaya-based opposition parties were being punished by Sarawakians for their arrogance and alien political culture.

I would like to believe that in the urban seats, yes, it was Adenan’s popularity that helped BN win seats like Batu Kitang, Batu Kawah and Piasau, but in the rural constituencies the Dayaks rejected DAP and PKR because of their bad manners and alien political culture.

“They came and went as they liked. They didn’t come to meet me first but simply trampled on our longhouse verandah with their shoes on, screaming through loudhailers, speaking ill of our leaders, causing a kind of raucous, disturbing the peace and quiet, waking up sleeping little children and the elderly,” a tuai rumah (longhouse chief) said.

He further said: “No, we must not allow these people to come and bring their brand of politics into Sarawak, especially in the villages and longhouses.

“Dayaks, Ibans included, have our own adat and as far as my experience goes, in the past campaigns were carried out in an orderly manner. Headmen were consulted and villagers were called to gather in the ruai.

“But this time, we were shocked by the constant appearance of strangers who came and straight away tied up banners on the posts and columns of our longhouse and pasted posters on our walls.

“Sigi nadai beradat!” (lit. truly uncivilised)

These strangers came, calling for ‘Ubah’ but change frightened folk because the tuai rumah and his people were being disrespected and their customs and traditions trampled upon.

‘Ubah’ seemed aimed at changing the adat and the longhouse or village system, yet the behaviours of these strangers were but distasteful.

‘Ubah’ seemed to demand that folk accept all things these strangers brought with them, yet the things they did and the words they uttered bordered on the blasphemous.

They were badmouthing others, calling them names and saying their corruption stinks to high heavens.

That was the scenario in the villages and longhouses where rural folk saw civility in BN and voted for its candidates because they didn’t like what they saw and heard in those strangers who came with their alien political culture.

These are no stupid people, as some rejected Malayans described them.

They are no “jungle people who live on trees”. They are no idiots who sold their votes for money.

But they voted against arrogance and the politics of hate and insults.

My good friend Roman Ting probably sums it up all so well in this FB post of his: "If you think your insults were to humiliate Sarawakians into submission to vote for the Opposition in the next election, then you do not understand Sarawakians at all. You deserve to lose. We will forgive but we will not forget.”

By Jiimy Adit, a member of The Ant Daily team.

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