SARAWAKIANS are defiant against what they perceive as a threat from Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi over the use of the slogans “Sarawak for Sarawakians” and “Sabah for Sabahans”.

They see it as an attempt to stifle the two bornean states’ political aspirations and to stop Malaya from being pressured to comply the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Pro-autonomy advocacy group Sarawak 4 Sarawakians rejected the threat outright, describing it as “empty and baseless posturing designed to create a culture in which people are afraid to stand up for their rights under the constitution”.    

S4S de facto leader Peter John Jaban said there was no provision in the Federal Constitution to criminalise slogans such as Sarawak 4 Sarawakians.

He said Article 10 of the Federal Constitution guarantees every citizen the freedom of expression and challenged the deputy prime minister to cite a single example of a public order offence committed in the name of S4S, which would justify him curtailing a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution.

Jaban said if the deputy prime minister feels that reasonable calls for full recognition of the state’s rights, as negotiated under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, are a threat to the security of the nation “then he must have a very dark view of the way the nation has been organized”.

Besides reminding Zahid that Sarawakians, like other Malaysians, are patriots serving to protect the nation in the various branches of the security services, Jaban also asked if he is also claiming the Sarawak government is a threat to the security of the nation.

“They are asking for exactly the same thing (as us).”

“Is he going to arrest every car owner in Sarawak displaying the Sarawak 4 Sarawakians logo or every person wearing the T-shirt?  

“If that is his intention, then he better start building bigger jails because he is talking about a huge percentage of the state’s population.”  

Jaban said it’s better for Zahid to listen to the people in the Borneo states instead of criminalizing them.

“Sarawak 4 Sarawakians is a reflection of the views of the people of Sarawak; it does not create them.”

Lina Soo, another prominent sarawak rights activist, however wonders how Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg will react to Zahid’s threat.

“Former chief minister Adenan Satem strongly advocated the sentiment Sarawak for Sarawakians.

“I wonder if he is rattled by the threat. I’m anxious to find out when he returns.”

Abang Johari is on a five-day study tour in China.

PKR Sarawak chief Baru Bian said Zahid had issued a legitimate warning, but said the slogans accurately reflect the people’s sentiments in the two Bornean states.

Baru however noted the “warning” came as the 14th general election is looming and it was a calculated move to suppress the swelling of dissatisfaction against the federal government.

“Wrongly handled, it may backfire against BN,” he said.