The late Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem was an exceptional figure in politics, the benchmark he has set hard to surpass. His departure will leave a mark on the country’s political situation, and could lead the country’s politics down the wrong path.
It is never an overstatement to call Adenan an exceptional man. In a country infested with racism and religion advocacies, he took care of all the people in his state regardless of race and religion. He was one of the rarest kind, and that made him a much revered man in this country.
At a time when politicians on both sides of the great divide have been busying themselves with tricks to win the voters’ favor, Adenan opted to run his state so naturally without bothering too much about what he would gain or lose. This, nevertheless, won him even more broadbased support. His honesty and integrity have put many hypocritical politicians to shame.
Looking at West Malaysian politicians from Adenan, we couldn’t help but feel a deep pang inside us. Some have labeled Chinese Malaysians as pendatang, and have called for the boycott of Chinese businesses, while others embraced foreign investments when they were in office, and slammed Chinese investors for robbing Malaysians’ rice bowl once they are no more in power.
Adenan announced in 2015 Sarawak’s recognition of the UEC, but in the latest Umno general assembly, delegates urged the government not to follow suit. Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin also said the UEC issue would be handled in accordance with the national education policy if Pakatan Harapan were to win the next general elections.
Our politicians have strongly embraced the strategy that an enemy’s enemy is a friend, their principles conveniently dispensed with as they care only their individual or party interests. This has given an additional dose of unpredictability in the run-up to GE14.
It will not shock me if Umno were to form a coalition government with an opposition party eventually, because we have no more politicians in the likes of Adenan Satem or Karpal Singh.
Adenan was an avid opponent of racism and religionism, and was therefore strongly against the hudud law proposed by PAS.
With Adenan no more around, will the Sarawak BN still be firm against the hudud? Will Adenan’s directive when the Parliament was debating the RUU355 in March still be respected by the state’s leaders?
BN component parties in West Malaysia have joined hands with their Sarawak counterparts to express their disapproval of hudud, and that puts Umno in a disadvantage as there are 25 MPs from Sarawak BN.
If the new chief minister Abang Johari is less persistent than his predecessor, West Malaysian BN component parties will lose a strong backing and Umno will have nothing to fear, making it all the easier for Umno and PAS to collude together.
Adenan also adhered to the decision of his predecessor Taib Mahmud of not allowing Umno to gain a foothold in the state. Given Umno’s strength, if Umno were to gain access into Sarawak, the state will be destroyed by the ensuing racist politics. In the end, PBB will have no place in Sarawak. As such, Abang Johari’s attitude to defend the state’s political independence is of critical importance.
Additionally, will Adenan’s plan to claim more autonomy for Sarawak die a premature death following his departure? Adenan knew that this is the best time to reclaim Sarawak’s lost status. Even though the progress has been slow, at least Umno leaders have seen the resolution of the people of Sarawak, and again Abang Jo has a crucial role to play to ensure its success.
Adenan’s death may have also disrupted Najib’s mobilization plan for the upcoming general elections. Without Adenan, Sarawak BN may not have a clean sweep like in last May’s state election.
Adenan’s people-first policies have seen the return of Chinese votes to the BN, and Abang Jo will need some time to build up his credibility. An unstable state BN leadership will affect Sarawak’s position as the ruling coalition’s “fixed deposit state”.
In the absence of a capable ally, Umno will have to take time to study the changes in Sarawak politics.
Sarawak has a total of 31 parliamentary seats and Umno simply cannot afford to lose the “fixed deposit state”.