On Friday, I received a 2018 video of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, chastising Sabahans and Sarawakians as people fond of taking the easy way out. It came from a journalist via WhatsApp.
In the video, the TV3 anchor referred to the prime minister’s remarks calling Sabahans and Sarawakians “pemalas” (lazy people).
This was a April 11 clip, just before GE14 on May 9 last year, when Mahathir was speaking at a Perdana Leadership Foundation forum.
Later, I was informed that Mahathir had clarified he did not describe East Malaysians as lazy, but was taking a dig at BN politicians, calling them people who were “drunk with greed,” with the mentality of “seeking the easy way out”.
The prime minister also revealed that he was aware of such a mentality prevailing among BN leaders in Sabah and Sarawak for a long time. This was part of his campaign against BN heading into GE14.
I do not wish to find fault with the prime minister for his ‘lazy’ insult, for he was right in some ways. But BN leaders in Sabah and Sarawak learned to be lazy and take the easy way out from their BN bosses in Malaya.
All were the same, looking for the easy way out to get rich quickly. Their family members and underlings also fell into the same trap. I have two names for these people – ‘daylight brigands’ and ‘crawler parasites’.
Mahathir had also repeatedly described the Malays as lazy in the past. So what else is new from the grand old man?
In reference to the clip, I responded with a message to several friends and associates, stating that I don’t think that we, Sarawakians, are necessarily lazy or are slackers.
It’s because of the lack of opportunities for many, particularly for our brethren in the rural areas.
But let me say this as a Sarawakian – many Sarawakians are cowards. Few dare to speak up, even when they are aware that something is dreadfully wrong.
They choose to whine and curse within the safe confines of their four walls. This is my main issue with fellow Sarawakians – their apathy and cowardice.
They expect the few who dare to speak up to fight the battle for them. Oh yes, the cowards will cheer them on from the sidelines, but never stand forefront. When something goes wrong, the cowards will conveniently disappear.
Over the past decades as a media practitioner, politician and activist, I have had my share of such humbling experiences. Along the way, I’ve learnt to accept the apathy and cowardice among fellow Sarawakians, even betrayals from friends.
When the going gets tough, the tough are supposed to get going. But more often than not, those you initially thought were tough and solid would be the first to abandon ship when the chips are down.
I’ve since learnt “fear” and “immaturity” are the two main causes of cowardice. Cowards are afraid to confront themselves and reality.
They will blame others for every wrong, but will do nothing to make it right. They expect others to do the dirty job, while they remain in their comfort zone.
Some friends responded to my message. I find some worth sharing here.
“It’s not that we, Sarawakians, are cowards. I believe we are too placid, not wanting to be rude. It’s not our nature to be confrontational, so much so that others take advantage of us”, one said.
Another chipped in, “Our politicians are concerned with lining their own pockets. When the layman states his case or voices his concerns, he is ignored as one still living on trees. No one listens, so what’s the point of speaking up?”
A third shared the story of her family: “I have two sons who are doctors, one in Australia, the other in UK. They are doing well overseas, although they long to return to Sarawak.
“Tell me, what future do they have here? For us, Chinese parents, we have to work hard to send our children for further studies overseas because of the lack of opportunities here. Had we encouraged our sons to stay back and fight for their rights, would they be where they are today?
“This is the sad reality today. BN, GPS or PH – they do not make any difference in my life or that of my children. That’s a fact my family, and many other Sarawakian families, especially the Chinese, can tell you. I’m not a coward and I’m speaking the truth”, she added.
A friend heard me and spoke her mind. This is the first time she has been that outspoken. I salute her for her guts.
We, Sarawakians, must get rid of our apathy. We must dare to rise up and help address the wrongs in our midst.
Only yesterday, I received a surprise call from an old friend whom I have not been in touch with for years, telling me of his concerns over the relocation of a multi-billion ringgit project in Sarawak.
He smells a rat in the sudden turn of events regarding the project. According to him, the new location means incurring an additional RM400 million to RM1 billion to build a jetty.
We do not need to second guess who are allegedly behind this new deal. There are serious questions for those in power to answer.
This new information can be a test case of whether we, Sarawakians, should speak up or pretend we hear and see nothing.
Since I was the one who received the information, should I also be apathetic and stay a coward? I have a decision to make and so do you, my fellow Sarawakians.
We have no choice, but to speak up and be concerned with the on-going misdeeds in our midst. Keeping quiet and pretending nothing is wrong is not an option.
The people of this great Land of the Hornbill must stand up and be counted now if we wish to leave behind a future that our generations to come rightfully and truly deserve.
There is plenty to be shared among 2.8 million Sarawakians. No Sarawakian has to be in need. The insatiable greed of those in power is the root cause of the untold hardship and sufferings of the majority of Sarawakians today.
So, my fellow Sarawakians, let’s be cowards no more. When we plant good seeds now, beautiful fruit grows later. This is my earnest appeal to you all.