As far as Andrew Voon‘s concerned, Sarawak’s where you can still find the true essence of what’s Malaysia – acceptance, living together and respecting each other – alive and thriving. And if West Malaysia wants to forget that, then that’s its problem. Just don’t drag us East Malaysians down that narrow path with it.
UH-OH, WHAT’VE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO? Seriously, for someone who has not written anything more than work emails and business proposals in the last 10 years, it’s more than a mental block that I have to deal with. It’s not unlike getting a 50-year old who only knows how to ‘pangkah dacing’ his whole life to ‘mark the Rocket’.
Growing up as a kid on the banks of mighty Sarawak River, along the Gambier Street shophouses, I was fortunate enough to experience 1st hand the ‘rojak’ of cultures that’s Sarawak – not only did we ‘tolerate’ each other’s existence, we mingled. You had the ‘tambang’ operators from across river, the kopi-o stall taukeh, the long-eared Orang Ulu who’d just stepped off the green-coloured STC bus at Ban Hock Lane, the tattooed Iban, the ‘kuli’ at the docks, the mee jawa and satay seller who plied his trade outside a Chinese kopitiam, the Indian spice trader, the barber shop frequented by men and children alike from all ages.
One example was my late grandmother herself – 60ish at the time; she spoke maybe a dozen Malay words. Yet there you have her chatting away animatedly with the Malay ‘cikgu’ from across river. Scenes of strangers who’d just met sharing a coffee-table by the roadside were the norm, rather than exception. These are sadly, lost forever in the name of “development”.
One common feature though that has thus far withstood the effects of “national intergration” and Umno-styled, polarizing politics of “race and religion” is most aptly describe not in words but the photo below which I took off a Borneo Post article about a week ago:
Sarawak is the only place where I’m able to have Chinese ‘kueh chap’ and Malay ‘Mee Jawa’ in one meal, at one place. Sarawak is the only place left where I’m able to having my pork-filled meal while chatting away with a Muslim friend who is having a halal spread. In public. And I fully intend to keep it that way. If JAIS, JAKIM, JAKUN or any other acronym has an issue with that, talk to my Sarawakian hand!
Just in case anyone is wondering which planet I came from, if the 18-Point Agreement were to be respected and upheld, Sarawak is rightfully ‘secular’, with Islam being the Official Religion of the Federation.
Moving away from food, aren’t we tired of constantly being told what to do by our ‘Big Brothers’ from the Semenanjung? Everyone, (even MIC!) has an advice or three, despite some of them being geographically challenged – some friends still think that Mount Kinabalu is in Kuching. And how many of us got the ‘Welcome to Malaysia’ greeting before [email protected]#%*?
Isn’t it about time to dish out some payback?
It’s time for Sarawakians to offer our countrymen from across the South China Sea some advice in return.
After all, most of us can tell that Kangar is in Perlis and Kota Tinggi is in Johor. As responsible members of the Federation, shouldn’t we weigh in on the current Lynas Rare Earth Plant controversy? Let’s tell Koh Tsu Koon’s Gerakan how to retake Penang. Time for us to stand up and show the rest that we are not just a mere State, that we are a third of the Federation – let’s act the part!!!
One day, when a Sarawakian assumes the office of the Prime Minister without having to change his name, religion and join UMNO… idealistic or not, that to me is the true measure of Malaysia’s success.
ANDREW VOON tweets @andrewBMG and believes that patriotism is not about flag-waving, chest-thumping nor religious one-upmanship