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.

(source -

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’.

Gambier Street, Kuching | source -
Gambier Street, Kuching | source -

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:

Untitled Image

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 !@#%*?

Welcome to Malaysia | source -
Welcome to Malaysia | source -

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

23 replies on “Unapologetically Sarawakian (Stories from the East)”

  1. The 18/20 points agreements are an integral part of to the formation of the federation. Otherwise there is no reason at all for sabah and sarawak to be part of malaysia. As it is, w malaysia has been a liability to sns from day one. Sns will b tons better off to be rid of the west,but the west will quickly sink without us. Without the west robbing us, we could have been as rich or richer then spore or brunei. Btw, labuan was wrested from us, pls return it to us, otherwise pls reciprocate by handing over KL, how about that.

  2. How many native East Malaysians can afford to buy properties or start business in West Malaysia. Probably some but not many and they're probably the elite. And can this rich native buy Malay reserve land. Nope.

    How many Bumi West Malaysians can buy land in East Malaysia? Probably more than East Malaysians native. Can Bumi West Malaysians buy Native Title land, yes. A little bird told me that he know of a Malay West Malaysian Secondary School teacher, who owns more than 100 acres of Oil Palm plantation he bought from the natives collectively. With a school teacher salary? Wow.

    How many East Malaysians can work in West Malaysia without restriction. A LOT than West Malaysians wanting to work in East Malaysia I hazard a guess. But how many highly educated East Malaysians compared to West Malaysians in terms of the population. West Malaysia win hands down. It better be. Otherwise, PR would run out of ammunition to win East Malaysians' votes. That would also mean BN is doing a good job isn't it? So there probably more East Malaysians doing menial odd jobs in West Malaysia than East Malaysians having cushy jobs in West Malaysia.

    Let's look at East Malaysia's job market. Do you think East Malaysia has a lot of job opportunities for West Malaysians? One of the Chinese Sarawakians grouses in the recent election was that there's not much job available in Sarawak that their children have to seek employment in other states.

    So let me understand this, you the educated West Malaysians want to find employment in East Malaysia when the educated East Malaysians are flocking out because there's no job? Or do you mean you want to do those menial odd jobs in East Malaysia? Wah, as it is, there's not much odd jobs in East Malaysia that our uneducated East Malaysians have to travel to West Msia for jobs. You mean West Malaysia don't have enough odd jobs position there that West Malaysians want to come to East Malaysia for our odd jobs position. WTH, why are our East Malaysias education challenged natives going to West Malaysia for then?

    And if you per chance had a job offer from East Malaysia, if there's no better East Malaysians candidate and if you are qualified, you probably get your work permit approved without difficulty anyway.

    I agree with you on the alien analogy. We East Malaysians have always felt like alien in our own land/states. It's an oxymoron. We are rich in resources but we are poor. In fact, parliament was told recently that the Dusuns are the poorest of them all in Msia, followed by the Ibans. With the resources we have, we should be able to provide for our children(jobs etc) but we can't. WE WERE FARMED! We have never blamed West Malaysians for our problem. We blamed the WEST MALAYSIAN POLITICIANS and their POLICIES. Someone lamented that after 50 years of nationhood, we still don't understand each other. I agree with her except for the 50 years thing. Our nationhood is actually 47 years old. kweng kweng kweng kweng…

    It is only when the disparity of our development, structural and intellectual, catch up to the West, only then can we East Malaysians feel like we are part of the nation.

    In anycase, I deduce that you just want us East Malaysians to vote for PR because you don't like BN. Ok ok, we will vote for PR. They already got us, at least those that can read and have internet access and not living in the rural area anyway.

    Check this

    – Menjunjung kedaulatan Sabah sebagai negeri sah dalam Malaysia dengan mematikan sebarang tuntutan bertindih termasuk menghentikan bayaran kepada negara asing yang membuat tuntutan itu.

    – Membawa usul ke Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) untuk menuntut hak Blok L dan M yang dirampas tanpa persetujuan rakyat Sabah dan mengambil tindakan mahkamah kepada mereka yang bertanggungjawab.

    – Menyempurnakan sebuah Suruhanjaya DiRaja bagi mencari menyelesaikan kemelut pendatang tanpa izin.

    – Memperuntuk RM1 bilion sebagai modal awal wang hasil royalti gas dan minyak dalam Tabung Warisan Sabah kepada rakyat Sabah yang pendapatan isi rumahnya bawah RM1,500 setiap keluarga.

    – Melaksanakan tuntutan kenaikan royalti minyak Sabah sebanyak 20 peratus dengan menandatangani perjanjian baru dengan kerajaan Persekutuan.

    – Menubuhkan syarikat minyak dan gas yang dimiliki rakyat Sabah dengan modal awal berbayar RM1 bilion dan mewujudkan sebuah konglomerat antarabangsa yang dibimbing Petronas.

    – Melancarkan program Borneonisasi dalam sektor perkhidmatan awam secara berperingkat-peringkat untuk memastikan jawatan utama dipegang rakyat Sabah.

    – Menuntut hak ke atas semua pulau-pulau kecil di perairan Sabah yang tuntutannya belum diselesaikan demi menjamin kedaulatan sempadan Sabah dan hasil minyak dan gas di perairannya.

    – Menghormati dan mengiktiraf hak tanah adat dan menarik semula semua kes mahkamah berkaitan, yang dibawa kerajaan negeri sebelum ini.

    – Mengukuhkan autonomi Sabah dengan menyemak kembali perkara yang termaktub dalam Perkara 20 untuk memastikan sebarang tindakan bertentangan, dihenti serta merta.

    They are fighting for our 20 point and going to implement Borneonization.

    Now do we listen to you or to PR? You say our 18/20 is evil. Does that mean PR is evil because they have adopted our cause? Should we vote for BN, well at least under their rule, the 18/20 was ignored. They probably think it's un1Malaysia, that's why they ignore it. Erh? Doesn't that mean they are the righteous ones according to your argument?

    Dang. Now I'm confused. I probably shouldn't be surfing in LoyarBurok too much. So confusing.

  3. the east malaysians who are in west malaysia can buy properties and land or start businesses as long as they have the money. (with exception of malay reserve land which even the non malays in west malaysia cannot buy)East malaysians can enter and work in west malaysia- no requirement needed ( no work permit, no checks by immigration etc.)The opposite is true for west malaysians.

    Until you are NOT treated like an alien in your own country will you truly know the meaning of being one nation. It's good to be a proud sabahan or sarawakian but what does it feel to be a proud malaysian?

  4. A good piece Andrew. I'm West Malaysian but I have a great many friends from Sarawak and have even been to your great state a couple of times. I have seen firsthand that everything you describe in your article is true.

    What saddens me about the comments above is to see educated, eloquent Malaysians from both east and west hurling daggers at each other. As if we do not have to take enough flak from our own government.

    I will admit that West Malaysian ignorance of Sarawak and Sabah can be quite annoying; and some people's condescending attitude of East Malaysians must be quite difficult for you to stomach. Let me be the first to say that West Malaysians can learn a great deal from their Eastern counterparts, just as Andrew has mentioned in his article.

    From the Western perspective however, we find the automatic hatred that we get from Easterners rather shocking and insulting. Perhaps our government has not honoured the 18/20-point agreement and has been robbing Sabah and Sarawak of its resources, but everyday "lepehs" like us have very little to do with the issue. Prior to the advent of a free alternative online media, most of us were kept in the dark about what happens in the East. We learned about the East from our history textbooks and that was it. I believe I speak for most grass-roots lepehs when I say that if we were ignorant, it was not by choice.

    Also, I agree with Dara that East Malaysians should not automatically assume that the West full of racists and religious-supremacists. There are in fact places in Semenanjung where one can find an atmosphere similar to Kuching where the racial lines are so blurred as to be almost non-existent.

    As for having our rights trod on, be mindful that a vast majority of us lepehs are not exactly swimming in the money and resources that have been taken from the east. The money goes towards lining the pockets of a few people in the administration. Over here, people are kept in poverty also: look at the estate workers and the orang asli, as well as certain kampungs and those who live in the fishing villages. People die in custody here, and no explanation is given, no one is prosecuted. Children are converted to another religion against the wishes of their parents. Bodies of those who have passed away are robbed from their families by religious authorities.

    So, no, my fellow Malaysians from the East. Life is not hunky-dory here. We have our challenges just as you have yours.

    I think the attitude to be adopted is to learn from each other and to establish links from one side of the country to the other. We already see that happening with people from East and West intermarrying, and I think our country is all the more enriched for it. In PJ and KL, there are a great number of East Malaysians, and they bring a wealth of great tales and experiences and perspectives to any table. I find East Malaysia fascinating, exotic, and in many ways, an embodiment of the true spirit of what it is to be Malaysian. But I will not deny that there is much that is Malaysian about the West too.

    Let's stop the hate people. We need each other to build a better future for this country.

  5. prismfire,

    If only people know how to listen instead of hearing, then they would know that Andrew is actually calling for change in Srwk, to boot BN out.

    But it seems that SOME West Malaysians are hell bent on preaching to us. It's their duty to bring enlightenment to us just like the Brits.

    I said SOME and not all West Malaysians.

  6. Dara Waheda,

    “and the Sarawakians still vote for the same state government after all the angers… ….. rakyat…”

    if you are talking about the recent state election, as a Sarawakian, I am not offended but sad at your point of view which sounds like “you deserve what you receive for whom you have elected… don’t blame me or the west malaysians”

    urban sarawakians vote for the oppositions.
    rurals vote for what they need.
    the old guards are smart to divide the electorates so that there are more seats in the rurals compared to the urbans.
    urbans have access to internet.
    rurals have main media propaganda.
    you see? no?
    don’t blame me for blaming you can not see.
    already try to explain.

  7. and the Sarawakians still vote for the same state government after all the angers…pardon my sarcasm…but it has got nothing to do with peninsular…the state choses a local party linked to BN to rule the state…the same thing happens in peninsular…can we blame Sarawakians as almost 1/3 of the parliamentary seats come from the east and no matter how much we vote, if the east Malaysia facilitated the 1/3 nothing can be changed…can the west blame east then? my point was quit blaming others, stand in front of the mirror and judge….your CM is the impliedly one of the most richest person in the world and that has got nothing to do with the west Msia…18/20 points is like NEP, policy used to blind the rakyat…

  8. Dara, the 18/20 points are the the agreement contracts that have not been honoured 100%! Get it? Just like a marriage vow that is broken… Or a promise not kept…. Do you like people who make promises but don’t keep them? Sarawak was “signed away” by our illiterate forefathers… As if that’s not enough…and then for 40 odd years we were paying more for everything, including petrol and gas! We are supposed to be petroleum-producing State! Yet we have to pay more! It was only in June 2008 that Pak Lah equalise the price of oil throughout Malaysia…backdate that to 1963…how many years had Sarawakians been ripped off and overcharged/shortchanged? Can you count, btw? You see, our new colonial masters from the Peninsula hoodwinked our forefathers and only granted us 5% oil royalty while they siphoned 95% off us and how did they use the money from the royalty for? Enrich themselves but keep the Sarawakians and Sabahans poor and illiterate (esp those in the interior)so that they can easily control and manipulate them and “eat out of their hands” to the point of blindly voting in BN candidates election in election out, out of pure ignorance and unfounded fear, as well as undue “respect” to those who bribe them with as little as RM20 per head/vote…if the voters are luckier they get 3-figures, or luckier still, 4-figures per door! Time the gov’t honour the 18/20 points 100%!! And set the East Malaysians FREE from extreme poverty and illiteracy! Sarawak and Sabah deserve better and more! Justice and fairness demand it!

  9. Well Lynn, really? u r telling me Orang Malaya makes Swk more backward? hmmm…orang Malaya can easily buy native lands from Sarawak without CM's intervention? hmmm…i dont know why r ppl so proud of their 18/20 points when we are already under the same flag…

  10. Lynn, thanks for the vote of confidence. Justin, thanks for spotting the (not too subtle it would seem) key words :)

  11. Lynn, no shit. Really? We can't buy native land in S'jung? I noticed that you said you are a Penangnite and yet you identify yourself as 'we' :D. My friend whom is a foreigner also refer to herself as a Sabahan. She's been staying here for more than 20 years. Her heart and soul are Sabahanized.

    I guess you have to live, breathe and wake up everyday in East Malaysia before you can claim to be an expert in East Malaysia and obviously you are :D. You can be an East Malaysian anytime as far as I'm concerned :D.

  12. Hmmm. Did everyone missed the part that Andrew said 'some' friends, 'some' West Malaysians? He's referring to these ignorant people, not all West Malaysians. And the West Malaysians he said are geographically challenge are obviously referring to Politicians. Reread the sentence again please : "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". He could be referring to DPM's statement in March 2011 when he said he did not know that Kinabatangan constituency in Sabah is bigger than Pahang and Tongod district itself is bigger than Selangor.

  13. Andrew, if this is your first publication for Loyarburuk , then I say well done! I hope you continue to write and articulate esp about Sarawak and what the younger generation such as yours expect of the those in governance. Keep it up and I shall look forward to your next article! :D

  14. Dara Waheda, you may have a few friends from Sarawak and Sabah but don't let it get to your head and make you think you know what Sabah and Sarawak is all about! I'm from Penang and even my own relatives think I live in Kota Kinabalu, Sarawak after all these years! And, in Peninsular Malaysia as far as Penang is concerned, MOST Malays will not even enter a Chinese-owned eatery to have a drink unless they have certification from Jakim or whatever. If you are aware of the 18/20 Points Agreement, you would then know that the Immigration restriction is to 'protect' East Malaysians who were much more backward then from invasion by Orang Malaya. As most East Malaysians and document reports will tell you, we are still backward and poorest! And for your information, the discrimination is even greater in Semenanjung as orang Malaya, I am told are able to buy native property in Sarawak but Sarawakian bumis are not entitled to buy native lands in Semenanjung…

  15. Andrew, in peninsular, the word Jakun is no longer accepted as a pun or a joke as Jakun tribe will be offended by the usage of such word whatever the intention is…

  16. ManokSwk

    How many of us from Peninsular are being stopped from entering Swak? Are we the peninsular share the same rights like the Swkian and Sabahan like u guys have when u r in peninsular? Dont talk like as if i dont know my geography and law…how many of your first time coming to peninsular know where Pasir Mas is…I was a local graduate and had the chance of knowing Swkian and Sabahan friends who dont even know where Melaka is…but that's aside, in reality we dont even know each other well after 50 years to call us and ourselves more Malaysian than others…

    Obviously Andrew hasnt gone to Ipoh where or to Klang and some other parts of peninsular to find people eating pork and Malay food side by side…but u wouldnt find it many as most Muslims nowadays strictly following their belief and not many non-Muslim able to know that Halal is not just pork-free food…

    And ManokSwk, I have few friends from Swak and a bestfriend for 13 yrs from Kota Marudu, Sabah, none of them would be writing or talking in such manner….a true Malaysian is a Malaysian who can accept differences and able to differentiate human errors with the reality…

  17. Dara…

    Unequal treatment towards other Malaysians? you treat your 'so-called fellow countrymen' as if they were aliens without even bothering to find out that we didnt have 3 eyes and 2 noses, and you dare say how Sarawakians unequally treat 'other Malaysians'….

    So tell me…are the Malaysians in Peninsular, the TRUE Malaysians? what is a true malaysian? tell me…

  18. Dara, my apologies – Jakun not made referrence to any indigenous tribe/race( Afterall we live amongst a few dozen different communities here in Swak ourselves) but as a pun to the various 'holier-than-thou' Quasi Bigot Depts. In hindsight I should have chosen another acronym. Thanks for the input, thanks HS, Frand, Justin

  19. Hi Andrew, I love your writing especially on the Welcome to Malaysia part. I'm a Sabahan, and sometimes even when I chat candidly with my friend they will go like this,

    "oh, kitorang kat Malaysia macam ni, korang mcm mn eh?"

    And I will be like, hello sister? As is I'm not Malaysian, leave alone how many actually asked me whether I still lives on the tree. God bless them.

  20. You're dead right, Andy. I am in the 60's, born in a shop lot along Main Bazaar. Sarawak, and Sabah, joined Malaysia as "kingdoms" on 16/09/63 with Malaya. Nearly 50 years had passed, I now reflect back this: were we 'sold' off by our former colonial master – Great Britian?

    Many of us tried our level best to be Malaysian. How many Sarawakians, and Sabahans, have succeed, I wonder? They now talk of 1Malaysia – a practice which is so normal in our daily life since I was borned.

    No use crying "spilled milk" now. Change is the option left to us.

  21. Unfortunately, you are not able to see Jakun as one of the Orang Asli tribe in Semenanjung…Jakun has no problem at all with whatever you the city folks want to do…

    your writing reminded me of the unequal treatment of Sarawak towards other Malaysians…talking about true Malaysia konon…

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