Sarawakians worry about GPS-PAS alliance

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Retired Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) leaders are worried about teaming up with PAS in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition.

“The (negative) sentiments on the ground about working with PAS are not just strong, but very, very strong,” said Lily Yong, who leads the Kuching branch of the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), which is part of GPS.

“In Sarawak, for over a hundred years, we have had a harmonious, multiracial, and multi-religious place to live in. We should not jeopardise this.

“Although nothing is finalised at the moment, if the formula is to work with PAS, I cannot imagine what kind of Sarawak we will become,” said the former assemblyperson for the Padungan state seat.

“As Sarawakians, we have to speak up, we cannot keep silent. That’s what my conscience tells me. I will voice out to our (state) leaders what the majority sentiment on the ground is.”

Yong, a former SUPP vice-president, said it’s now a “very crucial moment” for GPS leaders to make a decision on how to protect Sarawak’s future.

“We should not gamble on the future of the many people of Sarawak. A true Sarawakian must think about the people of the state, it’s not about personal considerations,” she emphasised.

“I believe our leaders know best what is good for Sarawak and its people. I really pray our leaders have the wisdom to make the right decision to uphold a multiracial, multi-religious and harmonious Sarawak which can continue to prosper.”

Sarawak more moderate

Former Sarawak deputy chief minister George Chan said Malaysia should emulate Indonesia, which is more liberal even though 90 percent of the people there are Muslims.

“We should not become more conservative, that is behind the times. Malaysia should follow Indonesia in terms of having freedom of religion and an open society. We should not become restrictive,” he noted.

When asked how Sarawakians feel about GPS joining up with PAS/PN, Chan said, “In terms of ground sentiment, obviously people are a bit worried. Many people in Sarawak won’t be too happy, because they are fearful of Islamisation.”

However, the former SUPP president said Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Openg “knows what he’s doing” in getting the best benefits for the state, including setting conditions on religious freedom.

But will further Islamisation in West Malaysia eventually spill over to Sarawak?

“Yes, it will. Now we are in unconventional times. I am hoping for the best.”

David Teng, the former assistant minister of housing and public health for Sarawak from SUPP, said, “If we assume that PAS will be in charge, because they have many more seats, this fact alone will make the public in Sarawak feel uncomfortable.”

“If GPS wants to team up with PAS or PN, GPS should take into serious consideration people’s feelings. Any political party which has received the people’s mandate must reflect the people’s concerns,” he explained.

As for protecting Sarawak’s interests, that condition can be laid down for any coalition GPS chooses to join (whether Pakatan Harapan, BN or PN), not just with PN, he explained.

“Sarawak is more moderate. We are different from Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia), which has more racial thinking. We need a drastic change in the rakyat’s mindset to realise that we are truly a Malaysian Family.

“Tunku Abdul Rahman, our first PM, was our best bet to see a happy Malaysia, not necessarily a prosperous Malaysia, but a happy one. At that time, racial feelings were not so strong. Those were words of great wisdom,” said Teng, 77.

Teng, who was SUPP publicity chief and treasurer before retiring from politics ten years ago, added his comments do not represent SUPP but are his own opinion.

Others voice concern

Apart from the SUPP politicians, Sarawak activist Peter John Jaban has called on the Sarawak premier to consider his alliances carefully and reject Islamic extremism, which could make Malaysia a pariah state.

“Can he stop the world from seeing the increasing extremism in Malaysia as a reason not to invest in our future?” he asked, in a statement.

He said a coalition that puts a “PAS puppet prime minister” in the top post is abhorrent to the non-Muslim majority of Sarawakians, especially a politician who uses unfounded threats of “Christian plots” to support his position, said Jaban, vice-secretary of the Global Human Rights Federation (Malaysia).

Jaban added that PN chairperson Muhyiddin Yassin himself showed that he is unfit to be prime minister with bigoted anti-Christian statements on the eve of the 15th general election, which shows either his own religious intolerance, or willingness to use extremist sentiments to win.

“Words have consequences and this kind of platform empowers the worst members of Malaysian society,” said Jaban.

“The majority of Malaysian Muslims are tolerant, reasonable people who want religious freedom, social balance, and economic growth. The majority of Sarawakians are Christians who expect to conduct their lives undisturbed. We must choose an alliance that supports this.”

Meanwhile, Sarawak Report stated that the waves caused by Abang Johari’s declaration to work with PN “have been reverberating in Sarawak, sparking shock and dismay”.

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The portal noted that PAS has never gained a single seat in East Malaysia. Abang Jo, himself a Muslim, knows well to heed the sensitivities of the largely Christian native population. In contrast, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang wanted to see Bibles confiscated over the use of the word “Allah” in Malay-language Bibles.

Sarawak Report added that the insult against Anwar that he is a “front” for DAP holds even more for Muhyiddin Yassin, who will be “front” for PAS while playing second fiddle to it.

The online portal also pointed out that Hadi is the vice-president of an organisation, the International Union of Muslim Scholars, that has been branded as a “terrorist organisation” even by Saudi Arabia.

Muslims of Sarawak take care to behave inclusively and moderately and to tolerate non-Muslim customs, including the use of alcohol.

Sarawak Report then asked – did Abang Jo not court the native parties and Chinese alike for GPS to win in Sarawak? So why the now “slavish preference” to work with PAS? What is so wrong with the more diverse and tolerant Pakatan Harapan and BN combination? – Malaysiakini