Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Sarawak has been part of Malaysia since 1963. Yet each time I visit it feels like a very different world than Peninsular Malaysia. For one thing, the girls of Sarawak are not only delightfully friendly, they're also impossible to resist. The tribes have mingled genes over the centuries - not only amongst themselves, but also with a wide spectrum of European adventurers. And Chinese genes are evident almost everywhere one goes - testimony to the far-reaching influence of the Ming Emperor in the 15th century when master navigators like Admiral Zheng He commanded enormous fleets that sailed more than halfway around the world, establishing diplomatic, economic, and genetic links wherever they dropped anchor.

However, until the political paradigm shift of March 8th, 2008, I noticed that few Sarawakians were inclined to openly discuss politics. The impression I got was that their long-reigning Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud, had inherited the mantle of quasi-divine power established in 1841 by James Brooke (right), the young English sea captain who planted the Union Jack in Borneo and crowned himself King. In effect, political power has been jealously guarded by the Chief Minister, his family, and his close business associates for decades. Anybody who wasn't happy with the situation had only three options: keep their mouth shut, go to jail, or leave the island.

Since GE12, however, things have changed dramatically. I noticed that almost everybody I bumped into in Sarawak was subscribed to Malaysiakini - or else was an avid reader of political blogs like Malaysia Today. Although no one expressed any rebellious views, they all seemed a great deal more relaxed and ready to embrace inevitable change. The general feeling was that Taib Mahmud's time was almost up - and that what Sarawak needed wasn't more of the same old feudal patriarchy and its politics of patronage but a quantum jump into participatory democracy.

There's been a great deal more political gossip after the March elections than ever before and one juicy morsel I picked up during my recent stay struck me as something I ought to blog about. I can't disclose my source, but I have no doubt that the information is reliable. Apparently, a great majority of Sarawak politicos are keen to realign themselves with the Pakatan Rakyat - and the Barisan Nasional is acutely worried about this. To deter Sarawak MPs from crossing over, BN has resorted to blackmail.

Recently, the Attorney-General (left) was despatched on a secret mission to dissuade potential party-hopping frogs from taking the leap. He was armed with incriminating evidence culled from years of Special Branch dossiers on a few prominent Sarawak politicos. They were told: "Hop and you will land yourself in hot water!"

Now this is bad news for everybody, no matter how you look at it. First, it only reinforces the popular perception of politics as a truly dirty business; and reveals the SB and the AG as totally partisan tools of the BN (which is evident anyhow to any impartial observer). Secondly, it indicates that BN will use any and every means at its disposal to cling on to power indefinitely. No trick is too foul, no crime too dastardly, and no option too outrageous - BN simply will not accept defeat!

So the only recourse left is to declare a blanket amnesty on the political past of any BN leader who crosses over to Pakatan Rakyat. No matter what accusations of corruption or scandal the BN throws at them, the Rakyat will offer them the Chua Soi Lek option - that is, admit your past misdeeds, apologize for them, and declare your willingness to start on a totally clean slate. Nobody I know thinks ill of Chua Soi Lek (pictured right) because he handled his sex scandal with aplomb and dignity. He acknowledged that the guy in the video was indeed him, apologized, and resigned. By so doing, Soi Lek successfully maintained his integrity and established himself as one of the all-too-few honest BN leaders. If Chua Soi Lek chooses to revive his career in politics, he would do well to quit the moribund and meaningless MCA and join either DAP or PKR. Everybody I've spoken with has only positive things to say about his track record as Health Minister.

Speaking of Soi Lek, I picked up an interesting tidbit about the people behind the sex video sting. Apparently, they had links to pharmaceutical and medical suppliers who used to enjoy lucrative wheelings and dealings with Soi Lek's predecessors. However, Soi Lek took over the Health Ministry and decided to put a stop to the hanky-panky. Obviously, there are lots of sore losers around whose knee-jerk reaction is to resort to dirty tricks.

Folks, we really are left with no option but to dedicate our efforts to accelerating BN's demise as a political force. To allow such unevolved and unenlightened entities to continue to misrule Malaysia for even another six months would be entirely ruinous to our national destiny.