OPINION: Don’t blame the voters in Sarawak

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/ANN) - West Malaysians blame Sarawak voters for returning Barisan Nasional in the recent state elections.

Here's zombie syllogism.

Barisan Nasional voters are stupid.

Sarawakians voted for Barisan.

Therefore, Sarawakians are stupid.

The zombie syllogism came alive on Saturday night when Sarawak Barisan won 72 out of the 82 seats up for grabs in the 11th state polls. (Two of those seats were uncontested on Nomination Day.)

In the aftermath of Barisan’s thumping victory, “stupid” messages from zombies went viral on many of my Sabah WhatsApp groups.

Here are two examples:

“Malaysia is better off without a Sarawak that is supportive of racism and corruption of BN in Putrajaya. Sarawakians are not welcomed in West Malaysia and can keep their Sarawak, hornbills and orang utans.”

“Let the Christians in Sarawak get bullied by racist Umno. Do not do anything. Let them suffer for their 30 ringgit (US$7.40) dignity. Stupid people in Sarawak for those who vote BN. Also Selangor and Penang should start to not employ Sarawakians in West Malaysia. Let them work back in their so-called best state. Let them rot there.”

Such messages are nothing new. Until now, 36 months after the 2013 polls (GE13), people on Twitter and Facebook still ask me why Sabahans and Sarawakians were so stupid as to vote for Barisan.

As a Sabahan, I wonder why they say such things.

Are they politically ignorant? Do they have a holier (Opposition) than thou (Barisan) attitude? Have they been brainwashed to think that way? Do they see politics in black and white? Are they (political) zombies?

Have they ever flown out of Malaysia and visited Sabah and Sarawak? (Pssst, that’s a trick question.) Sometimes I think that’s the answer. They’ve never been to the Borneo side of Malaysia.

Perhaps when they visualise Baleh (a remote Sarawak state seat bordering Kalimantan, Indonesia), they think of the Subang Jaya state seat.

I live in Subang Jaya and I’ve been to Baleh. Subang Jaya is just a dot compared to Baleh, that is the size of Kelantan. Baleh is the only 100 per cent Iban constituency in Malaysia.

The voters of both seats have different demands. Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Ronald Kiandee once told me that MPs from Petaling Jaya have different issues that they bring to Parliament, compared to their counterparts from remote areas in Borneo.

“Those in urban areas demand faster Internet whereas those from rural areas ask for sealed roads,” he told me.

I’ve learnt to forget about answering why many Sabahans and Sarawakians vote for Barisan. Most of the time it is a futile effort. Instead of trying to pick my brain on Borneo politics, I feel the zombies are only interested in eating my brain.

But if I’m in the mood for a long protracted argument, I do entertain the question. And I tell them instead of blaming the voters, why don’t they blame the opposition parties.

I’ll list some of the reasons here.

1) Opposition didn’t do their homework. They’ve not serviced the area and yet they expect to win the hearts and minds of the voters during the 14 days or so of campaigning.

2) Opposition dropped a parachute candidate whose shadow the rural voters had not seen for the last five years whereas the Barisan incumbent had served his constituency.

3) Infighting between the opposition parties resulted in the anti-Barisan voters having a menu of candidates to pick. The opposition votes were split, allowing Barisan to win the seat.

On Monday in Kuching, I had breakfast with the victorious PRS president James Masing and his supporters. One of the topics of conversation was the insults rained on Sarawakians over their choice to support Barisan.

“It is actually the voters who are smart. They know that only Barisan can bring them development. There’s a 1.4 billion ringgit road project in my seat, Baleh. My voters are smart to know that if they voted for opposition they would not get anything,” he said.

Masing continued: “If you want to win the votes of the Iban, you can’t just parachute an unknown candidate in.

“My voters know me and I know them as I visit almost all of them in 170 longhouses yearly,” said the Iban leader who has been Baleh assemblyman for the last 33 years.

Masing also told me that the opposition used the wrong strategies to win votes. He listed several and told me not to write about them as he didn’t want the Opposition to learn from their mistakes.

For those who think that Sarawakians are stupid, repeat after me: “There are no stupid voters, there are no stupid voters, there are no stupid voters, only zombies who think so”.

(US$1 = 4.04 ringgit)


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