ADUN SPEAKS Once again, the country is abuzz with preparations for the Merdeka Day celebrations, and Malaysians are being asked to fly the Jalur Gemilang.
This Merdeka Day is a good occasion for all Sarawakians to look back at our history, and to acknowledge the importance of having accurate knowledge of Sarawak’s story, through the last century or so, for it is only when we are in possession of accurate facts that celebrations become meaningful.
In the living memory of all Sarawakians, Aug 31 has been celebrated as Malaysia’s Independence Day each year.
We were all caught in the untruth that Aug 31 was our common independence day.
The reason for this is not to be found in any document - perhaps it was a way the politicians thought would be best to foster integration between East and West Malaysia.
Sarawakians swallowed this untruth for many years until the voice of a few good leaders slowly grew into the strong and steady demands of many for historical truth to be accepted and honoured, that the significant date for Sarawak and Sabah is Sept 16, the day when Malaysia was formed in 1963.
To its credit, the Selangor government under Pakatan Rakyat was the first to celebrate Malaysia Day on Sept 16 in 2009. After that, in 2010, the federal government followed suit and declared Sept 16 as Malaysia Day and a public holiday.
The past five or six years have seen many half-truths and untruths being exposed.
We’ve realised that we are equal partners
In Sarawak, people have realised that contrary to what we have been taught to believe, Sarawak and Sabah are not merely states within the country of Malaysia, but that we are equal partners with Malaya in the Federation of Malaysia.
We have also asserted that there is no official religion in Sarawak and that English is one of our official languages, besides Bahasa Malaysia.
We have begun to wake up to the fact that we had rights under the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, but these rights had been eroded by the federal government over the years, leaving us in the position we are in today, the poor and neglected cousins across the sea.
The inescapable fact that history has proven is that the truth cannot be suppressed, no matter how the authorities and the rich and powerful try to do so.
Just take our neighbouring countries Indonesia and the Philippines as examples. Their past leaders, once revered and hailed as heroes, have been unveiled as corrupt dictators and these countries are seeking the repatriation of the money stolen from the people.
In the Malaysian scene, the horrific details of grand corruption on an unimaginable scale are being exposed in the unfolding 1MDB saga. Murders, conspiracy plots, international financial fraud - and yet those implicated in the scandal refuse to take responsibility, and shamelessly continue to mislead the public.
Our elected reps failed to protect our rights
However, I am confident that justice will prevail eventually as more and more Malaysians are calling for truth and justice to be upheld. In our reflections, we must also look inwards, and take our share of the responsibility for the situation we are in.
When Sabah and Sarawak lost our veto power of 34 percent parliamentary seats, our MPs and chief ministers let it happen.
When the Federal Constitution was amended to make Sabah and Sarawak mere states within Malaysia, we let it pass without objection.
When the Petroleum Development Act was enacted, putting us at a major financial disadvantage, we did not protest.
When the Territorial Seas Bill was debated in 2012, we did not raise a squeak, resulting in the loss of our sovereignty over the resources in our continental shelf.
Our own representatives failed to protect and secure our rights, whether through ignorance or for political expediency.
With the realisation of what had gone on before, and the appreciation of our history, we can start to right the wrongs that have been perpetrated, and indeed, we have begun the process of reclaiming our rights.
This is a positive and exciting time for us, and I hope that we will continue to appreciate the truths in our history while we mature as a nation.
As Aug 31 is celebrated throughout the country, let us reflect on these truths, and let us never forget that the truth will prevail, sooner or later.
It is my hope that Sarawakians and Sabahans will henceforth be free from historical and political blindness.
Let us refuse to be enslaved by ignorance any longer, for as the good book says - the truth will set us free.
I wish our fellow Malaysians in Malaya a Happy Merdeka Day.
BARU BIAN is the state assemblyperson for Ba'kelalan and Sarawak PKR chief.