Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sarawak Headhunter's Letter In Malaysiakini On Sarawak Landmines

Hidden blowpipes for the unwary Malayans

Al Tugauw | Jan 30, 09 3:57pm

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Landmines in Sarawak, Part 1.

This is another masterpiece which I recommend to all opposition leaders, strategists, activists and campaigners, especially from Malaya, to read carefully and learn from, if they wish to topple Taib Mahmud and the state BN in the next state elections.

Rather than landmines though, I prefer the analogy of "hidden" or "silent" blowpipes. These landmines or blowpipes could both work against the opposition as well as the BN.

It is up to the opposition to turn them against the BN.

During the Japanese occupation, the Japanese soldiers by and large did not dare to venture too far outside of the town areas of Sarawak, for fear of the hidden blowpipes. Once silently struck down by the blowpipes, it was a simple matter for their heads to be taken, and quite a few heads that one sees in the longhouses today were made in Japan.

This marked a revival of the Dayaks' headhunting customs of old which had been largely stopped during the time of the Brookes. Needless to say, it scared the Japanese soldiers.

One example can be seen in the Sarawak Museum today, of a Japanese army doctor's head, complete with his round-rimmed spectacles.

There is a lesson in this for the opposition to learn from, which for the time being I will not elaborate on. Suffice to say for now, a silent campaign is more effective in scaring or shutting the enemy out.

This has nothing to do with actually blowpiping them or cutting their heads off - sometimes just the mere threat of the same would be sufficient, and that is merely one aspect of it.

Scare the BN so that they won't even dare to set foot, let alone campaign in the Dayak areas!

Employ silent strategies so that they won't know what hit them!

Mostly this is because they do not make any effort to really get to know, study and understand Sarawakians. Many think they know better about Sarawak than Sarawakians themselves.

These attitudes get them nowhere. What works in Malaya doesn't necessarily work in Sarawak and what works for Malayans doesn't necessarily work for Sarawakians, even more so if there is a complete lack of understanding in the first place on the part of the Malayans.

As an example, what the Kuching Malays do and say is not necessarily followed by even the Malays of other parts of Sarawak, let alone the Dayaks.

The influence of the Kuching Malays does not stretch too far outside of Kuching and they do not have a strong rural power base, which is partly why they have been outmanouevered by Taib Mahmud and why Abang Jo will probably never become chief minister even though he is the Deputy President of PBB.

The centre of the Sarawak Malay anti-cessionist and nationalist movement was Sibu, not Kuching, a factor exploited by Abdul Rahman Yaakub and Taib (both of whose family origins are from Mukah - and Malaya, Kelantan to be more precise).

It is not a coincidence that except for the first Governor - Abang Jo's father - after the formation of Malaysia, all the rest have been from Sibu (in the case of Rahman, Mukah).

If PKR falls into the trap of listening too much to the Kuching Malays and even the Kuching Chinese and Dayaks for that matter, they will never be able to capture Sarawak or get anything positive done.

Does PKR even know who these people are? Can they even identify them? That is now the danger, if we are to depend entirely on PKR. DAP knows better in this regard, but can only be counted on mainly in the Chinese areas of Sarawak, although there are admittedly some DAP leaders who have managed to get some measure of following in certain Dayak areas.

While it is true that all the newspapers in various languages are pro-BN government, the BN control over the formation of public opinions is not as water-tight as it would appear, if the talk in Sarawak coffeeshops and longhouses is anything to gauge by. Notwithstanding their opinions, how the people vote is an entirely different matter!

The tightly controlled flow of information from the state government and its leaders to the people even in the most remote village communities may also backfire against the government administration, encompassing the police, the Residents, the district officers, the information officers, and the agriculture officers, not forgetting the Kemajuan Masyarakat - KEMAS (purported "Community Development") - spies, who report all opposition moves and tendencies to their political masters, who tend to believe their own propaganda.

The opposition must devise strategies to break the people free from this vicious circle of information control, patronage and fear.

The opposition must convince the people that they are capable of being a viable replacement government to the BN and that their leader can replace Taib as chief minister. Is there such a person amongst the opposition ranks today? Will there be such a person?

The Chinese form a substantial majority of the electorate, and even in rural area towns may be somewhat influential. I have seen Chinese voters even in smaller towns exercising fairly independent judgment.

DAP can and should still play an important role here, especially where the Chinese vote could be a deciding factor.

The opposition has to up the ante here. PKR newspapers and newsletters, even VCDs, for example, should be made more widely available at an affordable cost, preferably at no cost, especially throughout rural Sarawak, in Iban and other native languages as well.

This will offset the lack of reach of the Internet and would even prove to be far more popular than the BN-controlled media.

Include as much of the blog writings and comments as possible and allow for open debate - this will make the opposition media a good and inexhaustible open source of material, narrative and discourse on the political affairs of Sarawak.

It is high time also for Pakatan Rakyat to start thinking seriously about having their own TV and radio stations, if they really want to capture Sarawak in the next state elections. Beam them in from Kalimantan, Indonesia if necessary.

That will give Taib and the Sarawak BN not just many sleepless nights, maybe even a few heart attacks.

As correctly pointed out by the writer of the article, in the political consciousness of Sarawakians, they are probably Sarawakians first, and Malaysians second and that he still reads on the Internet postings on Sarawak blog sites reviving the call "Sarawak for Sarawakians", the battle cry of the Sarawak National Party (Snap) in the early 1970s, before they were vanquished to the political wilderness.

I plead guilty to this, but have now changed it to "Sarawakians for Sarawak" on the advice of a good friend. Anyone has a better battle cry? And anyway, who can blame Sarawakians when they have been completely and shamelessly exploited, especially by the BN Malayans and their Sarawak counterparts?

It is also true as he says, that this anti-West sentiment was successfully manipulated by the Supp against the DAP in Sarawak throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

The irony of course is that the SUPP, being part of the BN, has also been more than subservient to the Umno Malayans.

It is not all empty logic though, even as he complains that "there are many postings by supposedly Dayak netizens on the sites of Sarawak bloggers calling PKR a West Malaysian party".

He is mistaken however, in saying that "they could be genuinely misinformed Sarawakians, but then they could be agent provocateurs preparing the ground for BN parties." That is the only faulty perception on his part.

The fact is that PKR is a Malayan party. There are no Sarawakians in any senior positions in PKR. Anwar Ibrahim, the informal head of PKR, has even made himself head of PKR Sarawak (and for good measure Sabah) as well. How does that accommodate Sarawakians in PKR? What misinformation or faulty perception is that?

Whatever it is, I am certainly not a BN agent provocateur.

Or perhaps so that PKR may learn to use the local blowpipes and blowpipers against the local BN. To do this they will really need to get to know well the Sarawakians they are dealing with and take advice from the right Sarawakians and treat Sarawakians properly. Can they and will they?

Are they willing to give Sarawak back to Sarawakians? Or are they willing to give Sarawakians their rightful place in PKR and in Malaysia?

Sarawakians for Sarawak!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree very much the idea that PKR should give some senior positions to Sarawak, especially from Dayak community which occupies more than 26% od Sarawak population. This will reflect the recognition of Dayaks' committed participation and given the share to voice on party's policy and strategy.

While agreeing with Swk Headhunter's idea of "blow-pipe" strategy, I think open campaign, talks and information sharing are both of same importance. The 2 being applied together will have better results than using too much on one tact.I say these based on some shared opinions from those "eyes & ears -in the silent" observers from governmental agencies.

Best wishes to PKR/DAP/PAS for a 2009