The Malaya-Sabah-Sarawak threesome is more like a polygamous marriage, with peninsular Malaysia assuming the role of the polygamous Malay husband; Sabah and Sarawak his two wives.
If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, many polygamous husbands are quite content to sponge off their young wives, and like many chauvinists, assert their authority at home, by barking orders at their spouses. Najib Abdul Razak may think he has the upper hand in this union, but he knows that without the support of Sabah and Sarawak, Umno Baru will lose power.
In his Malaysia Day message, Najib declared that both Sabah and Sarawak would not be allowed to lag behind and that all states would receive equal development. Similarly, good polygamous Muslim husbands should treat their wives equally, although the reality is very different.
Najib has a penchant for overseas trips and people have wondered if he is bored with domestic issues, and prefers strutting around in the international arena. There are always people who think that the grass is greener on the other side, or those who wish to avoid the tedium of a humdrum relationship.
The oil and resource-rich states of Sabah and Sarawak are analogous to working mothers. The revenue which they earn, helps to pay the monthly bills. After slogging at the day job, working mothers come home and continue with the household chores, whilst her husband (the PM) sits watching television, feet up, a drink in his hand, ‘ta pau’ on his lap and a remote in the other hand, as he flicks from one channel to another.
As the father sits absorbed with the ongoing reality TV of Umno Baru plots and sub-plots, his babies scream in hunger and needing a change of diapers. He ignores them. The babies are like the vulnerable communities in the interior, who are desperate for decent housing, clean water and basic infrastructure like roads, clinics, schools and electricity.
Around him, the older children in this large, unplanned family, end up fighting each other, when they fail to get their father’s attention. The head of the house does not know how to be a father-figure, nor does he know how to administer discipline. Feeling remorseful, he gives more money and treats to quieten the children. He is unaware he has started a vicious circle of entitlement.
If the sons in the family are analogous to bumiputeras and the daughters the non-bumiputeras, it goes without saying that sons are often spoilt with material goods and cash handouts.
Daughters are expected to pull their weight around the house and help with the chores. Most will harbour secret thoughts of leaving home, to escape the drudgery. If they are at school, they will try and excel. If they can pick up a skill, they will try and make this into a means of earning a living. They remain focused because the end result is to improve their lives.
Confusing parental love with treats
Neglected-but-spoilt sons soon confuse parental love with expensive treats. They become irresponsible, they lack boundaries, they misbehave because they have learnt to manipulate their parents.
For 50 years, Umno Baru politicians have systematically looted and plundered the natural wealth of Sabah and Sarawak for their own benefit. In the analogy of the working mother, 95 percent of her wage is reserved for her husband whilst she struggles to manage her household with the remaining 5 percent.
The husband who has moved his distant relatives into the marital home, to keep an eye on his wife, is inviting trouble. This must be what the Sabahans feel, when they are forced to share their country with 1.7 million illegal immigrants.
In the early years, the children of this Malaya-Sabah-Sarawak union claimed that life was hard, but they were carefree. Today, a pressure-cooker situation exists with restrictions on the children’s movements, their intolerable cramped quarters and a mismanagement of the housekeeping money.
In the film, ‘Kramer vs Kramer’, a little boy is made to testify and choose whether he wants to stay with his mother or father, after his parents’ divorce. Today, the irony is that there are many East Malaysians who wish to see a separation of Malaysia, because their mothers, (Sabah and Sarawak) are not treated as equals by their abusive father (Malaya). Will Najib agree to a referendum for the independence of Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia?
The Malaya-Sabah-Sarawak union has not been a mutually beneficial partnership and some will consider the break-up a tragedy. Divorce is never cheap and potentially, messy.
How will the Sabahans deal with the illegal immigrants brought in by former PM Mahathir Mohamad? There would be a humanitarian crisis and possible bloodshed, if there was a forced exodus of illegal foreign residents.
Will Sabah and Sarawak keep all the military hardware (ships, aircraft and submarines) that are on their territory?
Membership of Asean and the UN would have to be re-negotiated, and international borders assigned. What happens to Labuan? Will Sabah and Sarawak mint new currencies? New banking, currency and tax policies will have to be addressed. Both east and west Malaysians are widely dispersed throughout Malaysia. Immigration rules and work permit requirements will have to be re-drawn.
Will Sabah and Sarawak keep 100 percent of their oil revenue or are there hefty penalties in the petroleum treaty which was signed decades ago? The upheaval will impact heavily on spending, on both sides of the South China Sea.
As in any divorce settlement, some assets, such as gold reserves, will have to be divided. Will it be based on the population density or another formula?
The people advocating for independence will doubtless be working out the logistics of this exercise. Divorce may be painful and expensive, but the freedom is worth every penny.