Sarawak has come of age when the people should be able to see a brighter future ahead, be grateful for whatever they have and take cognizance of their humble beginning in order to realise how lucky and blessed they are as Anak Sarawak Rakyat Malaysia (People of Sarawak Citizens of Malaysia).
In 60s and 70s, Anak Sarawak, residing in Kuala Lumpur, admitted that it was easier not to tell people which State they came from, not because they were not proud of their state, but in order to avoid answering some very stupid questions like how many people still lived on trees or how many people still lived in caves or what is the different between Kuching and Sarawak and many more.
Generally, the people, who believed they were superior human beings than their counterparts in Sarawak, had totally lacked of knowledge and information about the State, which had very little exposure by both the print and electronic media, which were and are still biased towards Peninsular Malaysia.
Even now the so-called National papers have little or no coverage of the State. As a consequence, the people in Sarawak are more knowledgeable about events and happenings in Peninsular Malaysia than their counterparts there about Sarawak. Perhaps, the media practitioners there should start asking themselves what are their roles in promoting national integration for example through the movement of 1Malaysia.
Thanks to the third Chief Minister of Sarawak, Dato Haji Abdul Rahman Ya’kub (now Tun Haji Abdul Rahman Ya’kub), who was the man of his time, came up with a slogan Sarawak a model State in Malaysia (Sarawak Negeri Contoh Dalam Malaysia) primarily to boost the morale and confidence of the people.
Until the early 80s, the Sarawak still remained in the backwater lane of development, under-developed and having high incidence of poverty. Then the rate of poverty in the state was more than 10% per cent and unemployment among the people especially youth in villages and longhouses were very high. The demographic pattern of the State was about 80% rural and 20% urban.
The situation gave rise to an explosive feeling of dissatisfaction against the government, which was being accused of pursuing politics of favouritism. Consequently, instigating racial and communal feelings was the best weapon to win support, though a highly divisive support, in any elections.
Of course, the situation has changes with many places in rural areas being connected by roads. The State government, with the support and co-operation of the Federal government has successfully constructed about 30,000 KM of various types of roads throughout the state.
The State government has also been working very hard to develop the infrastructure to provide basic amenities like clean water and electricity that can give some comfort to the people. The electricity will not give light to the people but more importantly the power for children to use computer and serve the internet to get access to information on knowledge and skills and keep up with the progress of the world.
Undoubtedly, Sarawak has been experiencing tremendous changes and progress that can touch the livelihood of the people though some of them are far up in the hinterlands like Ba’kelalan, Belaga, Ulu Baram and Kapit, or in remote coastal areas of Kpg Nyabor near Kabong, Kpg. Penipah in Pulau Bruit, which used to be remote and inaccessible in the early days.
Actually the State’s success during the last 50 years is the same with Brazil, with the per capita income of more than RM40,000 and being a more successful nation in South America. But Brazil has been Independent for almost 200 years, while Sarawak only 50 years.
The State’s gross domestic product in 1963 was RM505 million and now after 50 years of Independence, it is RM108 billion. The per capita in 1963 was RM688 and now it is RM42,000. But the common concerned is what the people actually get.
Undoubtedly, the people, since Independence 50 years ago, are enjoying the benefits of development. There were more people under employment than employment in 1963. Then the people, generally, had to live from hand to mouth. In other words, they had to work first before they could have their breakfast.
By the 70s there were only 300,000 job opportunities. Now there are 1.1 million job opportunities in the State. The rate of unemployment in 1990 was 9.9%. It has dropped to around 4% now.
As a consequence, the rate of poverty has been reduced from more than 60% in 1963 to 2.4% now. The household income in 1963 was only RM410 and now it is RM4,200 an increase of more than 10 times.
Today, Sarawak observes July 22 with a gathering held at the State Legislative Assembly. His Excellency the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud launched a special edition of the pictorial book on the progress and of Sarawak during the last 50 years.
The State Government has given appropriate recognition to the significance of July 22 as it was on this day that the British Colonial Administration, the successor of the 100 years of Brookes’ rule, handed over power to people of Sarawak for the internal self-government; it was the first step toward nationhood.
July 22 must be recognised as a highly significant day for our beloved State of Sarawak as it was on this day, 51 years ago, that Sarawak established the first post Independent cabinet to officially launch a new political entity in the world.
It should truly be a momentous day for Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib as it was on this day 51 years ago that he was sworn in as a member of the first post Independence State Cabinet at the young age of 27 years old. Members of the six-member cabinet comprised of leaders, who had been elected by the people during the June/July 1963 elections.
The primary task of the six – member cabinet was to spearhead a campaign for Sarawak to become a State in the new federation of Malaysia to fulfil the desire and aspiration of the people to become a State in the proposed Federation of Malaysia.
All of them realised that Sarawak could not afford to build its own security and Armed Forces in Asia, which was not stable then. Therefore, the choice of Anak Sarawak and members of the first Cabinet was for the formation of Malaysia to be formalized as a soon as possible. It was the people, who had been working very hard for the Independence of Sarawak to become a state and later a state in the Federation of Malaysia.
They were also pre-occupied with the desire to reserve their customs and traditions and peace and harmony among the various ethnic and religious groups in the State. Obviously, as Anak Sarawak they had to shoulder heavy responsibilities to keep Sarawak to remain harmonious, united and peaceful.
Undoubtedly, Sarawak has achieved tremendous progress, which, at one time, nobody dared even to dream off, a progressive, modern and well-developed State. However, with the rising expectation, the people expect the higher level of progress and achievement in the future. They realize that the achievement during the last 50 years is not completed yet.
The State government, with the support and co-operation of the Federal government has constructed more than 30,000 KMs of roads to various parts of the State since Independence. Before, the people had to use boats or walk to such places but now they can use motorcars or motorcycles.
Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib can still vividly remember having to walk along muddy path, stop in shallow rivers or near the coasts to wait for the tide before he could proceed to his destination during the first years of Independence to prepare the minds of the people for their new roles in the struggle for nation building.
His late wife Datuk Patinggi Laila, who had never seen rural areas, when she accompanied him, had to struggle walking on a tree trunk across a river. They had to face such problems as the state was still poor and grossly under-developed. Now the State has built hundreds of bridges across numerous rivers to connect roads that have already been constructed.
The State has also built hundreds of rural health clinics, introduced mobile health services by vehicles, boats and flying doctor services. Before hospitals could only be found in Kuching, Sibu and Miri. But now 14 hospitals have been built in all divisions and major districts throughout the state. Besides, a number of medical centres including medical specialist centres have been set up by the private sector in cities and major towns throughout the state.
Now 95% of the people in rural areas have clean water supply and 85% have electricity. Besides, they can enjoy better health services and have more employment opportunities coming up in their areas.
In the early days after Independence, young children had to be ferried by boats or walked for some distances to schools. Some rural schools also introduced the school mother system, through which to employ a person for minimal pay, to cook simple food for young children who had to stay in boarding house. Now young children in rural areas can benefit from good facilities being provided in schools.
The struggle for development must not only be continued but intensified to fulfil the hopes of the people for the future. In this regards, parents must give every encouragement to their children to study hard to acquire relevant knowledge and technical skill as the State enters the era of massive industrialisation. There will be a lot of employment opportunities coming up with the transformation of the economy from medium to high income economy.
For this reason, the children must have high ambition and focus their studies to employment opportunities that will come up. Advisably, young people should pursue technical education and training to prepare themselves for the important roles in the development of industries, which is increasingly being accelerated toward the year 2020 and beyond.
Understandably, the ultimate objective is to achieve the status of a developed nation with Sarawak as part of it. For this reason, the spirit of the struggle and sacrifices of the previous generation must be continued in future. That was the spirit, which has given the State a tremendous success in the past 50 years.
Now it is for the present and future generations to achieve, in the next 50 years, Sarawak as part of a bigger nation that is fully developed, industrialized and diversified in the economy. More importantly, they must ensure that the state will have happy people by implementing the correct social policy that makes it possible to achieve greater equality among them.
Obviously, the State has been implementing development policies and strategies, which sometimes differ from the rest of the country, to meet local demands and situation to remain the integral part of the a country that is actively moving toward greater equality. The State is fully aware that any country cannot become successful if any ethnic groups are being left out of the mainstream development.
In this regards, the State government has already planned for a more ambitious development plan in order to achieve greater progress and prosperity than what has already been achieved. The people will be able to benefit more from the development programs and projects through their own initiatives and efforts as development and progress do not roll to the people’s laps.
Basically, the backbone of any nation is the common people, who must work and labour for it. Hence, the people must work hard and cooperate with the Government to push Sarawak forward to become more peaceful, prosperous and progressive towards the year 2020 and beyond.
The Golden Jubilee celebration is an appropriate occasion to remind ourselves that we are Anak Sarawak proud citizens of Malaysia, who are committed to push ahead with development in order to create more opportunities for the people of diverse ethnic and religious groups in order to achieve greater equality among them.
July 25, 2014