Isnin, 28 Mac 2011

Taib, this is what Sarawak Chinese want

Sarawakian Chinese, who make up 26 percent of the state's population, are seen as the biggest vote bank for Pakatan Rakyat to deny BN's two-third majority in the state election on April 16, making the community the most courted constituents in the state.

azlanHowever, despite various attempts by the Sarawak BN government led by the country's longest-serving Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and his ruling partner Supp, there is no sign that the Chinese vote would return to BN.

The recent efforts to regain Chinese support include more frequent meetings with Chinese associations and Chinese educationists, unprecedented allocation of land to Chinese independent high schools, the relaxing of land renewal premiums and the lifting of the 30-year land freeze in Bako.

Taib also claimed that he had talked to the prime minister on the issue of recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), the examination for all 60 Chinese independent high schools in the country.

He had publicly thanked and praised the Sarawak Chinese for their contribution to the state's economy.

The 'carrots' were also coupled with 'sticks' where Taib openly threatened the Chinese community that the areas lost by BN might not get anything after the election.

However, after all these attempts, Taib could not help but indicate that he does not know what the Chinese community wants.

Chinese far from satisfied

Recognising that the state government has made changes towards more equal policies, researcher and author Chan Eng Seng pointed out that they are far from satisfying the demands of the Sarawak Chinese community.

“The disgruntlement of the Sarawak Chinese arises from the unequal policies, administrative deviations and the BN government's failure to uphold the community's rights,” he said when contacted recently.

Citing the land and funds allocation to Chinese independent high schools as an example, Chan said that the Chinese community want the allocation to independent high schools to be institutionalised as a policy instead of offered as 'election candy'.

“Most of the Chinese voters live in urban areas where they are exposed to various information. They are not easily deceived,” said the former journalist based in Miri.

Many observers agreed that similar to the scenario in 2008 general election, the burning anti-establishment sentiment within the Sarawak Chinese community is not the result of a single major factor but a culmination of various unresolved issues accumulated over the years.

To a certain extent, the Chinese in Sarawak share the same feeling with the peninsula Chinese who gave strong support to the opposition in the last general election.

Therefore, the task to diffuse the anger cannot be left only to Taib and Sarawak BN as many of the policies over which the Chinese are concerned, such as education and economy, fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Taib's announcement backfires

Another major factor that could swing the Chinese votes further away from BN is the 30-year rule of Taib, who has been plagued by various corruption allegations.

Ironically, Taib's recent announcement that he would call it a day after forming a team to take over the state leadership, without setting any deadline, might rile up more anti-Taib sentiment, said Chan.

“He has been saying that for the past 10 or 20 years. After the election he could say that he has not found his successor and continue his tenure.

“Why couldn't he find a successor after so many years? Even (former prime minister) Dr Mahathir Mohamad could find one when he wanted to retire,” Chan commented.

The real reason behind the succession issue, said Chan, is that Taib is not able not find someone who can safeguard his own and his family's interests after stepping down.

“He needs to set a specific date or a timetable for the transition plan if he wants to convince the Chinese voters. Otherwise the announcement will not help BN in any way, but favour the opposition,” he added.

The opposition, especially DAP, which aims to capture the majority of the 14 Chinese-majority seats, has thus far hinged its assault against Taib.

The veteran politician, who is known by the Sarawak Chinese as “pek moh” (white hair), has been featured on the front pages of almost every recent issue of DAP's monthly organ Rocket, which has hit sales of 6,000 copies in Kuching alone in the run-up to state election.

Although Taib has contributed to much of the voters' dissatisfaction, ultimately Supp will be the one that faces the brunt as the Chinese-dominant party will contest in all the Chinese-majority seats.

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