Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sarawak Politics, Economics & Philosophy

Politics is about power.

The current political fight in Sarawak today is about the struggle for power. Whether it is the Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, both are now trying to convince the voters why they should vote for them and not the other group. So, what is the difference between the politics in Sarawak, and the politics elsewhere?

Between the politics in Sarawak and those in the Peninsular, the current arrangements on both sides of the water are similar - racial political parties conveniently come together to form groups each with a multi-racial front. In Sarawak, on the BN national front, there is PBB which is supposed to represent the Bumiputra which is odd because you also get in it other Dayak groups such as PRS and SPDP which are Bumiputra as well, in addition to SUPP which is generally taken to be predominantly Chinese. On the other Pakatan front, Keadilan is supposed to be a front runner but in reality DAP is the stronger and both are Peninsular-based parties. Appended is SNAP which is taken to have a Dayak dominance.

What you are now witnessing in Sarawak today, as well as in Peninsular, is racial politics at its best. You have grievances even among the Bumiputra where, in the Peninsular, the gripe is UNMO-putra, whereas in Sarawak the culprit is the one and only and his cohorts. Both probably come straight out of a leaf of the NEP. The Chinese and everybody else then see themselves as orphans in an unloved disorganised family with a greedy and roving-eyed father. In Sarawak, the opposition talks of the dilemma of ungrateful urban Chinese juxtaposed against the poverty-stricken rural natives or indigenous people, when the reality may simply be the everyday fight for survival, against poverty or fear of not having enough. There is poverty in the urban areas as well as in the rural. Remember that when the rural people come to town, they become the urban poor. In towns, when the parents did well, the NEP makes sure that they do not have new opportunities.

It is a terrible thing when an affirmative policy such as the NEP has become a racist policy that is used to deprive the majority for the benefit of a few. It is equally unacceptable for the alternative to champion the interests of the now-deprived Bumiputra or non-Bumiputra to the exclusion of Bumiputra. It is this racism in Malaysian politics as well as in Sarawak that is objectionable to rational-minded citizens of this country. For this reason, thereby, my contention is that the current battlelines are drawn at the wrong points by the opposition; it could be the result of the early stages of development in Malaysia as well as Sarawak.

In all countries everywhere and for all people in all countries, the greatest fear is economic survival with eyes being opened wide as a result of the internet where the whole world is collapsed into a picture frame made of plasma or pixels. We know of everything we want to know, and while we marvel at technology, we fear for ourselves and our children. In such a world of great nervousness, there is a great demand for reassurances and governments around the world guarantee it by printing money and getting into massive budget deficits. With massive budget deficits come inflation, now on a global scale, which means that it hits also the poor little indigenous people or the non-indigenous people on the wrong or better side of Borneo. Their home-grown output, be it the processing of local foods or the processing of local materials into tourist items called handicraft, however much they produce and sell is inadequate for them to enjoy a piece of the advances of modern technology as the terms of trade is wrack-smacked against them, thanks no doubt to the multi-award multi-year winning central bank that we have in keeping this country economically competitive while the people deprived.

Under trying localised circumstances, there is nothing but humanity for all citizens of Malaysia, and some say Sarawak, to argue for a level playing field economically at the very least for everybody, be that somebody a Muslim or non-Muslim, Bumiputra or non-Bumiputra. It is time we do away with racism of any guise.

In Sarawak, the two oldest multi-racial parties are the SUPP and SNAP, and their full names say so: the Sarawak United Peoples' Party and the Sarawak National Party. Fill these two parties with well-educated, well-intentioned young and energetic people of all races - if they can work well in other countries and survived, they can do likewise in Sarawak. Let them fight on the economic ground: between big businesses and the welfare of the people. There is much can has to be done to re-position Sarawak which for now, in economic policy terms, is nothing but an adjunct to Peninsular-centric economic (and political) policies. There is a need to refocus on Sarawak as an wholesome and self-sustaining unit rather than merely a supplier of energy to the Peninsular either in the form of oil and gas or hydroelectric power. There must be a way to retain these natural resources for use locally.

I find the current political fight in Sarawak boring on fundamental issues, though not for want of theatrics by masters in their defined fields. But the outcome on 16 April can be devastation of one kind or another.

1 comment:

walla said...

When we think about it, politics is just a particular justification to assemble a government machinery to run services for the people of a state.

The government machinery is itself composed of people in the state together with other resources provided by the state.

So that the election process which is a highlight of politics is just a means to select the type of justification to organize resources to run people services which would include servicing the continuation of such activities as would prolong the well-being of the people of the state in tandem with resolution of any conflicts arising from polarization between means and ends.

From which we may conclude that if a state is stripped of politics, then what remains is only the issue of how to select the track that will lead to the running of services for the people.

Let's imagine a tooth fairy appearing in this blog. She waves a wand and voila all political groups and politicians disappear in a cloud of smoke. What happens next?

Besides consternation by environmental pollution groups, there is a nasal void. Perfect peace and silence. No cacophony. The papers have less pages. And headlines are less sensational. The editors may even have to scramble special illustrations into their pages three, taking cue from the latest craze in home videos.

Next the peoples will have to nominate representatives from their midst to sit down and organize what to do next. In gated communities, these reps could be your next door neighbour whose house has just recently been burglarized.

Such a group of people representatives would then if earnest draw up an organization and operational system, both forming an enterprise in a free market that is the state.

Now the question next is how to insert the justification element for how such an enterprise is to proceed.

Since no one in this loose group is a politician, the criteria for what constitutes a justification element reduces to one basic principle - how to get things done to maximum satisfaction of the constituents at lowest cost to the state but highest efficiency by world standards.

In a mono-setting, and by that is meant natural equilibration, that basic principle acts without polarity.

But in a plural-setting, such as we find in our case, that basic principle will naturally be distorted one way or the other in some give-and-take elbowing, if not horse trading, somewhere in the grid formed by two axes.

The problems start because the two axes are not of the same length for different groups. The x-axis says short term. The y-axis says long term. The imperatives of one axis are not the same as those of the other axis, depending on which group is doing the talking.

In our specific case, this axial problem is further compounded by other axes shooting out of flatland in every direction imaginable. Like missiles lofting from silos.

Except that these missiles, programmed by such esoterics as race, right, privilege, symbol and so on, are guided by outdated global-positioning maps. Wrong maps can only yield wrong targeting.

In our plural case, the map is so complicated even the terminator skynet computer has given up. Because as we can see for ourselves, the number of possible permutations is actually astronomical even by the single dimension of ethnicity, what more aspirations, fears, and all the humdinger emotes of homo sapiens:


Thus we finally find ourselves that the only way to go forward is to take a shave using Occam's Razor.

And simplify by reducing the justification element to its most molecular form - the mono basic principle adjusted for plural requirements in the x-axis but without penalty on the y-axis.

Otherwise, and soon enough, we will hit null. Which is extinction.