Saturday, April 23, 2016

A new era for Sarawak under Adenan Satem

Salleh Said Keruak

When Abdul Taib Mahmud took over as the Sarawak Chief Minister 35 years ago in 1981, Sarawak’s population was just 1.2 million. Today, it has more than doubled and now stands at 2.6 million. More than half of Sarawak’s citizens grew up with Taib as their leader. Two years ago, Sarawak entered a new era when Adenan Satem took over as Sarawak’s fifth Chief Minister.

They say a leader needs two terms of at least ten years. The first term is to lay the groundwork on which to move forward with. The second term would be to see the result of all this. Adenan has been in office for just two years and he has already not only laid the groundwork but has been able to produce results as well. This is a remarkable achievement by any standards.

There are about 1.1 million registered voters in Sarawak. In the previous Sarawak state election in 2011, there was a 70% voter turnout. It is estimated that more than 100,000 of those who will be voting next month would have not voted in the last state election while more than 500,000 will be voting for the first time under a new Chief Minister.

For all intents and purposes this make the 2016 Sarawak state election quite an historic event. The outcome of this election will all depend on what the voters think of Adenan’s performance over the last two years and whether they have confidence enough in him to give him another term of five years. Feedback from the ground shows that the majority of the people of Sarawak are happy with what they have seen over the last two years.

The opposition is contesting this election with the promise of bringing about change if they win. Adenan is not making promises of change. He has shown that he can bring about change and has, in fact, been introducing change in just the two years that he has been heading the state. Adenan is now known as the man who does not talk but a man who just does. And he has done much in just two years.

At the end of the day we will know in two weeks’ time whether the people are happy with what Adenan has done for Sarawak. One bold move was Adenan’s announcement that the Chinese from Sarawak are not ‘pendatang’ but ‘Anak Sarawak’, a thorny issue in West Malaysian politics. He also announced that he wants to raise the dignity of Sarawakians by classifying each ethnicity according to their native group and not lump everyone under the category of ‘lain-lain’.

Adenan also abolished quit rent and stood up for the equality of women by proposing more women candidates. Adenan gave RM5 million to Chinese schools, which in the past had to depend on generous donors and philanthropists for funding. And to solve the problem of unemployed graduates, Adenan launched the Graduate Enhancement Training Sarawak (GETS) programme.

And all this in just a short space of two years! Sarawakians are asking what more can Adenan do and what more will he do if given another term of five years. This is currently the talk on the ground. And Adenan knows that the route to success is to win the hearts and minds of the people. This is what Adenan has done and is continuing to do, so much so that the opposition is no longer talking about taking over the state but to just try to deny Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority in the Sarawak State Assembly.

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