Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The factors behind the Sarawak state election

Salleh Said Keruak

Normally, a new leader is assessed based on his or her first 100 days in office. Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem has been in office for almost 800 days and even the opposition has grudgingly admitted that he has done a good job. You can see from the Sarawak election campaign that the opposition has nothing much to criticise Adenan about.

Since taking over as Chief Minister on 28th February 2014, Adenan has introduced many new policies, which are considered very important to Sarawak or to Sarawakians. Most notably amongst them is the ‘Anak Sarawak’ policy that declares equality for all Sarawakians irrespective of ethnicity and religion. There is no longer any ‘lain-lain’ while Chinese born in Sarawak are not classified as ‘pendatang’.

This one issue alone has been a bone of contention for many Malaysians for a long time and Adenan in one swoop cleared up the matter. Another bone of contention that Adenan wanted settled was the recognition of Chinese schools and its United Examination Certificate for Sarawak Foundation education loans and entry to the civil service.

Further to that, independent Chinese schools received RM3 million in government aid in 2014 and RM4 million last year. And this has been increased to RM5 million this year. Sarawak reduced electricity tariff and ferry services rates and the Lanang and Baram bridge tolls have also been abolished while there is no Goods and Services Tax (GST) on Municipal Council Services.

Sarawak no longer issues any timber and plantation licences while Half Occupation Ticket licences have been cancelled or are not being renewed. Over 30 sawmills handling illegal logs have been closed down and 10% of forestland will be turned into national parks. This is how serious Adenan is about forest conservation.

One very thorny issue is native land rights. Sarawak is increasing communal land while at the same time recognises Native Customary Rights land. To achieve this Sarawak is conducting perimeter and individual surveys to bring the land onto the register. The state is also opening up opportunities for the natives to develop their land on a commercial basis. The amendment to the Sarawak Land Code enables Sarawak Bumiputeras to acquire NCR land outside of their own community.

These are just some of the many changes in Sarawak over the last two years since Adenan took over as Chief Minister. Sarawakians are by and large very happy with these ‘reforms’ and most are of the opinion that Barisan Nasional should be given another five years to see what more Adenan could do for Sarawak and for Sarawakians.

Most West Malaysians did not really know who Adenan is because he has always maintained a very simple life and a low-profile image his entire political career. Just two years in office and many, even from West Malaysia, now understand why Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak appointed him the Sarawak Chief Minister. Today, many say Najib could not have made a better choice than that.

It is apparent that Najib is giving Adenan full backing and is supporting the Chief Minister in all his endeavours. Adenan is the sounding board for Sarawakians and the most important thing is that the Prime Minister is listening. That is giving the Sarawak voters the confidence that Najib and Adenan make a good team, one in Federal and the other in the State, and that Barisan Nasional will be able to deliver what Sarawakians want.

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