In the past decade, there have been dissenting voices regarding the current state of Sarawak within the Federation of Malaysia. It has led to the rise and popularity of a new anti-federalist movement, Sarawak for Sarawakian or colloquially known as S4S.
They claim to champion Sarawakian rights and greater state autonomy within the confines of the Sarawak Constitution. But now the slogan has taken a life of its own.
Some have taken the slogan to stoke anti Malayan and Sabahan in all shape and form. That only born Sarawakian are allowed in Sarawak. Some have hijacked it for political expediency, asking for a state referendum on Sarawak sovereignty.
Where does all this ill will and resentment come from? Decades of perceived neglect in terns of development, draining of natural resources like oil and gas royalties, gradual restriction on freedom to believe and so much more. But that’s the gist of it.
Yet the biggest masterminds have always been her people. The leaders elected to safeguard her people. The loss of state autonomy, the cavalier attitude to natural resources, those whose pockets grow bigger from state coffers and nepotism. It’s an open secret. But people are still swept up in this misguided pride of outsiders in the wrong. Of course the federal government has to take a fair share of the blame for enabling these transgressions. I just wish everyone can take a balanced view on what is happening around them.
The founders of the movement has released a statement that they are not an NGO nor a political party. But people being people, and people have personal agendas.
Many West Malaysians and Sabahans yearn to make Sarawak their home. But strict immigration policies that fall under the state government’s purview (part of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement) means that they have to marry a local to ever permanently reside in Sarawak (non Sarawakians are granted a free 90 day visa for social visits and need work permits to get a job here, not to mention being unable to buy and sell properties or open businesses without a local partner).
Sarawak’s land mass is almost equal to West Malaysia with a population that is grossly uneven. 23 million in West Malaysia and almost 3 million in Sarawak. We lack the critical mass to spur development, support infrastructure and open greater opportunities for the consumer market. And we deny these fellow Malaysians from coming here to give us a boost. Yes there are some extremists that will tarnish the unity and harmony of her people, but isn’t that what immigration control is for?