Lina Soo, leader of the State Reform Party (STAR) in Sarawak, and Robert Pei, a lawyer who has studied Sarawak constitutional law, spoke at a Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) forum this past Saturday. The talk focused on the document trail describing the formation of Malaysia and the incorporation of Sarawak and Sabah into the union. It also discussed the electoral dynamics operating in East Malaysia today.
In brief, Sarawak was an independent kingdom in the 19th century, ruled over by an Englishman who had been bestowed the title of Rajah by the Sultan of Brunei, in exchange for suppressing pirates and in some cases the natives. After the departure of the Japanese after World War 2, Sarawak was ceded to Britain by one of the Rajah’s descendants. The British accepted the offer partly to incorporate Sarawak into Malaysia as part of its friendly bloc of anti-communist nations, and partly for the natural resources.
The people of Sarawak waged a national liberation campaign which at times deployed armed guerilla tactics against the British. From the conception of the Malaysia Agreement up till today, the people of Sarawak were given little or no say over the merger decision and many internal self-government matters. The argument thus goes that Sabah and Sarawak are in fact subjugated colonies we inherited from the British, which the Malaysian state continues to exploit today.
Thanks to everyone who came for our first meeting of Semester two! We had a wide-ranging discussion about the recent leadership announcement by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the current prospects for the impending general election.
Our presenter gave a brief overview of the contents of the announcement, including the breakdown of the leadership lineup, the first-100-days plan, and a short history of the Harapan coalition. We then moved to consider what effect Bersatu’s entrance into PH has had on its policy platform, and the potential outcomes for a Pakatan/BN victory in GE14. Finally we looked at the possibility that we may be facing a “lesser-evil” style choice, and looked at the example of France and the US to see what civil society and activist groups were doing around the elections.
There are more displaced people today than there have ever been – over 20 million people today find themselves forced from their homelands by war, poverty, famine and genocide. In this meeting, MPOZ looks at the refugee crisis facing Malaysia and Australia, and asks what brings a government to turn its back on and vilify the most vulnerable people on earth.
The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority in largely Buddhist Myanmar, who have been systematically brutalised by the military, even as the democratically-elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi refuses to intervene. The Malaysian Government has seen fit to use the Rohingya as a political tool, claiming that it champions the rights of Muslims around theworld.
Yet the government remains silent on the various other minorities in Myanmar, and turns away Rohingya boats from our shores. And of course, there remains resentment against the migrant population in Malaysia, who suffer abuse and exploitation from the government and from ordinary people even as they keep our cities running.
Australia’s record on refugee rights is no better. Since late 2013 it has been government policy to indefinitely detain all boat arrivals in offshore detention camps, in miserable conditions with no hope of resettlement. The way in which these refugees are scapegoated as a security risk, as job stealers and queue jumpers, is eerily familiar to Malaysians. From the refugee movement here we also see how people power can force an end to refugee cruelty.
Join us and find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the refugee crisis and the politics behind it! Snacks and prayer space provided, as always. All are welcome. Experience not necessary!
On the 31st of January 2017, MPOZ contacted the Election Commission of Malaysia (Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya – SPR) seeking clarification on voter registration and voting procedures for Malaysians overseas, especially Malaysian students in Australia.
MPOZ acknowledges the traditional owners of the land we meet on -
We pay respect to the Elders both past and present and extend that respect to other Indigenous Australians past, present and emerging.
The land was never ceded, and the struggle for Aboriginal recognition continues today. Always was, always will be Aboriginal Land.