BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA AND DESMOND DAVIDSON
The Malaysian Insider
1 August 2014
A straw poll has confirmed a trend that Sabah and Sarawak folk are becoming more restive, with many urban Sarawakians even talking openly about leaving the federation.
The straw poll of 100 revealed that 72% of Sarawak folk felt that leaving the federation was the best option, with only 14% in Sabah agreeing.
The straw poll also revealed that 43% of them believed that the best way for Sabah and Sarawak to solve their problems was to leave Malaysia and go at it alone.
Secession is considered treason under Malaysian law.
The poll indicates that deep feelings of mistrust and disenchantment still exist between the peninsula Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak half a century after the federation was formed on September 16, 1963.
Results of The Malaysian Insider’s straw poll are similar to previous online surveys which showed that more and more in Sabah and Sarawak want to leave the federation.
A senior Sarawak-based academic who looked at the poll results said there was a wide difference between the Sarawak and Sabah respondents in their analysis and understanding of their problems.
“The Sabahans have a better analysis of what are the core problems of Sabah. But the Sarawakians’ analysis is impoverished,” said Assoc Prof Dr Andrew Aeria.
The poll was conducted via face-to-face interviews with 50 residents each from Sabah and Sarawak from all age groups.
Respondents were interviewed in Kota Kinabalu, Penampang and Papar in Sabah. Sarawak participants were from Kuching, Serian and Sri Aman.
Some 70% of Sabah and Sarawak folk polled thought Putrajaya did not treat Sarawak and Sabah fairly. The number was again higher among Sarawak folk than Sabah.
Among the Sarawak folk, 96% said Sarawak’s biggest problem was that Putrajaya did not treat them fairly.
This answer was chosen from a list that included local economic downturn, high crime and too little development or not enough jobs.
Sarawak respondents complained the state not getting its fair share of development funds from Putrajaya. This is while Sarawak supplies Putrajaya with oil revenue every year.
Many complained of poor roads, murky treated water supply and constant power blackouts in Sarawak’s interior.
Most Sabah folk or 42% also felt that the federal government did not treat Sabah fairly. Some 32% said the Putrajaya was fair to Sabah.
However, 57% of the 100 polled said they were satisfied with the performance of the Sarawak or Sabah government respectively.
Some 76% of the Sarawak folk polled were satisfied with the Sarawak government. While among the 50 Sabah folk, 38% were satisfied with their government compared with 32% who were not.
The majority of Sabah folks polled or 52% said that the flood of illegal immigrants was their number one problem. This was followed by a slowing economy at 18%, not enough development (10%), high crime rate (8%) and not enough jobs (6%).
Aeria, a political economist based in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), cautioned against taking the poll as representative of what Sabah and Sarawak folk think.
He said the responses from the 50 Sarawak folk were likely from those who had access to the Internet. These individuals had their political attitudes shaped by what was on social media.
“The Sarawak respondents have swallowed the opposition propaganda whole, that the federal government is to be blamed for all of Sarawak’s problems.
“Instead of having deep discussions about Sarawak’s problems, they are playing the blame game,” said Aeria.
He said there was strong anti-peninsula federal government sentiment in last year’s general election that was fanned by both Sarawak Pakatan Rakyat and the Sarawak Barisan Nasional.
Sarawak BN went around urging people to only vote for “orang kita” or native parties. Voters were exhorted to reject candidates from peninsula-based parties, such as those in PR.
Coupled with PR’s rhetoric against the federal BN, this conflated into an anti-federal feeling directed at Putrajaya. The sentiment overlooks Sarawak BN’s own complicity in Sarawak’s problems.
The responses from the 50 Sarawak folk seem to show how this anti-peninsula sentiment is shaping political discourse in Sarawak.
“If you are mad with the BN federal government, why are you still voting for the BN state government? Sarawak BN is still part of the federal BN. It’s an impoverished analysis of what Sarawak’s problems are,” said Aeria. – August 1, 2014.