Both Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem and I are septuagenarians.
Adenan is 72 and I am 75. We do not have many active political years left.
Let us do something worthwhile in the evening of our life, as promoting democracy, national unity and Sarawakian rights of autonomy instead of abuses of power to prop up a political party past its shelf life.
Forty-two years ago, in Parliament during the debate on the Royal Address on Nov. 9, 1974, I said:
“On 16th Sept, (yes, on Malaysia Day), Sarawak took another step, closer towards Sabah. When I arrived at the Kuching Airport that morning to visit Sarawak and meet SNAP leaders, the Chief Minister invoked State immigration powers and prohibited me from entry into Sarawak. Sabah and Sarawak were given autonomy on immigration to protect youths of East Malaysia from being swamped and displaced by hordes of West Malaysian unemployed, but now these powers have been abused and perverted to restrict free travel by Malaysians within their own country.
“Mankind have dismantled the ‘Iron Curtain’, the ‘Bamboo Curtain’, but we in Malaysia, are erecting the ‘Batik Curtain’ to separate Malaysians from Malaysians! We are coming to a stage where it will be easier for Opposition political leaders to visit Peking or Moscow than to visit Kota Kinabalu or Kuching!
“The Sarawak Chief Minister’s abuse of state immigration powers makes a mockery of His Majesty’s fond hope of the fostering closer relationship between those who live in Peninsular Malaysia with those in the States of Sabah and Sarawak as contained in Paragraph 14 of the Royal Address.”
I asked in Parliament 42 years ago how the objective of fostering a closer integration of the peoples and states of Malaysia – the objective of Rukunegara and Five Year Plans –could be achieved if elected Members of Parliament from West Malaysia were barred from entering Sarawak and Sabah, “while tourists, foreigners and even professional fortune hunters can enter Sabah and Sarawak without a visa for two weeks without questions asked”.
Calling for the dismantling of the “Batik Curtain” and a stop to the “misuse and abuse” of immigrations powers by the Chief Ministers of Sarawak and Sabah at the time, I warned of the adverse consequences of such abuses of power – the failure to achieve the Rukunegara objectives of “national unity” and “a democratic way of life”.
It is really sad that four decades, instead of forging ahead into a new progressive future, we are harking back to an undemocratic past.
It is not necessary for me to remind Adenan of Section 67 of the Immigration Act 1959/63 which stipulates that while Sarawak is conferred autonomy in immigration powers, the “right to enter East Malaysian states for exercise of political rights” where “a citizen entering the East Malaysian state for the sole purpose of engaging in legitimate political activity” is guaranteed and should not be obstructed.
I remember reading a media interview where Adenan spoke of his “close shave with death” due to a heart ailment three years ago and how he was “ready to go”.
He said God had given him a new lease of life to “do what I have to do”.
As I said, both of us do not have many active political years left. Let us focus on the big issues of right and wrong, promoting democracy and national unity, improving the welfare of all Sarawakians and Malaysians and articulating Sarawakian rights on autonomy instead of being bogged down by mundane, petty and momentary issues.
Imposing a blanket ban on DAP and Pakatan Harapan leaders and MPs from entrty into Sarawak to campaign in the 11th Sarawak state general elections cannot be right, democratic or in the interest promoting national unity.
I believe Adenan is basically a decent leader and I hope he will immediately revoke the blanket ban on DAP and Pakatan Harapan leaders and MPs from campaigning in Sarawak for the 11th Sarawak state general election.