The clueless person’s guide to Sarawak

By Erna Mahyuni
March 30, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

MARCH 30 — Hello, West Malaysians! Most of you have not visited the lovely state of Sarawak though you at least know that it’s not in the peninsula.

If you don’t know that, I am afraid there is no help for you so stop reading.

For the rest of you, you first need to know the following fact. Remember it. Commit it to memory.

Kota Kinabalu is not in Sarawak. No. It is the capital of Sabah so please get your geography straight. There is no faster way to alienate an East Malaysian than by mixing up Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu is in Sabah; Kuching is in Sarawak.

If you still find that hard to remember, imagine a big smiling fat cat in the chief minister’s office when you think of Sarawak. Geography teachers, feel free to thank me.

On to other essential facts for you West Malaysians to know so the natives will dislike you less.

1. Sarawak is the biggest state in Malaysia. 125,206 sq km. Sabah and Sarawak together form about 60 per cent of Malaysia’s total land mass. We like to believe that the concentration of idiots is more on your side, though. Perhaps we will send you over some orang utans to raise the collective IQ that has been brought down by all your politicians.

Also, do not call that Kinabatangan rep an ape. The apes will sue.

2. There is no “Bahasa Sarawak”. If you ask a native if they can speak Sarawak, they will look at you funny. There is, however, a funny colloquial kind of Malay some Sarawakians speak that is a funny mix of Brunei Malay. The natives will understand your Malay just fine.

A few words of the Sarawak Malay vocabulary:

Au: Yes (also used in Brunei)

Sik: No

Manok: Chicken

Kenak: Why

Kedakya: Like that

Bulak: Lie/falsehood/bull

Fun phrases to know: “Kenaknya kedakya?”, which means “Why is he/she like that?”, and “bulak kau” meaning “you’re making that up.”

3. Dayak is a collective term for more than one race. There are the land Dayaks or Bidayuh and the sea Dayaks, comprising the Iban. So please don’t assume everyone in Sarawak is a Dayak. There are also the Melanaus who may either be Muslim or non-Muslim, so do not make assumptions. On that note…

4. Leave all your assumptions about race and appearance at the immigration counter. That tanned Sarawakian could be non-Muslim so don’t stare at him when he has char siew in Kuching. That fair-looking person could be Sarawakian Malay so please do not be shocked if she greets you with the traditional Muslim salam.

5. Don’t get a Dayak started on land rights. Unless you understand how native land rights work, be cautious when entering into a discussion with a local. The local paranoia about losing native land is so ingrained and, unfortunately, justified.

Sarawak is very much like a foreign country for most West Malaysians. The food is different, the landscape is different and you will find that besides the clean modernity of Kuching, the rest of Sarawak looks like a backwater

But despite the lack of development, do yourself a favour and do not talk down to the locals. I have worked with people who assume that East Malaysians are country hicks and “stupid.” Sarawakians are proud of their state, love their local food and are generally intolerant of idiots who treat them like idiots.

Like you would anywhere else in the world, in Sarawak be polite, don’t assume and try not to act like an imbecile. This writer will not be held responsible if you ignore this advice and find yourself in a ditch somewhere in what is left of Sarawak’s timber reserves.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 9:50 am

    To tell West Malaysian how different Sarawak is

    oo – yes
    Manok – Chicken
    huwad – false/lie
    bakit – why

    Pronouce it and hear the similarities to the above.. These are FILIPINO words…

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 9:53 am

    So that’s why that white-haired fellow outsmarted the not-so-bright Najib and Geng.

    And why the local coffee shops cum restaurants in PJ have been taken over by the smarter Sarawakians who now sell kolok mee and Sarawak laksa. Parts of the Klang Valley is now Sarawakian territory.

    West Malaysia will soon be colonised by the Easterners. No wonder Bung is always smiling when he is in town chauffeured by a not-so-with-it actress, no less, and he treats Parliament as his playground.

    Is Putrajaya safe anymore?

  3. #3 by sheriff singh on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 9:56 am

    Filipino words?

    Gee, even the smarter Sarawakians have conquered and influenced the Phillipines.

  4. #4 by k1980 on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 10:02 am

    Nothing about the clueless Dayaks of Sarawak who kept voting the whitehaired crook to power for the past 30 years?

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Friday, 3 June 2011 - 12:24 pm

    Is dat kena binatang rep fr Sarawak?

  6. #6 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 4 June 2011 - 6:31 am

    Notwithstanding all the salient sensitive issues highlighted, Sarawakians should hold themselves responsible and accountable for keeping the Pei-moh for so long; surely not because oure ignorant. It gonna be a tough act, but education and information are the only way out for the people. Sarawakians have been induced to fear fellow Malaysians from Peninsular in term of losing out jobs and stiff competition but such things are also spurs for them to develope and improve. Yes, Sarawakian leaders are happy, indeed they plan continuously to keep Sarawak as it is so that they can go on doing what they have been doing. Of course, the biggest threat is the introduction of social divide from the Peninsular. This Sarawakian s MUST thread with utmost care because all the progress will mean NOTHING if some of the current social practices and propaganda are ‘imported wholesale’.

  7. #7 by cemerlang on Saturday, 4 June 2011 - 11:47 pm

    The Kinabatangan rep is a lover.
    There is a Bahasa Kelantan, Bahasa Kedah, Bahasa of the various states.
    The former deputy chief minister is not a Dayak and is not a Melanau.
    If a Muslim can have a Western name, why can’t a non Muslim have a Malay name ?
    Some Dayaks get land for free.
    Why is Sarawak another country for West Malaysians ? Because they need passports to come here.
    Why everybody knows Sabah and get mixed up with Sarawak ? Because Sabah has UMNO.
    Sarawakians are not stupid. Probably they do not have the same problems as you the West Malaysians and that is why they remain quiet. They are contented with what they have now. When they see what is going on in West Malaysia, they do not want that here. They are not used to that sort of thing yet because there is not a need to do so. West Malaysians always say that each time they come here, they see a lot of smiling faces. That is contentment. Should the day comes whereby you find a lot of unsmiling faces, then you know that it is a different Sarawak. Like UMNO says, if you do not like it, you can always go back. Sarawakians do not go back. They go forward. They go to Australia. They go to New Zealand. They go everywhere else. And UMNO will forever be stuck in Tanah Melayu ? Even CM goes forward.

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