By David D. Mathew
In an article published a day after the Sarawak polls, Utusan Malaysia's Awang Selamat was of the opinion that greater appreciation should be given to those who supported the BN and as such, a clear message has to be delivered to the Chinese community for rejecting the BN and supporting the DAP.
According to Awang, the state Barisan Nasional government should no longer be too generous in allocating representation in government to the Chinese community.
Awang further opines in his piece that there is now a new reality – that the BN needs to ignore the Chinese and instead focus on the other communities.
What a load of nonsense.
It seems that Awang has conveniently forgotten that it was the Chinese community that overwhelmingly supported the BN in 1999 when over half the Malay vote went to the opposition.
On the back of Anwar's Reformasi movement, the Malay vote swung mainly to PAS and it was Chinese support that dragged BN across the finish line with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
I do not recall anyone from Utusan Malaysia calling for BN to stop being too generous in allocating government positions to the Malay community after the 1999 General Elections.
I do not recall anyone from Utusan Malaysia at that time calling for the BN government to ignore the Malays and instead focus on the Chinese and Indian communities.
A government is bound to serve every citizen – even those who did not vote for it.
As Larry Flynt once said, "Majority rule only works if you're also considering individual rights. Because you can't have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper."
A government cannot collect income tax from everyone but ignore the interests of the taxpayer that did not vote for it.
The taxpayer that did not vote for the government is not a traitor. He is as much a patriot as the next guy who did.
In fact, the taxpayer that voted for the opposition keeps the government on its toes. He ensures that the government does not rest on its laurels.
Without a credible challenge against the BN government in Sarawak, there would not have been any pressure on Taib Mahmud. The Chief Minister would not have even bothered offering to step down despite being in power longer than Hosni Mubarak.
If the Egyptian experience is anything to go by, we ought to be thankful that this was achieved through the ballot box.
Without the 2,505 Ba'Kelalan voters that cast their votes to give Baru Bian victory, the indigenous peoples of Sarawak would not have such a strong voice fighting for their native customary rights within the State Assembly.
A total of 672,667 votes were cast in Sarawak last Saturday.
With a total of 372,379 or 54.5% of the popular vote, the BN obtained 55 seats.
The opposition earned 300,288 votes which gave them 12 seats for 45.5% of the popular vote.
The 45.5% of voters in Sarawak that rejected the BN threw their lot behind the opposition whose message mainly centered on endemic corruption in the state, Taib Mahmud's never-ending tenure as Chief Minister and the impounding of bibles.
The new reality of Sarawak politics is this.
The people will not keep quiet when a leader hangs on to power for too long. George Chan's defeat in Piasau is a good example.
Religious freedoms are important and any attempt to circumscribe them will cause the loss of votes. The fact that the BN government ordered for the release of the Bibles in Sarawak and hurriedly issued the 10-point solution on the eve of the election shows that this is true.
The success of native customary rights lawyers Baru Bian and See Chee How shows that Sarawakians will no longer keep silent in the face of their native customary rights being dissipated by big industry.
Instead of marginalizing those that voted against the government, the BN should reach out to voters that voted against it and consider their grouses whether or not they are Chinese, Dayak or Iban.
It is the demands of these voters that keep the government honest.
It is these voters that have changed the landscape of Sarawak politics forever.
Most importantly for the BN, one day it may need the votes of these voters – just like it did in 1999.