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“Neither masters nor slaves” – Chong Chieng Jen

Despite 48 years of nationhood, the ugly spectre of racism is still unable to be purged. Sarawak DAP Secretary Chong Chieng Jen believes this racial attitude, as well as the development gap between east and west Malaysia, are the nation’s greatest stumbling blocks.

“In a multiracial society, there should not be a ‘master-slave relationship’ between races. Sarawak has always prided itself in the harmonious relationship and attitude of tolerance practiced by its people of many races. Neither race is subservient to another,” says Chong.

He regrets incidents of racial provocation that can undermine the good relations between races. For instance, he points out the June 2011 incident in the Sarawak State Assembly where a BN State Assemblyman asked Padungan ADUN Wong King Wei to “go back to China”. In August this year a teacher in a Kuching government secondary school reportedly asked a student of Chinese ethnicity to “balik China”.

“From these two heartbreaking incidents, it can be seen that Sarawak’s harmonious inter-ethnic relations are being polluted by the poison seeping in from (peninsular-based) BN’s extreme racial stance,” the bespectacled father-of-three told The Rocket.

The MP for Bandar Kuching urges the people to fight against this unbecoming way of thinking. He says, offenders who stoke racial tensions should be vilified and shunned by the public at large.

“If BN is sincere in creating 1Malaysia, punishment should be meted out to the ADUN and teacher in the ‘balik China’ incidents. These people are destroying racial harmony,” said Chong.

The Kota Sentosa ADUN fears the escalating trend of racial and religious polarisation, sown by the seeds of mutual suspicion, grievances and hatred. Chong says this is a by-product of the unfair economic policies, uncompetitive quotas and unreasonable socio-religious policies implemented under UMNO’s stewardship.

“Extreme racial policies have divided Malaysians into categories of ‘bumiputera’ and ‘non-bumiputera’. The unseen hand behind these policies is the main political players… they stand to benefit from continuing the corrupt system of governance. So they encourage racist policies and ferment unrest, spreading the terrible message of extremism. By pitting the races against each other, they hope to divert the rakyat’s attention away from their goal of corruption,” he said.

Bridging the gap across the South China Sea

Besides racist policies, Chong believes that East Malaysians biggest grouse is the gap in development across the South China Sea, a matter of deep concern to many East Malaysians who harbour feelings of being left behind.

When Sarawak and Sabah joined the Federation of Malaya and Singapore to form the present-day Malaysia, the 20-point agreement signed by the parties put them on equal footing. However, half a century down the road, the ‘partnership’ of old has grown into an unequal one, as evidenced by the huge difference in development standards between East and West Malaysia.

East Malaysia lags 20 years behind its West Malaysian counterpart as far is development is concerned, says Chong, a lawyer by profession. Those making the journey to Borneo will perceive that the contrast is as stark as that between a developed nation and a backward country, he laments.

Chong cited road connectivity as an example, noting that while Peninsular Malaysia is well connected by a network of highways, East Malaysia lacks proper roads in many areas. Some areas have dirt roads in miserable condition that often lead to traffic accidents.

It is unacceptable that half a century after joining Malaysia, Sarawak does not possess an interstate highway, said the DAP Vice-Chairman. What more, East Malaysia is the largest contributor of petroleum to the national coffers, but only reaps 5% royalty.

“This is a clear example of double standards by the Federal government in treating its citizens from East and West Malaysia differently,” says Chong.

Asked about his wish in celebrating Malaysia Day, Chong says he hopes that all Malaysians will be united in heart and mind and operate by consensus. He expressed a wish for all Malaysians to regards themselves as Malaysian first and their own race second. Also, in implementing policies, the benefit of all Malaysians should be put first, says Chong. -The Rocket