Dr Mahathir’s vicious attacks on multiculturalism and secularism is a manifestation of Malayan imperialism and colonialism that threaten Malaysia’s territorial integrity.
His earlier claim on June 28 that non-Malays want to change the country from Tanah Melayu to a multiethnic country and his latest claim on July 3 that it is unconstitutional to promote Malaysia as a multiethnic country reveal the malicious mind of a Malayan imperialist and colonialist who sees Sabah and Sarawak as nothing but colonial possessions of Malayan Malays. For all his attacks on Western imperialists and colonialists, Dr Mahathir has become one when he looks at Sabahans, Sarawakians, and Malayan minorities.
By insulting Sabahans and Sarawakians as subjects of Malayan imperialism and colonialism, Dr Mahathir is declaring war to the very idea of Malaysia. If by being part of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak were to become appendices of Tanah Melayu, and Sabah and Sarawakian natives to be assimilated as Malayan Malays, there would not be a Malaysia in the first place. Sabah and Sarawak would have stayed on as British colonies and wait for our own independence at a later date as Brunei did in 1984.
Sabah and Sarawak are proudly multicultural and inclusive. As in Malaya, we have Malays – Sarawak Malays and Brunei Malays – and Chinese and Indians. We also have Kadazan-Dusun-Murut, Bajaus, Suluks, Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Hulu, Melanaus and may other groups. Don’t pigeonhole our natives as Malayan Malays. We celebrate inter-faith harmony and multilingualism. We eat on the same table. We celebrate each other’s festivals. We will stay this way and not be assimilated into bigotry and segregation.
If any Malayan Malays carry the imperialist and colonialist mindset and treat Sabahans and Sarawakians as subject of dominance and assimilation, then they are effectively advocating Malaya’s separatism from Malaysia. For the longest time, many Sabahans and Sarawakians have been wrongly accused of separatism. We never want separatism if Sabah and Sarawak enjoy freedom, prosperity and justice within Malaysia as promised. If separatism ever gains popularity, it is nothing but the response to Malayan imperialism and colonialism.
Dr Mahathir, listen clearly from us if you ever need a reminder: Sabah and Sarawak are not colonial possessions transferred from Great Britain to Tanah Melayu. We did not opt to replace British with Malayans as our colonial masters in 1963.
In Sabah’s state anthem “Sabah Tanah Airku”, we proudly proclaim: “Merdeka sepanjang masa. Bersatu segala bangsa Sentosa. Sabah negeri merdeka.” Likewise, Sarawak’s state anthem “Ibu Pertiwiku” underlines sovereignty within Malaysia: “Sarawak Dalam Malaysia, Aman makmur Rahmat Tuhan Maha Esa. Kekallah Sarawak bertuah, Teras perjuangan rakyat, Berjaya Berdaulat!”
When Malaysia was formed, it was a union of four multiethnic and secular countries: Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. If the plan was to become appendices of an ethnocracy as Dr Mahathir wants Malaya to be, Sabah and Sarawak would have stayed out. If anyone want to change the social contract in 1963 by internally colonising Sabah and Sarawak, then they are taking Malaya out of Malaysia, because the Malaysia Sabah and Sarawak signed up in 1963 is a land of freedom and democracy, neither an ethnocracy for Malays nor a theocracy for Islamists.
To satisfy his imperialist control on Sabah, Dr Mahathir deliberately divided and ruled Sabah’s multiethnic people with religion, so that relatives and neighbours would fight each other. He even assaulted Sabah’s sovereignty with Project M that enfranchised foreigners whose votes he could control. It is sad that he squandered his second chance to serve Malaysia and redeem his wrongdoings in 2020. It is sadder now that after losing his deposit in the 2022 general election, he wants to undo Malaysia to stay relevant. He wants so much to cringe on his past that he is happy to deny all Malaysians a better future.
We Malaysians must not fall into Dr Mahathir’s vicious plan to divide and rule. We must instead stand together to affirm the original Project Malaysia that our forefathers and foremothers signed up to in 1963. We must decentralise all Malaysian states and materialise the promises in Malaysia Agreement 1963. As we enter the Merdeka months of August and September, let us solidly rally behind the Madani Government that upholds all Malaysians and denounces bigotry, hatred and colonialism. While Sabahans and Sarawakians do not get to vote this round, we hope voters in Selangor, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu will send a clear message to reject ultra-nationalism, colonialism and imperialism championed by Dr Mahathir and company.
Wilfred Madius Tangau, MP of Tuaran, Sabah, Malaysia