SHARE MY DREAMS

Posted on September 17, 2012

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MALAYSIA DAY SPEECH BY BARU BIAN

I have the greatest honour, privilege and pleasure to welcome you all to Kuching on this auspicious day to witness a pivotal event. Today is a day which will earn its place in Malaysian history as THE day when the people took the first steps in reclaiming the power to chart the course of their destiny. We have waited many years for this day and I thank you all for being here with us to witness history in the making.

My friends and countrymen, on this momentous day 49 years ago, the countries of Sarawak and North Borneo came together with Singapore and Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia, firm in the belief that this federation would be a real partnership of four countries striving together for their mutual security, development and prosperity.

Our forefathers greeted that day with huge dreams and mighty aspirations.

Sarawak and Sabah being lands rich with oil, timber, gold, fertile lands and a harmonious and hardworking people, they had everything to look forward to. The future was brimming with the promise of a federation of vibrant, thriving countries, populated by happy, healthy and secure peoples of various races and ethnicities.

But after 49 years we ask ourselves:

Does every citizen benefit from the immense wealth of our country? Does everyone have access to the basic amenities of this modern era such as electricity, clean water and proper healthcare?

Are our lands and heritage being protected for the future generations? Are our children receiving the best educational opportunities? Are our Sarawakian and Sabahan workers highly skilled and meaningfully employed?

Have the dreams of our founding fathers been realized? Or have those dreams turned into nightmares for countless people who call this once ‘fair land’ Sarawak home?

Why are we constantly saying ‘Barang naik, barang naik’ and finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet?

Why are the Malays of Kampung Sampadi unhappy that the surrounding lands where they ‘cari makan’ (earn a living) were included in a lease issued to a company owned by outsiders?

Why are the Ibans of Melikin still struggling to defend their ancestral lands from the marauding plantation companies?

Why are the Kayans & Kenyahs of Baram fighting to stop the drowning of their lands by the dam builders?

Why are the people of Bakun still waiting for compensation for the lands taken from them almost 13 years ago?

What happened to our lands, forests, our trees and natural resources? I am reminded of an Indian proverb which states: “After our environment is destroyed, after all the trees are cut down, after all the rivers are polluted, after all the fishes are dead, we will realize that money cannot be eaten.”

Fellow Sarawakians, in 1915, Charles Brooke at the sitting of the State Assembly warned our forefathers that after his time as the Rajah of Sarawak,

“…others may appear with soft and smiling countenances, to deprive you of what is solemnly your right – and that is, the very land on which you live, the source of your income, the food even of your mouths? If this is lost to you, no amount of money could recover it.

He continued,

“Unless you follow this advice you will lose your birthright, which will be taken from you by strangers and speculators who will in their turn become masters and owners, whilst you yourselves, you people of the soil, will be thrown aside, and become nothing but coolies and outcasts of the island.”

And today the Rajah’s greatest fears are realized. The prophecy of the betrayal of the trusting people has come to pass. While the people slept, the thieves came softly in the night and took our lands, casting us aside.

Tragically, the betrayers of the people are not strangers but our own leaders.

Sarawakians did not only have the betrayal of their own leaders to bear – on the national front, the rights which our founding fathers were so eager to safeguard and which were inscribed in the Malaysia Agreement were insidiously chipped away over the years. Those leaders who were meant to look out for our interests have been asleep on their watch. Or were they were too busy looking out for their own interests to care?

And so today, the native landowners have lost their lands, their heritage and their birthright. The citizens of Sarawak and Sabah have lost the elements of control over their own destiny, elements for which our founding fathers meticulously negotiated.

My friends, in the same year as the Federation of Malaysia was formed, on August 28th, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Martin Luther King Junior delivered his famous ‘I have a Dream’ speech that brought about enormous fundamental change in the discrimination and poverty that affected the African American population of America.

In this speech he said that the African American people then lived on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of wealth and material prosperity. His speech gave hope to thousands of Americans.

Today I conjure up the spirit of the “I Have A Dream” speech of Martin Luther King because our political rivals have recently called me a “Dreamer”. But it is not wrong to dream, no matter how dark the night. No matter how formidable the obstacles, it is only right that we should have a vision, for it is said that where there is no vision, the people perish.

Yes, my fellow countrymen, it is true. I too have a dream – I have a shining vision for the ordinary and downtrodden people of Sarawak.

I have a vision for a better life and a brighter future for our children and the generations to come.

In my vision, the wealth of the land is used for the benefit of ALL the people.

In my vision, the landowners reap bountiful harvests from their lands and have plentiful to eat.

In my vision, the government is led by humble leaders who serve the rakyat with integrity, never forgetting that they are but the servants of the people on whose goodwill and co-operation they are entirely dependent.

In my vision, our schools teach a first rate curriculum and our children are given every opportunity to acquire skills and qualifications to properly prepare them to face the challenges of life.

In my vision, the government provides safe and adequate infrastructure for the people and sound policies for economic development and growth.

In my vision, the airwaves and television screens carry balanced and accurate news so that the people are properly informed.

In my vision, the people are free to practice the religion of their choosing without any interference from the authorities.

In my vision, the sick and infirm are given the best medical care.

In my vision, Sarawakians and Malaysians of all races who have the determination and drive are given equal opportunity to succeed and prosper.

I am told by the nay-sayers that I can only continue to dream about bringing a change to the lives of the poor and the marginalized. Those who have the most to lose are fearful of change and therefore pour scorn on my dreams, my hopes and my vision.

But I know all of you who are standing here today share my dreams. I know that the people in the far reaches of the interior hills, from Long Semadoh in Ba’ Kelalan to Kampung Rejoi-Nyegol in the Bengoh ranges share my dreams. I know that the people of the rivers, from Kapit on the Rejang River to Marudi on the Baram River share my dreams. I know that the people of the towns, from Lundu in the East to Limbang in the West share my dreams.

The dreams of our forefathers may have been crushed by the ruthless and greedy pretenders who came in the night. But we, the people of Sarawak are a resilient people. We now reject the nightmare inflicted upon us by those who have stolen from us. We have begun to revive the dreams that were dreamt for us by those who came before us. Your presence here today is testament to my unshakable belief that we all share the same dreams, that we will play our part to ensure that our beautiful country is a place where peace and prosperity prevails, where justice and fairness and equality are the right of every citizen.

My fellow Sarawakians, as we enter the 50th year of this partnership with Malaya and North Borneo, I can see clearly the opportunity for us to achieve our dreams. Our brothers and sisters from Peninsula Malaysia are here to lend support to us as we reclaim the rights which are paramount to our welfare.

The leaders from Pakatan Rakyat have wholeheartedly consented to honour the agreement that was signed by our forefathers which, up until today, the government has preferred to ignore. These leaders are here to show their sincerity and their commitment to helping us to realize our dreams. Today, the spirit of the Kuching Declaration is ignited and will continue to glow in our hearts as a constant hope and indeed of the promise, of better days to come.

My friends, almost 50 years after Martin Luther King’s electrifying speech, America has changed beyond his expectations. In 2007, an African American named Barack Obama announced his lofty dream to the nation, proclaiming: ‘For that is our unyielding faith – that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.’

I call upon all of you, my friends, to be the agents of change. You hold the power to decide the direction our beloved country will take. What you choose to do on the morning of the next polling day will have immense consequences for your lives and the lives of the generations of Malaysians to come.

We face the prospect of at last creating a society that is fair and just, of having a government that recognizes the fundamental rights and privileges of all our citizens in this wonderfully rich and diverse land.

My fellow Sarawakians and Malaysians, on this day, which marks the beginning of our Jubilee year, I call upon all of you to embark upon this exciting journey with us as we forge ahead towards restoring a country that is finally strong and free, a nation where all her citizens may live in true peace and harmony.

TOGETHER WE WILL MAKE OUR DREAMS AND VISION COME TRUE!

God Bless Malaysia, God Bless us all.

Baru Bian
16 September 2012

(A lawyer trained in Australia, Baru Bian deals with land rights issues in his native Sarawak. He is the elected Sarawak state assemblyman for Ba’kelalan.)

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