A Copernican Revolution: A Personal Success Story of Sarawak Dalam Malaysia

Since I was born in 1953 in the remote district of Lawas, I consider myself as a witness to history of Sarawak in Malaysia.  This year I am 65 years old and Sarawak in Malaysia has reached the magical age of 55 years.  Unfortunately we are in turbulence time that people called political tsunami that toppled the Barisan Nasional government in the recent general election in May 2018.

The tsunami has yet to reached the shores of Sarawak, perhaps in two years time.  This is not the only political turbulence and crises that the state have experienced, there many along the way to nationhood but we withstood all such as the Confrontation in 1963-1966, 1966 Crisis, Communist Insurrection, Pajar crisis in 1976 and Ming Court Crisis in 1987. These were the growing pains of nationhood.

The newly minted and recycled government dismissed everything what Malaysia and Sarawak has achieved in the last 55 years that sounds more of a political rhetoric.  As I said earlier being born 10 years earlier than Malaysia, I think it is grossly unfair to belittle what the state and the people have benefited from the old government. What I am now could be a common story of anak Sarawak.

My story perhaps could be also a story of Sarawak in Malaysia, a journey to success and progress.  I came from a big poor family in a village in Lawas, the last district in the state at that time, the Fifth Division.  My village was in a middle of a forest without nothing, everything was available and provided for by mother nature.  Perhaps beginning about 20 years ago my village has enjoyed all the basic amenities such as road, electricity, water supply, school and a mosque.  Now the once isolated district is linked by good roads to Kota Kinabalu, Limbang and Brunei and of course to Miri and the rest of Sarawak.

Before that we have small planes flying to Miri, Limbang and Kota Kinabalu making the people of Lawas as the people that flew in planes the most.  I first took a plane to Limbang in 1967 to enter Form One of Lawas Secondary School when it temporarily housed at Limbang Secondary School.

Forme One in Lawas Government Secondary School, 1966. Sanib in left of middle row, just behind the American Peace Corp teacher.

Life was tough, of course.  In term of education, secondary schools were far and few, literally.  I have to go to Limbang Secondary School for my Form 4 and Five; then travelled Miri for Form Six in Tanjong Lobang College.  Here in the college I met students from every corner and nook of Sarawak of every ethnic group from remote interior and from isolated from the swampy coasts.  In other words people from all over Sarawak at that time already had accessed to education.  Many of us continued our journey in search further education in universities around the world.  I went to the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in 1973 and pursued my Master Degree after graduation.  Unknowingly, I stayed and worked in Kuala Lumpur for twelve years and became a city boy. Many years later I obtained my PhD from my alma mater.

Today my story may sound like a stone age narrative.  Primary schools are everywhere now for everyone even if there only 20 pupils in the schools.  If in the past was great privilege to enter secondary schools, today its everywhere too, in Lawas alone there four secondary schools.  Yes, Sarawak has its own universities too!  My daughters went through the school system in 1990s and did and achieved that was impossible in time for bumis to passed the toughest subject, medicine and became medical doctors.  This is a breakthrough as soon two daughters of my neighbour also became doctors and now two children of my younger neighbour are studying for medicine.

My American Peace Corp teacher who taught me in Form One in 1966 who has become a professor of economics came back 35 years later to discover that only two of my classmates became farmers like our fathers while 90% of us became government servants, businessmen, police, doctors, teachers and other modern jobs. A respected scholar who has worked in Sarawak described the changes as a Copernican revolution!

I am certain that my success story is a Malaysia success story too.  And I am not alone, there are thousands achieved success too.  Its a dream come true!  Keep on dreaming and stop blaming!

Congratulations and Thank you, Sarawak Dalam Malaysia!

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Studied History as my major from the University of Malaya, in particular history of Sarawak for BA, MA and PhD. My writings come from the English literature and my stories are from history. I have written several books, among them are Malay Politics in Sarawak (Oxford, 1985); Melayu Sarawak: Sejarah Yang Hilang (UNIMAS, 2013; 2nd ed. Saramedia, 2016).

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