By Francis Paul Siah
AT last, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg has cleared the air. Sarawak will not change the state’s name to Sarawak Darul Hana.
I wonder why it took the chief minister that long to do so. The issue has been hotly debated for weeks with many Sarawakians expressing their unhappiness and resentment over the purported name change.
Perhaps Abang Jo has good reasons to delay the announcement. Probably, he wanted to gauge the reactions from Sarawakians over the Darul Hana name. And he got the message loud and clear.
Sarawakians are not in favour – in fact, they strongly abhor the mention of the Arabic term – Darul Hana for their home state.
The controversy actually started about a month when PAS sent out a message with the inscription “Sarawak Darul Hana” which caught the attention of netizens.
Almost immediately, the social media went abuzz with many Sarawakians expressing their objections with anti-Darul Hana postings.
In one voice recording, which went viral, a man believed to be a Sarawakian spoke his mind on the matter and why he is unable to accept any attempt to change the state’s name to Sarawak Darul Hana.
He noted with disgust any attempt to categorise Sarawak as an Islamic state which he said was totally unacceptable since the majority of Sarawakians profess the Christian faith.
Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg
“Our homeland has always been known as Sarawak Bumi Kenyalang. It should stay that way. Other states can change their names to Selangor Darul Ehsan, Johor Darul Takzim, Kedah Darul Aman or Pahang Darul Makmur, etc. That’s their right to do so.
“For Sarawak, we prefer that our homeland be known as Bumi Kenyalang, a name synonymous with Sarawak and which is known all over.”
The man explained that Darul Hana means “Home of Peace” in Arabic, stressing that there is no reason for the hornbill state to adopt an Arabic name.
“Sarawakians, including our Malay/Muslim brethren, are not Arabs. We live in Asia, not in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East,” he pointed out.
I must have received the recording several times and other similar postings in various chat groups.
I refrain from partaking in the debate on the issue over the past few weeks as I do not think it was officially endorsed by the state government.
With the chief minister’s statement on Monday, I’m glad I had exercised patience and did not jump the gun by joining the chorus of unhappy Sarawakians in condemning the name change.
The chief minister told reporters in Kuching: “This issue is being played up by PAS. Whatever PAS wants to say, let them. But there is no attempt (by the GPS government) to use the term ‘Sarawak Darul Hana’.
“PAS has purposely created this issue because they have no other problems with the state government.”
I am glad Abang Jo did not hide his disappointment with the Islamic party, coincidentally an ally of GPS at the federal level.
Explaining further, the chief minister said: “What we have now is only Jambatan Darul Hana and Kampung Darul Hana in Kuching,” adding that it was no easy task changing the state name to Sarawak Darul Hana as this had to go through the state assembly for approval.
Sarawak PAS commissioner Jofri Jaraiee said “Darul Hana” was used during the rule of Sultan Tengah from 1627 to 1657 and the term meant a harmonious and safe place for everyone.
Sarawak PAS commissioner Jofri Jaraiee
To Jofri, let me say this, please do not bring your PAS brand of religious extremism to Sarawak.
Sarawak will never be an Islamic state. Secularism is the norm here and Sarawak does not even have an official religion. We are happy with our way of life and respect the multi-faceted religious practices of all faiths.
I am also glad that five local NGOs have issued a statement stating that the continued use of the suffix “Darul Hana” by PAS could disrupt racial and religious harmony in the state.
The NGOs wanted PAS and other groups to immediately cease using the term “Sarawak Darul Hana”.
They claimed using “Darul Hana” when describing Sarawak was an attempt to change the state’s identity from a secular state to one based on religion.
As I write this, there was a report that two practising Christians from Sabah are suing PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang over the latter’s alleged anti-Christian statement.
“We respectfully state that the defendant has made an unfounded statement and cast aspersions on Christians and/or Christian missionaries.”
Why am I not surprised that Sabahans and Sarawakians consider Hadi’s brand of mixing politics with religious fervour bordering on extremism unacceptable in the Borneo territories.
On record, Hadi has also declared that only a Malay/Muslim can rule Sarawak. It is clear that the PAS chief knows next to nothing about the Sarawak Constitution pertaining to political leadership in our beloved Land of the Hornbill.
Yes, it is Sarawak Bumi Kenyalang, and never Sarawak Darul Hana.
It will do you, Hadi and your party acolytes a great deal of good to bear that in mind.
As a Sarawakian, let me say this – We don’t need PAS in Sarawak. You have next to zero support in our homeland. So, try your luck elsewhere.
Francis Paul Siah is the author of Hijack in Malaysia: The Fall of Pakatan Harapan. This piece was reproduced from his blog.