KUCHING, Oct 2 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government must urgently address issues upsetting Sarawakians and Sabahans before more of them disrespect the national anthem, Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) president Voon Lee Shan said today.
He claimed discrimination against the two Borneo states and their residents in terms of distribution of wealth, job opportunities and developments has made many resent the federal government.
“The failure to treat the two Borneo states as equal partners with equal status and opportunity in past decades has also affected the dignity of many Sarawakians and Sabahans as citizens of Malaysia,” he said when commenting on the case of eight Sarawakians who refused to stand for the Negaraku at a dinner last Friday.
He claimed Sabahan and Sarawakians identified themselves as such when abroad rather than as Malaysians.
“They simply don’t feel a sense of belonging and pride to be Malaysians,” he said, adding that the authorities could charge the eight in court but this will not stop resentment against the federal government.
Voon, who was a police prosecuting officer before resigning to set up his own law firm, said since Malaysia’s formation in 1963, none in Sarawak has been charged with offences connected to the Negaraku.
“If the people begin to disrespect the national anthem, then, the sense of patriotism is missing because of federal government policies of inequal treatment,” he said.
A video of the eight Sarawakians staying seated while others stood for the Negaraku has been circulating on social media.
The group’s leader, Alex Leong, posted the video on his Facebook account under the name Shaow Tung Leong.
He said its action was a silent protest against the federal government and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whom he accused of reneging on the election pledge to give Sarawak 20 per cent oil royalty.
He had said the group was also angry and frustrated at the PH government for not fully honouring the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
The eight have been called by the police to give their statements following a report lodged against them.
Sarawak Deputy Commissioner of Police Datuk Dev Kumar said the eight, who are members of the Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) civil movement, were being investigated under Section 8(3) of the National Anthem Act 1968, which punishes those found guilty of violation with a fine up to RM100, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month.
Voon, a former DAP Batu Lintang assemblyman, also urged the federal government to come up with a new national anthem that truly reflects the Malaysian identity and culture, claiming that the present one sounds similar to the tune La Rosalie written by a French musician, Pierre-Jean de Beranger.
“There is also a Chinese song with the same tune too,” he said.