Goodbye to a difficult year


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  • Thursday, 01 Jan 2015

Lots to clean up: The last weeks of 2014 saw floods submerging six states in the peninsula, with Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang being the worst-hit. — filepic

There is still the danger that extremists will continue to fan the fire of hatred in 2015.

WHAT a harsh year it has been. 2014 saw many natural disasters due to climate woes and changes in the eco-system as well as man-made disasters including tragedies involving aircraft, ferries and mines, to name a few.

The world also saw the emergence of barbaric organisations like Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) that went around killing innocents, attacking civilians and committing cold-blooded murder against journalists and volunteers of aid organisations.

These extremists are also trying to spread their wings to the rest of the world.

We, in Malaysia have not been spared. Malaysia suffered the full force of some of these woes and in fact made world headlines in terms of aircraft tragedies with three such incidents involving Malaysian airlines within the space of a few months.

The last weeks of 2014 saw floods submerging six states in the peninsula, with Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang being the worst-hit.

More than 200,000 people have been evacuated.

I know what it is like to be in the east coast states during the full onslaught of the monsoon. I have worked there before, and life can become a watery hell during the year-end.

For these flood victims, 2015 started on a bad note, with most of them still staying in relief centres and facing the prospect of returning to homes that will be ruined. They will have to rebuild from scratch all over again in 2015.

2014 was also a very difficult year for ordinary Malaysians. We witnessed the escalation of racial and religious extremism propagated by far-right and far-left radical groups in the peninsula states.

People in organisations like Perkasa and Isma had been dousing fuel into controversies, constantly trying to pit Muslims against non-Muslims with suggestions, proposals and views that could create animosity and hatred.

I am sure these groups will continue to propagate their ultra-radical beliefs in the months ahead.

However, 2014 also has its bright points.

It saw the emergence of moderates, including the Group of 25 Eminent Malays in the peninsula who are trying to create bridges to counter the activities of the extremists.

I am sure the confrontation of ideology and ideals between the extremists and the moderates in Malaysia will continue in 2015.

On the local Sarawak front, 2014 saw the emergence of Tan Sri Adenan Satem as the Chief Minister, replacing Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud who had been the state’s number one for the past 33 years.

Adenan has proven to be a blessing for Sarawakians and Malaysians in general, surprising many with the way he defended the state against religious and racial extremists.

His tough stance against extremism and determination to preserve the unity and harmony of Sarawak saw him banning Perkasa chairman Datuk Seri Ibrahim Ali and controversial academic Ridhuan Tee from entering this state.

Adenan had also remained steadfast in his stance that the controversy over the use of the word Allah in the peninsula will never become an issue in Sarawak and that Sarawakians will always be allowed to practise their faiths without hindrance.

His commitment to maintain racial and religious peace in Sarawak has earned him respect across the board throughout the state and country, with even Opposition leaders like Lim Guan Eng praising Adenan for his courage in standing up against extremists.

Adenan had also wielded the big stick in tackling illegal logging and corrupt practices in the industry.

The way he exposed corrupt practices was a big surprise for many people, because it is a well- known fact that the logging industry in Sarawak was controlled by very powerful and influential companies.

He also insisted that the “big six” in the logging sector in Sarawak - the six major companies controlling the industry - be forced to sign integrity-pledges that they will not use corrupt methods to advance their businesses in the state.

2015 will see this war on corruption going into high gear.

Adenan also tried to make peace with the various warring factions among the state’s Barisan Nasional component parties, especially in the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).

Unhappy party leaders in SUPP were allowed to leave SUPP and join the new party, the United People’s Party (UPP) while those disgruntled leaders in SPDP did the same and left SPDP to helm Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras).

That had somewhat lessened the internal politicking in SUPP and SPDP but there are still uneasy feelings across the political arena in Sarawak that UPP and TERAS are just sharpening their knives waiting for the chance to kill off SUPP and SPDP during the next state election due by mid-2016.

There is a real possibility that Adenan may call for an early election before the year-end.

So, will 2015 be a state election year in Sarawak? That is the intriguing question that will be floating around in the months ahead in this state as we head into 2015.

Whatever it is, I feel that 2015 will be a difficult year.

There is always the danger that extremists and radicals among racial and religious zealots in the peninsula will continue to fan the fire of hatred in their quest to see Malaysians torn apart.

Sarawak will have to remain vigilant to prevent these extremists from establishing roots in this state.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is coming into force in April 2015, and will definitely see the cost of living rising on many fronts. It will affect the ordinary rakyat, especially those with big families.

There is also the perpetual danger of more natural disasters in the country, caused by increasing environmental degradation and damage to the ecosystem and the environment.

We all pray for a better 2015 but still, we have to brace our mind and heart for the possibility that it may be an even tougher year than 2014.

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