THERE was a lot of tub-thumping about fighting for Sarawak when Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) was officially launched last weekend.
This was unsurprising as the ruling state coalition, formed by the four component parties which quit Barisan Nasional after GE14, has made "Sarawak First" its slogan.
Some 8,000 party members and supporters packed the Indoor Stadium in Kuching for the glitzy launch event, waving GPS flags and chanting "Sarawak First!" in response to every rallying cry of "GPS!" from the stage.
One by one the party leaders took the rostrum to expound on how Sarawak could finally take charge of her own destiny with its own coalition consisting purely of local parties.
According to one of them, Sarawak was finally "free" from the dominance of Peninsular Malaysia parties after 55 years to decide what was best for the state.
As for the charge that GPS was old wine in a new bottle, another party leader said this actually indicated political experience and maturity, and was better than Pakatan Harapan which he likened to new wine capped by an old cork.
Carrying on the theme, the Chief Minister said the launch marked a new era in Sarawak politics, with GPS ready to determine the state's future and to keep fighting for the restoration of state rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
He also said GPS would continue to develop the state and carry on with infrastructure projects put on hold by the federal government, like the Batang Lupar, Rambungan and Igan bridges, as well as rural water and electricity supply.
It's easy to see why GPS would have "Sarawak First" as its raison d'etre. After all, the coalition blames "peninsular politics" and quarrels for Barisan's loss in GE14 and claims that this had side effects on Sarawak "even though it had nothing to do with us," in the Chief Minister's words.
Even during GE14, the then-Sarawak Barisan distanced itself from its federal counterparts and campaigned along the lines of fighting for Sarawak's interests, something that has been strengthened in the wake of GE14.
But the irony that seems to escape GPS is that the status quo would have remained unchanged had Barisan not lost in GE14. That defeat was the catalyst for the Sarawak parties to strike out on their own and proclaim themselves as the true fighters for Sarawak's rights and interests.
The challenge for GPS now is to put their money where their mouth is. In other words, it's time to walk the talk.
Don't just keep harping on about how you will implement projects and develop Sarawak if the federal government won't provide assistance, but actually do the work. Show Sarawakians that you are capable of getting things done and done properly, without inefficiency or wastage.
While you're at it, dare to think bigger than just Sarawak. By all means speak up for Sarawak's rights and fight to defend our unity, harmony and autonomy, but why not do this in the context of demonstrating how this will contribute towards the nation's wellbeing as well.
A little self-awareness would not go amiss either, to recognise how the present circumstances in Sarawak came about and realise that issues of corruption and poor governance affect all of us.
The same goes for the Pakatan federal government. It's time to show that you can run the country, deliver good policies and institute reform as promised.
And both sides have said they are willing to work with each other across the political divide to develop Sarawak, so put this into practice instead of engaging in political one-upmanship.