There is no other word to describe the political mood or momentum in Sarawak at the end of 2017 & beginning of 2018 than the word ‘cold’. The people including voters did not seem to be excited at all about the looming 14th General Elections. However this did not dampen our spirits as our mission was clear. An inaugural video production was already planned & underway for the purpose of getting the young to go out to vote. Many thanks to our donors and volunteer amateur actors, not forgetting the content writer and videomaker, the “Tak Pangkah, Rugi Kau” short video clip was released just before Parliament was dissolved alongside with other wonderful GOTV videos by other CSOs all pushing to up the ante and get the young to exercise their rights to make a choice instead of opting out. If you remember, there was also a counter push by the #UndiRosak campaign.
In another bid to break the myth that politics is only for the realm of politicians and that it does not have any connection with daily living, we organized, in collaboration with several other NGOs, a forum entitled “GST dan Periuk Nasi Anda” on the 3rd March 2018. We had the good fortune of the presence of and clear messages from renowned economists Dr Muhamed Khalid as well as Azrul Azwar bin Ahmad Tajuddin. This event attracted about 60 pax including students from universities.
ROSE also continued to be persistent and faithful in what it has been doing all these years and that was the training of PACA volunteers not only in Sarawak but also in the Klang Valley. We were also involved in the Training of Trainers (TOT) in most major towns in Sarawak ie. Miri, Sibu and Bintulu. In summary ROSE Kuching trained about 300 people and deployed about 90 volunteer PACAs including those from West Msia, to serve in 5 constituencies ie. Stampin, Puncak Borneo, Petra Jaya , Mas Gading and Baram. This number excludes what the 3000 volunteers trained by ROSE KL together with PACA4Malaysia.
Never before has Malaysian civil society nor ROSE seen such an unprecedented scale of citizens participation via PACA mobilization (trainings and deployment) throughout the land but not without the hard work and efforts of others such as INVOKE & Tindak Malaysia - there was even a master list of trainings all over the country so that anyone who wanted to be trained could go online to find the venue appropriate for them to register.
Our dogged persistence was rewarded by the unexpected and miraculous results of GE14! The Rakyat has spoken; Malaysians of all races (the old and the young) will hopefully have learnt the lesson that it is now POSSIBLE to change the government of the day by our vote and that it is possible to do it without the fear of unrest or riots. That said, our country is still in dire need of electoral reforms.
After a quick evaluation of our work post GE14, we wanted to tap onto the euphoria and greater spaces for discussion on politics and democracy amongst Sarawakians. A fast way was to organise public forums and at the end of June we convened the ‘FORUM PASCA PRU14; Adakah Rakyat Boss?’ It was structured as a roadshow covering the Bidayuh territory of Siburan, then Petrajaya ending with a finale in Kuching City Centre. The primary speaker and crowd-puller was our friend from academia, Associate Prof Dr Faisal S. Hazis a senior fellow at IKMAS, UKM who specializes in electoral politics. Other speakers included ADUNs and MPs local to the areas. Interestingly the forums outside of the city was better received.
This was quickly followed by our time of ‘self-care’ ie. that of reflection, refocusing and direction-seeking. Core members and interested volunteers sat through 2 days of our Evaluation and Planning session held on 18th-19th August 2018 facilitated by Daniel Soon from St Nicholas Home, Penang. From this exercise we fine-tuned our mission statement as well as came up with 4-pronged strategies which people felt was necessary for ROSE to go forward in the next two years. We then set out some details for the Action Plan for each strategy and in the midst of setting out indicators for achievement of those strategies.
In line with one of our strategic plan of advocating for changes and reforms by increasing engagement with the Election Commission, we visited the Kuching Branch on 14th November, 2018 and had an open and fruitful exchange with the Sarawak Director and several of his staff.
We also had a ROSE volunteers get-together and downtime by organizing a Family Outing on 10th Nov where we took a leisurely walk up the beautiful Mount Singai. It helped to build some friendships amongst our volunteers old and new.
Our wish for 2019 would be that all citizens in particular Sarawakians would take it upon themselves to not just jump on the bandwagon of 'getting back our state rights' but to read up on our history and think critically and ask the more crucial question of ‘How will this make Sarawak a better place for me and our future generation?' Participation and Engagement in the democratic process is key. Towards this end, we will continue to advocate for automatic voter registration & other reforms; conduct voter education workshops and provide avenues for discourse on issues that are shaping Sarawak. The desire and struggle for Malaysia Baru to take shape must continue and as Dato Ambiga Sreenevasen had wisely espoused in December 2018 which we paraphrase; 'We must impose on ourselves this responsibility; this responsibility to capitalize on the momentum for change'.
Last but not least, we wish everyone, our volunteers & supporters, donors and partners organizations in civil society a Happy and Fulfilling New Year 2019! Your unfailing moral and/or financial support is much appreciated! Please continue to support us in our journey, in particular as we move towards the State Elections due in 2021. Get in touch with us if you want to come alongside us and contribute towards our vision of an empowered Sarawak. Stay posted for updates by liking our Facebook page or website.
The Team at ROSE.
Dated 8th January 2019