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1Malaysia hypocrisy in Sarawak

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Why are foreign retirees under the MM2H programme more acceptable as long-term residents in Sarawak by the state government than local Malaysians from the peninsula, wonders Anak Malaysia.

It is indeed heartening to read refreshing newspaper articles about how wonderful life is in Sarawak when viewed through the prism of youthful Malaysians. In the 15 May issue of The Star newspaper (Sarawak Metro Section), an article entitled, ‘Incredible Sarawak’ detailed how many West Malaysian and Sabahan undergraduates who studied in University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) had their minds and hearts opened by their experience of life in the state.

All those interviewed in the article spoke proudly about how Sarawak was a showcase of genuine ethnic and religious harmony. Not only was their experience of studying in Sarawak enriching and eye-opening, but all admitted falling in love with the people and the multi-cultural milieu of the state, which had much to offer. To these youths, Sarawak was nothing less than a showcase of what 1Malaysia is all about. Sarawakians are hospitable, warm and friendly. They celebrate diversity and promote it via mixed marriages. They are also very accommodating of differences. Crucially, none of those interviewed encountered any racism while in Sarawak. Indeed, so enamoured were all interviewed that they found it hard to leave Sarawak once their studies were over.
But leave they had to. And why?

Because non-Sarawakians do not have a choice to stay on in Sarawak even if they want to.

The fact of the matter – which is quite unknown to many if not most Malaysians – is that the Sarawak State Government only pays lip-service to the idea of 1Malaysia. Hence, while happy to crow to the whole world about how beautiful life is in the land of the White Rajahs, the state government adamantly refuses to allow outsiders (i.e. non-Sarawakian Malaysians) to share its bountiful heritage or participate in building up the state on an equal and long-term basis.

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In particular, the State Government especially dislikes Malaysians from Semenanjung. Via implementation of strict immigration controls as enshrined in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, the state government restricts entry of non-Sarawakians into the state to three-month social visit visas and annual work permits.

The only ones exempt from annual work permit regulations are federal government employees like teachers, doctors and security personnel. However, even federal employees are given the boot from Sarawak once they retire unless they acquire a permanent residence (PR) permit.

But PR is not easy to come by since a successful PR application really depends on one’s connections with big-shot officials in the state government hierarchy. Alternatively, a non-Sarawakian woman who marries a local man may apply for and is likely to be granted PR. But the converse, i.e. a non-Sarawakian man who marries a local woman is denied that right since ‘women follow their husbands’!

Hence, despite UNIMAS producing many graduates and professionals, few stay on in Sarawak. Most make their way to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Baru, Singapore and beyond partly in search of good jobs (which are relatively few in Sarawak) and partly because Sarawak’s private sector chooses not to hire them – despite needing their expertise – owing to the genuine hassle of applying for a work permit for them.

Ironically, nearly five decades after the formation of Malaysia, the reality is that Sarawak is increasingly losing its population via out-migration. Apart from a shortage of youthful professionals in the economy, the state is also facing a shortage of skilled and unskilled labour. This is partly ameliorated via resort to Indonesian and Bangladeshi migrant workers.
Sarawak’s economy is thus suffering. And the stark reality is that Sarawak is going to run into a labour resource wall very soon.

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Surprisingly, if one is a foreign retiree (preferably white-skinned) who applies to stay in Sarawak under the Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) programme, one is very likely to be automatically granted a 10-year resident visa. Ceteris paribus, non-Sarawakian Malaysian retirees are not welcome.

Why is this so? Why are foreign retirees who bank in a mere RM350,000 to qualify for the MM2H programme more acceptable as long-term residents in Sarawak by the state government than local Malaysians with an equal or even larger amount of money in their bank accounts?

Put differently, why are non-Sarawakian Malaysians actively discriminated against in Sarawak in terms of work opportunities and residence?


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