Saturday, April 02, 2005

Immigration Controls : Another Current Issue Post

Warning: Long, possibly boring post about a current issue

It's a Saturday night and as usual, all my friends will be out and none of their blogs will be updated. I'm stuck here at work all alone with nothing to read and no one to talk to.

I'm going to be so bored. I might actually have to do some real work. Bummer. At least tomorrow I'll be free.

I wait impatiently for the middle of April. That's when I'll be free on Saturdays for the next three months.

Which reminds me, I need to housekeep my PC. My desktop is full of junk and stuff that I downloaded but haven't sorted through yet.

Anyway, today I wish to write about another current issue. And that issue is the Sabah/Sarawak immigration controls and its impending abolishment. Many articles in the papers have been talking about this. This is one of them.

First, a little historical background for any foreigners who are interested to know.

Way back in 1963, the Borneo states of Sarawak and Sabah joined the Federation of Malaya and Singapore to form what is now known as Malaysia. Singapore left soon after thus leaving the Borneo states and the Malayan states.

Amongst the many things related to this union are some special conditions that are accorded to the two Borneo states. And amongst this is immigration controls. These controls require residents of Malayan Peninsular states to produce their passports upon entry to the two Borneo states whereas residents of the two Borneo states only need to produce their identity cards to enter the Malayan peninsular.

These immigration controls also affect employment, whereby a resident of peninsular Malaysia requires a work permit before being allowed to work in Sarawak and Sabah.

At that time of implementation, there were some good reasons why these controls were put in place. Something to do with social matters and local politics. I'm not going to discuss that now.

Thus endeth the history lesson.

Anyway, as a Sarawakian I did have some misgivings and doubts about doing away with the travel restrictions. However, I gave it more thought and I grudgingly admit there might be some good there after all.

My concerns as usual, are more social than political.

Ok, it might help with local tourism and boost business. More people can come visit us here. That's a good thing. It's good because maybe that might help dispel that annoyingly persistent myth that East Malaysians are simple, redneck, country bumkins who still live in trees. This, pisses me off. The fact that there are some idiots who still believe this pisses me off even more.

It will help with social relations. Many of us went to college there and made friends. It would be good if they could come and visit us here without having to apply for an expensive international passport.

More visitors from the peninsular will add more variety to local life. Think how cool if would be if someday soon we could have a national level bloggers meet here. That would be cool !

It'd be easier for musicians, theatre people, artistes, etc to perform and organize events here. Kuching is nice and all but we do need a bit more nouveau culture here.

I'm fine with the idea of increased travel between the two halves of the nation. Therefore, I agree with doing away the passport require for visitors from the peninsular.

However, I think the work permit rule should stay. It should stay because it would limit permanent migration.

The implications are many. Social change is one of them.

Things are different between the peninsular and here. Here, things are simpler, more laidback. Here, people are more tolerant and less suspicious of people of different races and religion. Here, many racial issues that matter to politicians in the peninsular, don't matter.

There, the segregation between different races is more pronounced and more tense. There, it's a bigger deal. There are more racists and zealots there than here. I'm not saying that people in the peninsular are racists. Not at all. We have our share of morons too. But there are simply more of them over there.

We don't want these sort of people here. We want the cool, open minded, easy going people like the ones on my blogroll. We don't want chauvinists, racists and religious zealots.

I can safely speak for all Sarawakians when I say of all the things we can import from the peninsular, this one we do not welcome. A big "No Thank You" right here.

I know this sounds very bigoted and prejudiced. But it's true. Sorry to say. I'm not implying that we are somehow better over here. I'm just saying that society as a whole, is different here.

Never in my entire life in Sarawak have I ever been mistreated or disrespected for my race or religion. In KL, it took just one week for me to get my first racial slur. And to think, this happened at university, a place where supposedly "learned" people go to.

Five years there, I could FEEL the tension running just below the surface. I've never ever felt that here.

I offer no theories why this is so. This issue is for the politicians and sociologists to work out.

In the end, I try not to be a bigot. Therefore I say, if anyone wants to live and work in Sarawak that's cool by me, provided that they embrace the Sarawakian way of life. Trust me when I say they will find it quite pleasant.

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