Opinion

The clueless person’s guide to Sarawak

MARCH 30 — Hello, West Malaysians! Most of you have not visited the lovely state of Sarawak though you at least know that it’s not in the peninsula.

If you don’t know that, I am afraid there is no help for you so stop reading.

For the rest of you, you first need to know the following fact. Remember it. Commit it to memory.

Kota Kinabalu is not in Sarawak. No. It is the capital of Sabah so please get your geography straight. There is no faster way to alienate an East Malaysian than by mixing up Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu is in Sabah; Kuching is in Sarawak.

If you still find that hard to remember, imagine a big smiling fat cat in the chief minister’s office when you think of Sarawak. Geography teachers, feel free to thank me.

On to other essential facts for you West Malaysians to know so the natives will dislike you less.

1. Sarawak is the biggest state in Malaysia. 125,206 sq km. Sabah and Sarawak together form about 60 per cent of Malaysia’s total land mass. We like to believe that the concentration of idiots is more on your side, though. Perhaps we will send you over some orang utans to raise the collective IQ that has been brought down by all your politicians.

Also, do not call that Kinabatangan rep an ape. The apes will sue.

2. There is no “Bahasa Sarawak”. If you ask a native if they can speak Sarawak, they will look at you funny. There is, however, a funny colloquial kind of Malay some Sarawakians speak that is a funny mix of Brunei Malay. The natives will understand your Malay just fine.

A few words of the Sarawak Malay vocabulary:

Au: Yes (also used in Brunei)

Sik: No

Manok: Chicken

Kenak: Why

Kedakya: Like that

Bulak: Lie/falsehood/bull

Fun phrases to know: “Kenaknya kedakya?”, which means “Why is he/she like that?”, and “bulak kau” meaning “you’re making that up.”

3. Dayak is a collective term for more than one race. There are the land Dayaks or Bidayuh and the sea Dayaks, comprising the Iban. So please don’t assume everyone in Sarawak is a Dayak. There are also the Melanaus who may either be Muslim or non-Muslim, so do not make assumptions. On that note...

4. Leave all your assumptions about race and appearance at the immigration counter. That tanned Sarawakian could be non-Muslim so don’t stare at him when he has char siew in Kuching. That fair-looking person could be Sarawakian Malay so please do not be shocked if she greets you with the traditional Muslim salam.

5. Don’t get a Dayak started on land rights. Unless you understand how native land rights work, be cautious when entering into a discussion with a local. The local paranoia about losing native land is so ingrained and, unfortunately, justified.

Sarawak is very much like a foreign country for most West Malaysians. The food is different, the landscape is different and you will find that besides the clean modernity of Kuching, the rest of Sarawak looks like a backwater

But despite the lack of development, do yourself a favour and do not talk down to the locals. I have worked with people who assume that East Malaysians are country hicks and “stupid.” Sarawakians are proud of their state, love their local food and are generally intolerant of idiots who treat them like idiots.

Like you would anywhere else in the world, in Sarawak be polite, don’t assume and try not to act like an imbecile. This writer will not be held responsible if you ignore this advice and find yourself in a ditch somewhere in what is left of Sarawak’s timber reserves.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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