Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shady truths in ‘fancy’ Sarawak

Sunday, 20th June 2010

Members of the Sarawak government are always accusing people who criticise their policies of being enemies of ‘progress, development and modernisation’.
But these policies have reportedly stripped the country of its rainforests and taken away Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands from natives and turnd them into endless stretches of oil palm plantations.

Who is really profiting?

Chief Minister Taib Mamud has for years promised the people of Sarawak that in return for their land and destruction of the rainforest they would receive a future bathed in wealth and prosperity. He promised them a modern standard of living comparable to advanced countries.

But what is the evidence of this?

Not only the outsiders know that Iban have been marginalised but all the Iban leaders like Datuk Leonard Linggi, Alfred Jabu, James Masing, Celestine Ujang, William Mawan also know but why until now they, the dayak leaders could not defend their own people? What had Taib given to them until they look so stupid ?..Bukittunggal

Are these leaders being bought by Taib Mahmud ?

Sarawak which is the richest state in Malaysia has the poorest population. More than 60% of the population are said to be statistically living in poverty.

Over the years the poor have gotten poorer and hungrier without their lands to live off from.

In contrast the people around Taib and his friends have become richer, living a life in splendour that would have amazed Rajah Brooke himself.

Everything has been taken from the once fabulous interior of Sarawak and given to the rich businessmen from the coastal cities.

Deal that left Ibans in debt

In Batang Ai, the Iban community is struggling as in other parts of Sarawak. They were promised good compensation when they were forced from their homes to make way for the building of the dam.

But, like so many communities in Sarawak, they soon discovered their mistake. It turned out the government wanted to charge more for their new homes than the compensation for their old ones!

Now the Ibans are in debt to the government and have lost their valuable lands.

They were told that they would receive free water and electricity from the dam, but this promise has since been broken.

Most families have to use rainwater to cook and wash and to flush their toilets. At night the Ibans in this longhouse share electricity with their neighbours.

The roads to their longhouses have caved-in and the palm plantations around them have clogged up the river and are threatening dangerous mud-slides into their town.

Farmers have to walk many miles to reach their allocated fields and can no longer catch fish. There is no longer food from the forest.

The only ‘modern’ jobs on offer are the very lowly paid jobs on the oil plantations run by SALCRA, which is managed by Taib’s family and friends.

Ibans are paid RM8 a day – compare this with the RM165 million that Taib’s family allegedly made from the Bengoh Dam project in just a few weeks!

Millions promised but nothing came

Little needs to be said about the roads to Batang Ai. The only time the roads were surfaced was the day before Taib flew from Kuching in his helicopter for last year’s Batang Ai by election.

The government agency hastily repaired the one stretch between the heliport and the place he was due to speak. On that occasion Taib again promised the people at Batang Ai that if they voted for him he would pay millions of ringgit to improve their longhouses and their roads.

But that did not happen. Most roads are as terrible as before and longhouses have received no money.

Said a resident of a longhouse in Batang Ai, who’s great grandfather was a proud Iban warrior: “Thirty years after Taib came and promised us ‘modernisation’ with the coming of the dam and the planting of oil palm, we are poorer and our lives are harder.

“I go to Kuching and I see Taib’s fancy house and his parliament. I see the fancy hotels and buildings. Then I return and see us, our lives. I can see who has really profited from all this ‘progress and development’.”

Mupok Aku


This article originally appeared in Sarawak Report.

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