Debate Speech by Ali Biju, ADUN N34 (Krian), on Motion To Appreciate the Speech by the TYT Governor
Datuk Sri Speaker Sir,
I rise to join my honourable colleagues in this august House to participate in the debate in respect of the Motion to appreciate our TYT’s address.
Whilst TYT’s speech encompasses numerous issues, touching on the socio-economy of Sarawak, I shall raise some issues pertinent to my constituency N34 Krian in particular and Sarawak in general.
Datuk Sri Speaker, Sarawak’s rural population has been in acute poverty since independence. The World Bank confirmed late last year that Sarawak has achieved the dubious distinction of being one of the poorest states in Malaysia. The Director General of the Economic Unit Datuk Dr. Sulaiman Mahbob disclosed that the poorest people in Malaysia are indigenous communities living in Sarawak and Sabah and that a high level of income disparity contributes to a high level of poverty since a smaller share of income is obtained by those at the bottom of the income distribution. According to the IMF and the World Bank, the causes of inequality are: (i) improper government policies and (ii) exploitation by government agencies and businesses with power and influence.
Land Development Policies - Plantation
At Krian Ulu, many landowners have participated in SALCRA (Sarawak Land Consolidated and Rehabilitation Authority) schemes to develop their land for the last 15 years with high hopes of getting benefits in terms of dividends. SALCRA has land coverage of 48,721 ha of oil palm estate. Early this year SALCRA, through the Minister of Agriculture, announced the amount of dividends in the sum of RM74, 260,000.00 to be distributed to participants for 2011. Landowners were very happy and excited to hear this good news since it means on average, each participant could receive about RM1,500.00 per ha. However, the participants at Krian Ulu received almost nothing. So, I strongly demand that SALCRA, in particular, the Minister in charge, explain to the affected landowners the reasons they got almost nothing.
If during this period of high commodity price of palm oil, SALCRA is still not making profit, may I suggest that SALCRA revert and return the cultivated land back to landowners immediately and not wait for the agreed period of 25 years? I believe many of the participants are in better positions to manage their own land profitably.
Some SALCRA land areas are not even planted yet with oil palm. I have also received the Statement of Account for the Year Ended Dec. 31, 2009 of SALCRA which states that the net profits for “authority” and “group” are RM12, 775,332 and RM22, 475,081 respectively. So, when the Minister cum Chairman announced dividends of RM74 million, I wonder where the profit has come from. The Minister should furnish us with the Statement of Account Ended Dec. 31, 2010 to explain this disparity.
Another agency that is involved in land development is PELITA which is under the Chairmanship of the Chief Minister. PELITA has been cultivating land under “New Concept” in many areas of Sarawak such as Kanowit, Meruan, Dijih and Mukah. PELITA also has about 9,000 ha of provisional lease of NCR land in Kabo-Awik-Budu area. In reference to this type of development and poor testimonials of PELITA, the majority of landowners in my constituency particularly in Kabo-Awik-Budu areas do not want to participate in this so called New Concept JV land development.
Any proposed agreement to develop land through this New Concept between PELITA and community leaders like Tuai Rumah, Penghulu or Pemanca is legally null and void because community leaders are in neither legal nor traditional positions to represent anybody with regard to private land ownership. As such, there must be no coercion or intimidation or pressure at all on those who refuse to participate. The names of native landowners who refuse to participate in Kabo-Awik-Budu scheme will be submitted to PELITA soon.
Instead of participating in large scale “New Concept”, mono-crop land development, the landowners prefer to develop their own land through agencies of their choice like RISDA, smallholdings under RME-Rubber Mini Estate or Palm Oil Mini Estate concepts. Smaller scale land development is more environmentally friendly since not all areas are cultivated. It is also sustainable in the sense that it guarantees that our future generations will have land to live on.
The IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) Rural Poverty Report 2011 highlights changes in agricultural markets that are providing new opportunities for smallholders to increase productivity. The report emphasizes “there remains an urgent need to invest more and better in agriculture and rural areas” based on a new approach to smallholder agriculture that is both market oriented and sustainable. The report makes it clear that it is time to look at poor smallholders in a completely new way as people whose innovation, dynamism and hard work will bring prosperity to their community. The report also states that low levels of investment in agriculture, weak infrastructure, low production and lack of financial services make it hard for smallholders to participate in the agricultural market.
It is to my dismay that the State Government closed an office of the Agricultural Department at Ng Budu.
I also believe that the Farmers Organization is sliding backward and not of any assistance to the farmers anymore.
It is of paramount importance that the authorities concerned should deploy more resources and relieve the situation through technical measures such as:
(a) Introducing the new concept of agro-enterprise;
(b) Promoting agricultural development on mini-estates or smallholdings for crops like rubber and oil palm with infrastructure assistance from the government; and
(c) Providing more allocation for agencies such as RISDA and MPOB.
Landowners want to control and manage their own land in their own style. If they cultivate a few hectares of rubber trees or oil palm with proper guidance or assistance from the government, which many of them are capable of, they should be able to get quite a decent income of RM2, 000/month. If they can make RM2, 000/month, a lot of rural people who are working at various parts of Malaysia such as Johor and KL will be willing to go back to their longhouses to cultivate their lands. In this way, we will be able to reverse the rural-urban migration which has created many socio-economic problems in the city and rural community as well. Currently, general labourers in oil palm plantations are paid a daily wage of RM17-RM20, amounting to around RM450/month, which is far below the poverty line RM750/month.
According to Robert Pringle’s authoritative book “Rajah and Rebels” written and published in the 1970s, more than 2 million rubber trees were officially planted in Krian area during a brief period of colonial time which covered areas totalling more than 5,000 hectares. Total cultivated areas including unrecorded areas were probably double that figure, being close to 10,000 hectares. A lot of rural communities participated actively and rubber was the major contributor of cash income. Some of them, by their own initiative, even managed to cultivate bigger areas to become mini-estates of sorts and employing many rubber tappers from outside. This was possible due to assistance and advice given to planters by the government of the day.
Sadly, more than 2 generations later, the livelihood of these members of the rural community still depends very much on these rubber trees that were planted by our late grandparents. So far, the government has cultivated approximately 3,500 hectares of rubber trees in the last 15 years in the Krian area. Considering the population growth during the last two generations, this quantity is not sufficient. If you visit longhouses in Krian constituency and ask them where their income comes from, do not be surprised if they say 70%-80% of longhouse dwellers depend on rubber from their grandparents’ trees to survive.
Provisional Licences for Plantation
The state government has issued provisional leases within Krian constituency which overlaps with NCR land:
(i) Lot 410 Blk 18 Krian Awik LD to Kenyalang Resources Sdn Bhd (now known as THP Saribas Sdn Bhd) in the area of Bajau-Selambong-Sedan-Jenggara
(ii) Lot 3 Blk 16 Krian Awik LD to Kenyalang Resourses Sdn Bhd (now known as THP Saribas Sdn Bhd) in the area of Sg Gruyu
(iii) Lot 155 & 156 Kalaka LD to Kenyalang Resources Sdn Bhd (now known as THP Saribas Sdn Bhd) in the area of Jln Pusa Sessang
(iv) Licence for planted forest to No. LPF/0034 to R.H. Forest Corporation Sdn Bhd.
The companies that have been given PL have encroached illegally into NCR lands of the native communities. This has resulted in disputes over rights to land and resources. Currently, there a a few cases where natives have initiated legal action against PL holders and Land Survey Department.
The government has issued many logging licences within NCR lands in my constituency. This has created a lot of animosity among rural community since most of them disagree with logging activity. Logging has destroyed our Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau which provide the natives with valuable construction materials to build longhouses, boats and other wooden amenities vital to our way of living.
It is very unfortunate that the state government has issued timber licences in my constituency without the prior informed consent of the native landowners. Listed are the known timber licences issued by the state government in Krian area without prior consent of native landowners.
(a) T/3436 – issued to Vita Hill Sdn Bhd which overlaps NCR land in the area of Dassey, Budu
(b) T/3463 – issued to Pelita Holding Sdn Bhd which overlaps NCR land in the area of Kabo-Awik
(c) T/8475 – issued to Syarikat Kayu Rimba which overlaps NCR land in the area of Mapar-Babang
(d) T/3431 – issued to Tunggal Enterprise which overlaps NCR land in the area of Mudong
(e) T/3497 – issued to Solid Sunshine which overlaps NCR land in the area of Awik-Seblak.
(f) Timber licence also issued to Sebetan area.
All of these licences were issued without prior consent of native landowners. As such, the State Government must withdraw the licenses.
For example, Rh Gayan of Dassey, Budu, in my constituency has been affected by Vita Hill Sdn Bhd’s logging activity. Various complaints had been made to the authorities. However, no action was taken. Left without an avenue for redress, the Rh Gayan community took the matter to High Court and legal process is still ongoing.
The State Government has issued timber Licence No. T/8440 to a RM2 company namely Budimar Sdn Bhd. Its subcontractor is Rimba Jaya Lumber Sdn Bhd at the vicinity of Bukit Pengajar. The company is in the process of constructing a logging road from the Ulu Krian road towards the concession area through lands of the Iban community particularly in the Sg Pilai area. If the company proceeds with this plan, besides doing damage to environment, biodiversity and ecosystem, logging trucks will totally destroy the roads of Ulu Krian and Rimbas roads, which are already in poor condition.
Infrastructure, Amenities and Utilities
Basic requirements such as road, water and electricity are basic human rights. Any government of the day must provide these necessities to all its people regardless of their political affiliations.
Road : The road system in the Krian constituency is in a very bad shape particularly roads to Ulu Krian, Kabo, Budu, Awik, Bajau, Engkudu, Ibus and Babang. Ulu Krian Road and Awik Road were Federal roads constructed more than 30 years ago but their condition is similar to that of logging roads. I urge the government to ensure tar-seal to be implemented immediately as promised by the PM during the last state election.
Electricity : The majority of my constituents do not have electricity. Only recently we noticed that power posts have been erected along roads in Krian, Budu, Kabo, and Awik. I urge the government to speed up the work to get power supply to every longhouse, school and clinic in my constituency.
Water : Clean water is also a major issue in my constituency as many longhouses are still getting drinking water from rivers or unreliable gravity water. The water is not hygienic and contains germs and bacteria that can cause diseases. I urge the government to carry out the construction of a new dam at Kaki Wong to start immediately as promised by the PM during the last state election. On top of that, the current water supply from Lichok Water Treatment Plant is not capable of providing the water needs for all people in Saratok areas. During the dry season Lichok WTP runs out of water. What is the state government doing about this?
In conclusion, Datuk Sri Speaker, I urge this august House to seriously look into the matters I have raised. These issues are not mere political rhetoric. These are bread and butter issues affecting the peoples of Sarawak and it is the ultimate responsibility of this House to take these matters seriously and it is incumbent upon the respective Ministers in charge to act accordingly to alleviate the suffering of the rakyat. Demi Rakyat.
Thank you Datuk Sri Speaker Sir for giving me this opportunity to air my views.