KUCHING: Feeling cheated and angry, the 8,099 voters of Opar Constituency have demanded their elected representative Ranum Mina of Sarawak United People’s Party to explain what has happened to the proposed rural growth centre (RGC) which has undergone two ‘earth-breaking’ ceremonies.
“We want to know what has happened to the RGC project which was promised us before the state election?” asked Boniface Willy Anak Tumek, voter of the constituency.
Speaking on behalf of the Bidayuh community in the area, he said: “They (the BN campaigners) told us that we can look forward to much better days ahead as the RGC will bring economic benefits on a scale previously unseen in Kampung Stungkor, Kampung Stom Muda, Kampung Raso 1 and 2, Kampung Bokah and nearby villages,” he said.
The proposed RGC which was to be cited at Kampung Stungkor, a predominantly Bidayuh village located along the Bau/Lundu road was supposed to be implemented under the 9th Malaysia Plan in order to boost the economy of the rural communities and to increase the income of the rural dwellers in and around the area.
It would be sufficiently equipped with the requisite infrastructures and amenities.
During the run-up to the May 2006 state election, a very grand earth-breaking ceremony was held at the site near Kampung Stungkor.
Officiating at the ceremony was Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud. Those present included his deputy Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang who is the Minister of rural Development in charge of the RGC and a number of state ministers and government officers as well as the kampung people.
The grateful villagers reciprocated by giving their votes to the BN-SPP candidate Ranum Mina.
“Five years later the RGC remained a figment of the villagers’ imagination and the economic benefits promised mere wishful thinking.
“There is not the slightest hint that an earth-breaking ceremony took place there much less the facilities that were supposed to house the economic activities as promised,” said Boniface, who is now a member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
During the second week of April 2011, which was also interestingly a period of campaigning, another earth-breaking ceremony took place at exactly the same site and supposedly to mark the impending construction of the same RGC at Kampung Stungkor.
Again Taib Mahmud officiated at the earth-breaking ceremony, which was also attended by state ministers, government officers and the kampung folk including their community leaders.
“Believing that the state BN government will proceed with RGC, the Bidayuhs once again voted for Ranum for the second time.
“Four months now after the earth-breaking ceremony, the voters have not seen any sign of development.
“They are start asking whether the RGC will ever be implemented or not,” said Boniface, adding that times are not getting any better for the Bidayuhs in the constituency.
“Every day is a battle to make ends meet and the relentless upward movement of prices of essential goods is making the daily struggle even bitterer.
“They are greatly saddened by what they perceived as a betrayal of their hopes and dreams for a better future.
“They fear that history will repeat itself and that the RGC, together with the promised benefits will not see the light of day any time soon,” he lamented.
Reminding the state government and their elected representative, Boniface said that their memory is not short and that they remembered the promises made in the 2006 state election.
It would also do BN well to remember that they, the rural voters are intelligent enough to know when they are being taken for granted and when value is placed on their votes.
“We now demand that we be told immediately when exactly can we expect works to commence at the site, what facilities are going to be put up, the types of economic activities that the centre is targeting and how exactly we benefits from this centre,” Boniface said.
Then people, he said, are demanding that the facilities to be constructed at the centre be appropriately aligned and be made compatible with the products that can be easily produced by the majority of the rural people in that area,
“To ensure this, other government agencies like the department of agriculture, RISDA, FAMA and so on should be made to come up with matching initiatives for the area in line with the objectives of RGC,
“That way the production, the sale and marketing of the products will not become constraint on their capacity to generate and increase their income,” he said.
Meanwhile, Boniface said that there are 11 RGCs in the state implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development of which Jabu is the minister in charge.
“Millions of ringgit has been spent on the centres. Sadly, all these centres are either under utilised or being abandoned,” said Boniface.
“It is very sad that RGCs are being abandoned as we believe that such centres can help create economic opportunities for the rural people thus enhancing their income,” he added.