SARAWAK – 20th January 2012
The growing frustration among poorer voters in
Sarawak over the mess and confusion surrounding BN’s heavily promoted pre-election hand out of RM500 was vented by numerous interviewees on Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) today.
If the anger among these local village people is anything to go by, the distribution, which was supposed to attract voters in the run up to GE 13 could seriously backfire against the ruling party.
Most seriously for the state authorities, most of the interviewees who criticised the hand-out were village headmen, whose views carry considerable weight in their communities.
The headmen are also paid by the state, so the disaffection is doubly dangerous. Problems have included confusion over the distribution of the cash, with many poorer people having to make expensive trips from the interior to apply for the money.
Often they have turned out to be unsuccessful, leaving them even poorer after their wasted visit.
It was also frustrating for those who did receive money that it came in the form of a voucher that had to be taken to specific banks, which were not properly equipped to deal with the large queues of people.
In one kampong in the Kanowit area, the Tuai Rumah, Sandah, described to the show how several villagers from his area had waited outside the Dewan Suarah in Kanowit for several days to find if they were eligible. Many had travelled many hours and had then to find costly lodging.
“Many of my people did not receive the money…. “ said the Tuai Rumah.
Another Tuai Rumah, Usop from Pantu Abok, complained to the programme:
“This RM500 is political money to buy votes”.
He described how many of the villagers from his region had found the form filling involved extremely troublesome and difficult. Some of the poorest people did not get the money.
One local candidate for the cash, Unjong, from Naman, said that he felt that the government had wasted the valuable working time of many people, by dragging them from their fields in this way.
He was one of the people who failed to get the cash, because he could not sit out the 4 day wait created by the enormous queues. “I couldn’t afford lodging”, he said.
Revealing BN’s traditional tactics of election bribery the villager added: “During election time they usually come with a helicopter or a 4-wheel drive to give us our money, so why couldn’t they do the same this time?!”
Opposition leaders are also concerned about information they have received that
Sarawak’s BN party are planning to abuse the system by allowing their own YBs to issue the vouchers when they visit their areas during election ceramahs.
YB Chong Chieng Jen has complained to producers that it was unacceptable for BN politicians to be allowed to attempt to curry favour in this way, as if the money was some personal gift by the party, rather than a budget allocation by the state of taxpayers’ money.
Needless to say, opposition YBs have not been approached to take part in such hand-outs!