Tuesday, September 30

Victims of Politics of Development

It is now the turn of Kedayans and Malays numbering about 10,000 from 13 villages in the Sibuti Land district not far from Miri who are facing the prospect of being evicted from their century-old settlement.

All this while, we have heard laterally hundreds of cases involving the Ibans, Penans, Kayans, Kenyahs and Bidayuhs who have been evicted out of their NCR land and prosecuted in court of law. All of them are victims of politics of development aggressively carried out by the State government in order to create Sarawak as one of the leading producers of palm oil. By 2020 some one million hectares of land should have been converted for the planting of oil palm.

For the Kedayans and Malays, some 5,500 hectares of their land have been given to a company under the guise of provisional lease for the planting of oil palm. . The affected villages are Kpg. Batu Satu, Butir, Kejapil, Keluru Tengah, Keluru Jaya, Subak, Sepurau, Selanyau, Opak, Tusan, Uban, Terhad and Beraya.

The company’s lawyers have given the villagers 14 days to vacate their villages starting from 15 September 2008, according to reports appearing in the Borneo Post today (30 Sept '08; page 5).

The plight of the villagers was brought to the attention of Sarawak’s second most powerful minister, Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, who is aptly named the Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management.

Even though Awang Tengah, who claimed innocent of any development in the area, has promised to find out what actually happened there. He had expressed interest in the case.

Now my main question is: When Dayaks are faced with this type of problems, none of our Dayak ministers or YBs dares to speak for their rights. More often than not, they (Dayak leaders) would condemn and accuse the Dayaks of being “anti-development and are being influenced by NGOs and foreigners”.

This is a major difference between the roles played by Dayak YBs and YBs from other communities, who really use their political power to help their own kind.

Of course we cannot blame our YBs, but ourselves for being stupid, because we continue to vote for them in every election knowing full well many of them are “semina numpang perhau orang”, “nyarok rumah orang” and “masing-masing ngiga dagang kena ngidup ka sida iya empu aja.”

In order words, they are mere passengers in other people’s boats, visitors in other people’s houses, or bystanders hoping to get some business for themselves only.

Sunday, September 28

Dayak Ministers do not support DAMA

The efforts by the Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) to introduce Dayak Music Awards (DAMA) which was held on 27 September 2008 at Crowne Plaza Riverside Hotel, Kuching in recognition of Dayak musicians – singers, composers and lyricists – were both noble and commendable.

Presented after the style of the most prestigious Grammy Awards, DAMA hopes to inject quality and professionalism among the Dayak musicians. Hitherto, some of the so-called Dayak songs lack originality as they are copied from Malay, Indonesian and Hindustani songs with many of them having Malay words used in the lyrics. Let me give an example: “burong punggok nyabak ka bulan” which should have been “burong tunggok nyabak ka bulan” in Iban; “selindang” should have been “selampai”, etc.

There again the Iban and Malay spellings are mixed up. For instance, “baka kucing enggau cit” should have been “baka kuching enggau chit”. And there are many examples of these mixed-up spellings in CDs, VCDs and DVDs. The Malay spelling does not have “ch”, while the Iban spelling maintains the “ch” in order to differentiate between the systems of spelling.

In an attempt to really raise the quality of Iban songs in particular, a body or a committee should be set up to look into all these “impurities” in Iban songs.

If this body can be set up, then the Dayak music is not only an art and a form of entertainment among the Dayaks, but also it is a big money-spinner. Imagine we have eight million Dayaks throughout Pulau Borneo as possible clients. Some non-Dayak businessmen have seen these prospects and have indeed taken advantage of some of Iban singers especially those in Sibu by paying them about RM600 for a recording. While the Iban singers are only interested in making them “famous” and popular, the non-Dayak businessmen have earned millions of ringgit through the sales of their songs. Again a body should be set up to look after the interests of the singers.

As I said the DCCI’s efforts are commendable and should be given all out support. But sadly, there seems to be lack of support coming from the Iban businessmen and Iban ministers and assistant ministers and the absence of William Mawan, James Masing, Alfred Jabu, Joseph Entulu, Sylvester Enteri, Jelaing Mersat, Francis Harden, Gramong Juna, Peter Nyarok and Douglas Uggah were obvious. Only Michael Manyin, Naroden Majais and Joseph Salang were seen around. Never mind Jabu, but what about the rest? We know Jabu has always against the formation of DCCI and its activities.

If Ahmad Shabery Cheek, minister of information, could come all the way from Kuala Lumpur to attend the musical awards, there was no reason why our ministers could not come. That was the time our singers really needed our support and support is like a horse trading. (You scratch my back, I scratch yours). You may not need them now, come elections times, the Dayak singers are the most wanted commodity. Like in USA, as also elsewhere, including Sarawak, the role of singers in attracting audience during campaigning times is now part of democracy.

Some of DAMA 2008 photos:

Friday, September 26

Why Jabu does not like Dayak NGOs?

Organisers of the state level “Operations Sikap” road safety campaign must have been wondering or even regretting asking Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang to launch the campaign yesterday (24 September 2008) in Kuching. Instead of talking about road safety campaign and the advice given to road users during the coming Hari Raya when most of the celebrants are returning home or “balik kampung”, Jabu talked some things irrelevant to the occasion. Imagine Jabu talking about the “gila-gila” Tua kampung in Lundu and Bau, who were dismissed and about Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) bringing in foreign NGOs to SALCRA briefing.

How did the road safety organisers and road users feel when Jabu blasting at SADIA which has nothing to do with road safety? For all these listeners, I am sure, they must be wondering what this minister was talking about. They asked him to launch the campaign, so that he could advise all road users.

But for people who know Jabu, they know his style, his rhetoric. He always talked something irrelevant to the occasion and would always take the opportunity to condemn those who crossed path with him.

As much as he likes to project himself as the Dayak leader, the Dayaks and the Dayak Organisations sad to say do not accept his leadership. The non-acceptance of his leadership makes him very angry, and this explains why he does not see eye-to-eye with Dayak organisations such as the Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU), the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), the Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA), the Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), the Dayak Cultural Foundation, etc.

And the only association he loves is the Serakup Indu Dayak Sarawak (SIDS). This is because his wife, Empiang is the president.

And the question most readers are likely to ask is: Why are all these Dayak NGOs not accepting Jabu as the Dayak leader? After all as the most senior Dayak minister, and the most trusted by Abdul Taib Mahmud, he has some political leverage and some power which should be useful to any Dayak organisation, if only it is friendly with him.

Monday, September 22

Good news to Dayak farmers

Effective next year, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry will give incentives to some 60,000 hill paddy farmers in Sarawak and 3,000 from Sabah so that they will be able to increase their crop yields. The incentives will be in the form of 25 kg of fertilizers, four litres of pesticide a month, besides spraying kits and chainsaws.

The move by the federal government as announced by the deputy minister of agriculture and agro-based industry, Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim, should be welcomed as it would help to ease the burden of the farmers due to high costs of fertilizers and pesticides and at the same time to encourage the farmers to increase their yields in view of the government’s policy towards self-sufficiency in rice production.

No doubt there are bound to be problems in identifying the genuine farmers who have two to three acres of paddy plots. Therefore, in order to ensure a foolproof delivery system, the ministry needs to have at least a temporary office at every division’s capital set up for the purpose.

As the bulk of the 60,000 farmers are Dayaks, it may be a good idea, if the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and the Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) can assist in this to ensure that the majority of farmers will benefit from these incentives. The role of the longhouse security and development committees (JKKK) should also be enlisted.

In the past when incentives were made available to rural farmers, only a small number of them benefited. The fault partly was due to lack of publicity and ignorance on the part of the farmers on the mechanism to apply and partly it was also due to some State officers who were directed to implement “pilih mata” (discriminatory) approach. For example, when farmers applied they were asked of their political leaning. If they were supporters of BN, their requests would be entertained immediately and if they were pro-Opposition (PBDS at that time) they would be sidelined.

Hopefully this “pilih mata” system is a thing of the past. After all as citizens, and under the Law, they are supposed to have, may be not equal rights, but at least some rights. But more importantly, when farmers, whether they are BN or Opposition supporters, have better harvests, it is also the country and her citizens who will benefit.

See page 3 of The Borneo Post today regarding the news item.

Saturday, September 20

Sarawak the Land of "Hornbills and Frogs"?

When Dr. James Masing commented that no BN members of parliament from Sarawak would jump over to the Opposition as “political frogs” and described Sarawak as “Bumi Kenyalang” (the land of the hornbills), and not “Bumi Kataks” (the land of the frogs) he was not quite right. In fact Sarawak and Sabah were once the “lands of the frogs”.

PBS government was toppled because some of its elected members leap-frogged to the Barisan. In Sarawak we have several “political frogs” and one of the most unforgettable episodes was after the Ming Court affair. According to a book, The Broken Shield (page 149), seven PBDS’ newly elected assemblymen turned “frogs” when they joined SNAP and PBB, reducing its elected representatives to eight only. Since then, PBDS never recovered its strength. Finally PBDS was deregistered on 21 October 2004 due to leadership crisis, when some of its members turned “frogs” following the demise of the party.

At the time when they leap-frogged, they were considered as “heroes” by the BN leadership and their jumping over was “in the interest of the people”. But to the PBDS supporters, they were “traitors”.

Now is Masing right to say that Sarawak is “Bumi Kenyalang” and not “Bumi Kataks”? To me Sarawak is both “Bumi Kenyalang” and “Bumi Kataks”. Sarawak is indeed a multi-racial State made up of “hornbills and frogs”. After all, the “political frogs” are still alive and they have their descendents.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 16

My small contribution to Malaysia

Today is 16 September, the day when Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore and Malaya jointly formed the Federation of Malaysia 45 years ago. The date is an important historical significance when Sarawak freed herself from the shackles of colonialism and ventured into a new life in the federation, successfully overcoming obstacles to her nationhood – communist terrorism, the undeclared war of Indonesian confrontation and uncertain future.

To me the date has deeper meaning. As a young boy of 17, I stood at Pangkalan Batu together with 30 of my classmates from the then Dragon School, 24th Mile, Kuching Serian Road sadly bidding farewell to Sarawak’s last colonial governor, Sir Alexander Waddell and at the same time welcoming our new found freedom.

Early that morning we came down to the Pangkalan Batu in the school bus eager to take part in the historic event, where we met some of the independent leaders such as Stephen Kalong Ningkan and Temenggong Jugah. And when our leaders shouted MERDEKA!, we echoed with equal zest but without really knowing, at the time, the meaning and the implications it would bring to the country.

However, the shouts of Merdeka spurred and inspired us as students to study hard in preparation to serve the country. Some of my classmates are doing very well in their life – Dr. Patau Rubis (Medical Officer and Politician), Dr. Abeng Lim (Dentist), Sulong Matjeraie (High Court Judge), Frankie Nyumboi (Diretor of Customs), Empeni Lang (Resident), Putit Matzen (Education Director). Some became administrators, teachers and businessmen.

By twist of luck, I joined the State Information Department three years after independence as an Assistant Press Officer, whose job among others was helping to project the image of the new federation which was burdened with fighting the communists and Indonesian confrontation. Malaysia finally won the fight against the communists in October 1974 when the communists together with their leader Bong Kee Chok surrendered.

Happily retired with four grown-up sons and with four grandchildren, I spend most of my time reading and writing. And after much effort, I managed to write a book, The Broken Shield – The Birth of Dayakism, and this book gives an account of what I witnessed in the making of an independent Sarawak. The second volume of the book, The Broken Shield – The Dayak Dilemma – should be on sale by the end of the year.

As I celebrate today -the date of our independence - with a feeling of nostalgia, and feel proud of my small contribution to history, I think I did not do too badly.
Related news/articles:

Sunday, September 14

Landowners want to submit petition to King

Image Credit: Malaysian Bar

Members of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) are among 100 members of the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS) who were stopped this morning (13 September) by Police from marching to the palace in order to present a petition or memorandum to the Yang Dipertuan Agong regarding the erosion of their rights as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

Of the number, 23 are from Sarawak representing the various ethnic groups, while 20 others are from Sabah and the rest from other parts of Malaysia.

SADIA secretary general Nicholas Mujah said that the proposed march today was stopped on the advice of the Police due to tense political situation in the capital following the arrests of Raja Petra Kamaruddin, MP Teresa Kok and Sin Chew Daily news reporter, Tan Hoon Cheng under ISA. The march had earlier been approved by the Police.

“We are still in Kuala Lumpur waiting for the green light from the Police,” Mujah said.

For SADIA, this is the second time that it had submitted a memorandum to Yang Dipertuan Agong. The first was submitted in late 1980s when the association urged the Yang Dipertuan Agong to look into the rights of the Ibans when formulating National Development Policy.

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution: Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc., for Malays and natives of any States of Sabah and Sarawak.

“(1) It shall be the responsibility of the Yang Dipertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.”

The common complaints from Dayaks especially Ibans are that they have been deprived of business opportunities, of development, of recruitment into the civil service, and intake into tertiary education. But lately, their complaints are against the encroachment into their NCR land.

When they reported the matter to the Police, the Police did not take action. But when the authorities and companies lodged a report to the Police, the Police acted swiftly. Then they took the law into their hands and landed in prison.

Up to now about 200 cases of NCR land that has been encroached upon have been filed with the Court. But this takes time.

In the meantime, they have decided to submit a petition to Yang Dipertuan Agong.

Friday, September 12

Is BN becoming irrelevant?

Malaysians are clearly divided on the question whether the Barisan Nasional (National Front) is becoming irrelevant or not. For BN supporters, they believe that the BN is here to stay, and if it can sustain past political upheavals for the last 51 years, there is no reason why it cannot survive the present day threats. It may have a setback now due to, what is termed as, “political tsunami”, but that is only temporary. Following its poor showing in the March election, they say the BN has begun to rejuvenate itself.

But BN’s political enemies hold the view that the 14-member BN is crumbling down sooner or later. It may not lose its political power by 16 September 2008. But certainly the BN is going to suffer come next election and they base their prediction on the following factors:-

  • UMNO is becoming too racist in order to perpetuate the “Ketuanan Melayu” driving away Chinese and Indians to Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance);

  • weak leadership in UMNO resulting in internal bickering and power struggle;

  • constant harassment by former prime minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on the current leadership;

  • the younger voters in the country prefer multi-racial parties like Keadilan, as the March 2008 election and the Permatang Pauh by-election indicate and the number of young voters increases by 400,000 each year;

  • MCA, MIC and Gerakan have been trounced in the election as they are unable to fight for their respective communities, and many of their members are turning to Keadilan;

  • the Anwar Ibrahim factor and his exposure of rampant corruption in UMNO and BN.

Although in Sarawak, the State BN seems to be intact. But will the fall of the federal BN have tsunamic effects on the State when the next election comes? Definitely the State BN will be affected. But my main concern is how are we Dayaks going to fare? Are we going to continue playing a peripheral role? Or are we going to stick with Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and BN for better or for worse?

The way I see it, we cannot put all our eggs in SPDP nor PRS baskets. As these two are too much “barisanised”, they expect to sink and swim together with other BN component parties. They are at the behest of PBB. Certainly we do not want this.

Before we are going to be swallowed by the tsunami waves, we must think of a way NOW in order to save our community. One way is perhaps to revamp SNAP. The other is to join Keadilan en masse and once inside we must find our own leader so that we will be cohesive, strong and be able to articulate our interests.

Please comment and give your views.

Wednesday, September 10

PRS demands recognition

Nowadays, Dr. James Masing is very vocal. And why not when Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) he his heading has been ignored and side-lined despite the party having six Members of Parliament and seven State Assemblymen.

When his home town Kapit’s request for road construction to link it with Song, Kanowit and Sibu is not included in the 2009 budget, he blew his tops, saying that Kapit has again been forgotten.

Last Sunday (7 September) Masing, who is the Minister of Land Development Sarawak, demanded that his party be rewarded for being loyal to the Barisan Nasional (BN), lamenting that they have been ignored over appointments to government-linked companies (GLCs).

“The supreme council of PRS has asked me to pursue this matter whenever it is possible or wherever there are vacancies for PRS to be represented in GLCs not only in Sarawak, but also the whole of Malaysia,” he said to the Press.

Since its admission to the Barisan Nasional in 2005, PRS has been ignored; other BN component parties have been given chairmanships of some of the most influential and money-making GLCs and corporations at the State and Federal levels. And as partners of the government, PRS is asking to be given some posts in these GLCs and corporations for its leaders and supporters so that the party can play a meaningful role in the country’s economic development. Currently three members of PRS are sitting as mere board directors of Housing Commission, SESCO and Water Board.

Both the State and Federal Governments have literally hundreds of GLCs and corporations. For the State, it has GLCs and corporations such as STIDC, Sarawak Foundation, Borneo Development Corporation, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Motor Vehicle Licensing Board, Sarawak River Board, Malaysian Pepper Board, SALCRA, SLDB, LCDA, BDA, Brooke Dockyard, Kuching Port, Rajang Port, Miri Port and Baram Port, timber companies, etc.

The chairmanship of SALCRA, for instance, should be given to Masing’s man as SALCRA is one of the departments or boards under his ministry. It is important so that they can work together. But Alfred Jabu who is deputy chief minister has been holding the post for more than a decade and refuses to give it up. Jabu’s appointment raises many questions. Why must the chairmanship of the board be given to Jabu whose status, and in terms of protocol, is higher than that of James Masing’s? Why is he so adamant in insisting of remaining as chairman despite objection from Masing? Isn’t there any conflict of interest? Can they see eye to eye with regard to the management of SALCRA?

As a result of Jabu’s appointment and the appointment of his key people on a secondment basis, there is not only a clash of personality, but also the working environment is not cordial, resulting in poor management and poor harvests.

Many decisions made by the board are without the knowledge of the minister concerned. And several functions organised by SALCRA Masing refused to attend when he knew that Jabu was present. Instead he sent his assistant minister to attend such functions.

And if this situation continues, not only Masing’s integrity as the PRS president and minister will be affected, but also the 16,000 or more scheme participants will continue to lose. Since Abdul Taib Mahmud is unable to solve the problem, perhaps we need ACA to help SALCRA find a “solution” to this unique arrangement.

Monday, September 8

Bulk of RM3.3 billion goes to PBB constituencies

When the prime minister announced RM3.3 billion for infrastructural development in Sarawak in his 2009 budget speech on 29 August, initial response from Sarawakians including people from Kapit was of that excitement and joy. But when full details are revealed, the people living in coastal areas, Mukah and Betong are really the beneficiaries as the bulk of the money will be expended in their areas.

The projects mentioned include roads linking Sarawak new federal administrative centre, Jalai Nanga Buai to Ulu Spak in Betong, Jalai Tanjong Assam to Saribas, Betong, Jalai Awat-Awat to Kuala Lawas, Bengoh dam in Kuching and integrated wastewater management system in Kuching. And all these areas happen to be in constituencies held by elected representatives from Parti Bersatu Bumiputra (PBB).

It is natural for the people of Kapit to be angry with the government when they find out that Kapit Division is not mentioned in the budget. After all, they have not only been loyal BN supporters, but have also been waiting for 45 years for roads to be constructed linking Kapit with other towns in the State. And they have expected something to be given to them as rewards for their loyalty. Thus, Kapit has created a record of sorts that can be included in the Malaysian Book of Records or even the Guinness Book of Records as the only town in Malaysia having no road links with other towns in the State and in Malaysia. Even Pulau Pinang has a bridge linking it with other parts of West Malaysia. (In fact the second bridge has been proposed.)

But a SUPP leader asks the people of Kapit to wait patiently and for how long? Another 45 years? And the statement from YB Yong Khoon Seng, deputy federal Minister of Works makes the people of Kapit even angrier, when he said: “The project will come, don’t worry. Just don’t jump to conclusion regarding this matter because we have already planned for the road to be constructed. But it may take some time”.

The road, he said, might be constructed (I stress the word “might”) between Kapit and Song or Kapit and Sibu, pointing out that it would be a State road with funds might (again the word “might”) come from the federal government directly or indirectly. The word “might” indicates uncertainty. Between Yong and James Masing, Masing being the State Minister should know better if there is a plan for the State to build the road to be funded by federal funds.

Considering the importance of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) and the construction of 12 dams in the State, it is likely that the federal funds will be concentrated on the development of SCORE infrastructures along the coastal areas from Bintulu to Tanjung Manis and as well as infrastructures leading to the proposed 12 dams. The possibility of Kapit being excluded in the 2010 budget and in the 10th Malaysia Plan or even the 11th Malaysia Plan is very real unless and when drastic changes take place in the country such as the formation of PR government.

Saturday, September 6

Merdeka Day or Malaysia Day?

Are we celebrating 45 years of the formation of Malaysia or 51 years of Malaya’s independence? This is a question being asked by the Malaysian Insider, as it knows that so many people are confused especially in West Malaysia. Even in Sarawak and Sabah, some of the younger people are also confused.

Malaya obtained her independence from Britain on 31 August 1957 that is 51 years to this day. Sarawak, Sabah, Malaya and Singapore (Singapore left the Federation in August 1965) jointly formed the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963 as equal partners and on equal footing. However, Sarawak and Sabah have been relegated to a state equivalent to Perlis or Melaka which are smaller compared to some of the divisions in Sarawak.

In fact if Sarawak were smart enough it should have negotiated for at least, at that time, five “states” comprising the five divisions. One of the divisions headed by a resident should have been headed by a governor. Had this been the case, there would have been at least 17 States in the federation of Malaysia.

Two incidents have helped change the partnerships – one was the proclamation of state of emergency in Sarawak by Parliament when the State Constitution was amended to enable the governor to dismiss Stephen Kalong Ningkan as chief minister in 1966. And the other incident was the May 13 1969 racial riots.

Never mind about all this part of our history as nothing we can do about it. But what I would like to ask here is: why are we celebrating the 31 August as Merdeka Day and not 16 September as Malaysia Day? To us in Sarawak, and for that matter the Sabahans, 16 September has greater historical significance as it was the day we were liberated from the yoke of colonialism when we formed the federation of Malaysia. Celebrating it also means we are honouring the memories of our forefathers and the security forces whose efforts, sacrifices and loyalty in the fight against “Indonesian confrontation” and communist terrorism and as a result of their sacrifices we are today enjoying the peace, prosperity and unity.

Especially, I would like to highlight the sacrifices and dedication of our leaders such as Temenggong Jugah, Pengarah Montegrai, Tun Abang Haji Openg, Yao Cheng Hoe, Ling Beng Siew, James Wong and Remigius Durin anak Nganau who negotiated our terms and conditions of our entry into the federation of Malaysia.

I feel that the least the State government should do is to declare 16 September a public holiday rather than observing the nearest Saturday to 16 September as the birthday of Yang Dipertua Negeri. I do not mean to be disrespectful to the Yang Dipertua Negeri.

By the way, all the five States under Pakatan Rakyat have agreed to declare 16 September as a public day to celebrate Malaysia Day. Bernard Dompok, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and some Sabah State ministers have also voiced similar sentiments.

So far none of the Sarawak leaders has expressed anything to the effect, even though the State acknowledges in its Almanac that 16 September is “Hari Malaysia” with the words printed in small print.

It is really sad.

Tuesday, September 2

Why Kapit is neglected?

An aerial view of Kapit town

While road communications in other divisions in Sarawak have improved by leaps and bounds, transportation in the Kapit Division has remained traditional, i.e. by rivers, even after becoming independent through the formation of Malaysia until this day – 45 years later.

The construction of road from Kanowit to Song and to Kapit and eventually to Belaga has been the dreams of Kapit leaders as it will not only link Kapit with other divisions, but will also pass through thousands of longhouses and huge tracts of land which can be opened up for agricultural development. The opening up of these tracts of land will be able to help eradicate poverty among the Ibans in the area, who are among the poorest in the country.

Kapit’s members of parliament and assemblymen have complained about the lack of road communications since the early days of Malaysia. I remember an incident in Kapit some time in 1967 when Tun Temenggong Jugah complained to Tun Abdul Razak, then deputy prime minister regarding the lack of development in Kapit especially the road construction. He said that Rahman Yakub and Taib Mahmud had neglected the Iban community in implementing development projects and accused them of practising a double standard. I remember he said: “Bisi niki pinang bisi niki nibong”. He threatened to pull off support for the federation of Malaysia. However, he kept quiet after he was offered the post of Minister for Sarawak affairs.

But his successors for the Ulu Rejang seat such as Miut Sibat, Justine Jinggut, and Billy Abit Jo and MPs for Kapit including Penghulu Abit, James Jimbun and Alex Nanta Linggi, the grandson of Jugah and State assemblymen like Jonathan Sabai, Philimon Nuing, Peter Gani, Stephen Ngelambong, Felix Bantin and Ambrose Blikau and Dr. James Masing have tried their best in requesting for road development for Kapit.

All their requests have been ignored. Now all development funds are to be focused towards realising Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy (SCORE) where 13 major companies have signed MoU with companies connected to Taib’s families and cronies. The SCORE will be developed along the coastal areas.

No wonder, the people of Kapit are very angry when they see no funds for road construction have been set aside for Kapit in the 2009 budget. Kapit has been missing several buses of economic development – to be exact nine buses (nine five-year Malaysia Development Plans.)

Why is Kapit in the doldrums of economic development? Firstly, certain people who walk along the corridor of power strongly object to the construction of the road as it will deprive the business of the express boat operators as well as ensuring the mighty Rajang River remains the mainstay of transportation for the benefit eco-tourism. Secondly and silently certain powers-that-be do not want Ibans to be “developed”. Ibans having reasonable incomes will be a threat in that they will not “kow-tow” to anyone. And being too poor will be equally dangerous to the powers-that-be. The policy is not to make “Ibans rich nor to make them really poor” as both are detrimental to the existing powers-that-be.

Now to cut the story short, Masing has got the power. The question is whether he dares to use it. Like Jugah who was the president of Parti Pesaka threatening to pull out of Malaysia, Masing as the president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) with six MPs and seven State Assemblymen can adopt the same tactic. Although Masing cannot pull out of Malaysia, he certainly can pull out of Barisan Nasional as it (BN) has not cared much for the people of Kapit. Only certain Dayak leaders like Alfred Jabu, Douglas Ugah and their cronies really benefit, some of them are given government contracts and lands for oil palm plantations.

So why remain in BN when Anwar Ibrahim is offering a window of opportunity to join Pakatan Rakyat. Perhaps with earnest negotiations with Anwar Ibrahim, who knows, PRS will not only become a greater and stronger voice for the people of Kapit, but also standing tall for the Dayak community in the new alliance.

Recent news about Kapit published in the local newspapers:-