These government policies include stripping the country of its rainforests, taking Native Customary Rights Lands from traditional communities and covering thousands of square kilometres with palm oil plantations. But who is really profiting?
Taib Mamud has for years promised the people of Sarawak that in return for the surrender and destruction of their lands, they would receive a future bathed in wealth and prosperity and enjoy a modern standard of living comparable to advanced countries. But what is the evidence of our eyes?
We can see the lives of poorer people are still primitive and they are much hungrier and poorer without their lands to live from, while the rich people around Taib Mamud and his friends live in a 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.
One example in Batang Ai
In this longhouse at Batang Ai the Iban community is struggling. 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 to the family and business contacts of the Chief Minister. So much for progress and development!
They had also been told they would have free water and electricity from the dam, but this promise has been broken and most families have to use rainwater to cook and wash and to flush their toilets and at night-time they have to share light with their neighbours. The roads to their longhouses have fallen 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. So much for progress and development!
The only ‘modern’ jobs on offer are the very low paid jobs on the oil plantations run by SALCRA, managed by Taib’s family and friends. They get 8MR a day – compare that with the MR165 million that Taib’s family made from the Bengoh Dam project in just a few weeks! So much for progress and development!
Red Carpet for Ministers
Again, look at the Roads in Batang Ai! Is this modernisation? The only time the surface was improved was the day before Taib flew from Kuching in his helicopter for last year’s by election - the road was hastily repaired along 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 ringits to improve their longhouses and their roads.
Such pre-election bribes are illegal, but don’t worry he was lying and little has been spent to improve life in Batang Ai. Most roads are as terrible as before and longhouses have received no money. So much for progress and development.
These are the conclusions of one resident of 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 the splendour of Taib’s homes and his parliament and all his fancy hotels and buildings and then I can see who has really profited from all this ‘progress and development’. After 30 years I cannot believe his promises, I am going to vote for the united opposition parties under PR – we need to take back our lands and our rights”.
Click here for PKR’s Alternative Vision for Sarawak