BN and SUPP cannot afford to antagonise the 14,000 Dayak community in the Stampin constituency.
KUCHING: Beleaguered Sarawak United Peopleâ€™s Party (SUPP), a member of the Barisan Nasional, may well lose more votes in the coming general election if it fails to stop the authorities from grabbing more land belonging to the Iban villages in Kampung Stampin.
Kampung Stamping with more than 100 houses is one of the oldest villages in the outskirts of Kuching and is under threat.
The villagers are worried that they may lose their 20 acres of native customary rights (NCR) land to a private developer.
The land is the only piece left over after thousands of acres of their lands had been taken for the construction of what is now known as the BDC Stampin, a new township surrounded by housing projects.
For the past few elections, the villagers had been ardent supporters of SUPP and Barisan Nasional.
But since the last April state election, the swing of support towards the opposition has been significant enought to have given DAP candidate Chong Chieng Jen a comfortable majority.
Stampin, once a state seat before being converted to Stampin parliamentary constituency, is the stronghold of BN and SUPP.
But things are changing now, especially after last yearâ€™s state election during which the opposition took three seats â€“ Batu Kawah, Batu Lintang and Kota Sentosa â€“ which form the Stampin parliamentary constituency.
â€śWe know that SUPP is not able to help us to stop the government from alienating our land to a private company.
“We have seen SUPP unable to help our neighbours from Kampung Stutong, Kampung Sungai Laru and Kampung Sungai Tapang, whose lands had also been alienated to private companies or taken for development projects,â€ť said a member of Kampung Stampin Security and Development committee (JKKK).
Alienating NCR lands
The committee member, who declined to be named, said: â€śTake the case of Kampung Stutong community hall. It was demolished some time in 2000 after the land was allegedly alienated to the late assistant minister Dublin Unting, State Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Michael Manyin and the late Mayor of Kuching Chong Ted Tsiung.â€ť
Both Chong who passed away on Aug 3, 2007, and Unting who died on Feb 24, 2009, did not live long enough to enjoy the opportunity of doing something on the piece of land.
Manyin, they alleged, dare not build a house in the land for fear of being â€ścursedâ€ť.
The Kampung Stutong village hall was built in 1980s with a state government grant of more than RM100,000. The grant was approved by the late SUPP leader and deputy chief minister Sim Kheng Hong, who was then the Stampin assemblyman.
Since the construction of the hall, the villagers had never failed to hold their gawai and cultural festivals at the hall. Likewise, Sim had never failed to attend such festivals.
But after Simâ€™s death on Feb 1, 1992, the folk of Kampung Stutong lost their â€śgod fatherâ€ť and their land. The more than 100 voters of the village have started to lose faith in SUPP.
In Kampung Stampin, the recent â€śalienationâ€ť of the 20 acres land has now become a hot issue between SUPP and DAP.
While SUPP is seemingly helpless, DAP is going all out to exploit the issue as a major campaign material in order to win Dayak votes for the coming general election.
SUPP playing down land grab
Said Chong Chieng Jen, state DAP secretary, who is tipped to contest the Stampin parliamentary constituency: â€śWilfred Yap of SUPP did visit the kampung about two weeks ago when the villagers complained about the contractors encroaching onto some of the peopleâ€™s houses.
â€śThe villagers told him about their communal land [on which the kindergarten, community hall, chapel and football field sit) which is being alienated to a private party.
â€śSUPP did not highlight the issue about the kampung people losing their communal land, their kindergarten, community hall and chapel.
"SUPP only highlighted about the construction of the drains which has caused inconvenience to the people.
â€śThis is typical of SUPP. When it comes to the interest of BN leadersâ€™ families against the peopleâ€™s welfare, it pretends nothing has happened and keeps dumb over the issue.â€ť
Chong, who is the Kota Sentosa assemblyman and Bandar Kuching MP, said a petition has been drafted to gauge people's concerns.
So far 168 people have signed the petition.
The petition, which is to be submitted to Chief Minister Taib Mahmud with a copy to the Director of Lands and Surveys, reads: â€śWe, the signatories... being the residents of Kampung Stampin, Jalan Stutong, Kuching, wish to express our deepest concern about the recent news relating to the few parcels of land [lots 4576, 17989, 17990, 6628 and 6629], all of Block 11 Muara Tebas Land district.
â€śOn the said lands are the Tadika Kemas Kampung Stampin, Balai Raya Kampung Stampin, a football field and the St Margaret Chapel.
â€śWe have heard news that the lands are being alienated to a private developer. We have made the relevant searches with the Kuching Land Registry Office and was told that the alienation process is in progress.
â€śThe new map concerning the lands shows that the lands have been replaced with lots 18807-18812 all of Block 11 Muara Tebas Land district.
â€śHowever, as they are in the midst of alienation, one cannot make any land search on the particulars of lots 18807-18812.
Swing towards opposition
â€śThe Tadika Kemas Kampung Stampin, Balai Raya Kampung Stampin, the football field and the St Margaret Chapel have served the community of Kampung Stampin for more than 20 years. We still need these buildings…
â€śWe are most disturbed by news on the proposed alienation of the lands to a private developer who ultimately will demolish the kindergarten, the community hall and the chapel and do away with the football field.
â€śWe, the signatories, express our strongest objection against the alienation of the lands to a private developer. We appeal to the government [instead] to… alienate the lands to the Kampung Stampin JKKK for the benefit of the whole community…â€ť the petition said.
Elaborating on the petition, Chong said: â€śThe residents merely want the government to return the lands to them.
â€śThis kampung has been here since the Charles Brooke era, which is easily over 100 years, and the community hall which sits on the land is more than 20 years old.
â€śNot only is there a community hall, there are also a kindergarten, a football field and a chapel to serve the people in Kampung Stampin.
â€śThese facilities have been there well before the private company which the state government will alienate the land to, came into existence,â€ť he said.
With DAP likely to contest the Stampin seat on behalf of Pakatan Rakyat against SUPPâ€™s candidate â€“ either lawyer Wilfred Yap or chairman of Padawan Municipal Council Lo Khere Chiang â€“ all eyes are on this constituency.
The constituency has 75,798 voters (according to last year’s electoral rolls), of which 53,417 are Chinese.
It is estimated that between 55% and 60% of the Chinese voters are politically inclined towards the opposition.
â€śBN and SUPP cannot afford to antagonise the Dayak community in the Stampin constituency who form about 14,000 voters.
â€śAny swing of about 33% of the Dayak votes will ensure the oppositionâ€™s victory in the Stampin constituency,â€ť said a political analyst.