According to Barisan Nasional assemblyman Johnical Rayong, rural villagers in Sarawak are 'light years away in development'.
According to Engkilili assemblyman Dr Johnical Rayong, the opposition is “only good at making promises” but BN keeps its word, alluding to Prime Minsiter Najib Tun Razak’s “Janji Ditepati’ slogan.
Najib’s slogan, however, is out-of-sync in Sarawak and in Sabah where poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of healthcare and basic necessities are a norm.
Both states, despite their immense natural resources and oil, are among the poorest in the country.
Sabah in fact was declared the poorest by the World Bank and Sarawak is third. The bulk of rural Sarawak is still devoid of clean piped water, electricity and decent roads. Life is ridiculously tough and cost of living higher than in Peninsular Malaya.
The BN coalition under Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has “ruled” Sarawak for decades and its publicly espoused “development agenda” has not trickled down to the masses.
The elite have become richer while the rural natives live under the shadow of land grabs, displacements (due to deforestations), gangsters and rogue politicians.
‘Light years behind development’
But the 2008 political storm in Peninsular Malaya and the subsequent outcome of the state election last year have been a cold shower for local leaders who until then lorded over the state.
Opposition DAP and PKR made dramatic inroads wresting 12 and three seats respectively from Sarawak BN. PKR lost Senadin by a contentious 58 seats.
Many other seats were retained by BN but with small majorities making the 13th parliamentary election a precarious one for BN.
Except for Taib’s Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu-held 14 seats, the rest of the coalition’s partners – Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Party Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) – are up against a tougher opposition.
Sources predict that BN will lose up to 10 seats in Sarawak. SUPP, PRS and SPDP collectively hold 17 seats.
The bulk of these seats are in Chinese-centric areas and rural interior; the very folk whom Rayong targeted when he said “BN is the most ideal and democratic government in Malaysia.”
Said Rayong at a meet-the-people session in Lidong, recently: “The rural people… they still need the BN government. (They) are still light years behind in the development wave.
“What is the use of supporting the opposition to fight the BN… the opposition is only good at making promises, they cannot do anything to improve the people’s livelihood… vote for BN candidates.”
Rayong is not the only one desperately trying to convince an increasingly sceptical rural audience who are beginning to see themselves as victims of unscrupulous and arrogant politicians who behave like “gods” or in PRS president James Masing’s words like “towkays”.
Free money, projects
The amount of projects being spun and of cash disbursed under the Minor Rural Projects (MRP) is immense – RM10,000 here, RM7,000 there and RM3,000 everywhere. Every village security committee and localised women and youth groups are getting some form of “spending” money for their activities.
Yesterday, Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Numpang said that 48 agriculture stations throughout the state will be reactivated or newly set up.
He said more than 100 agriculture assistants would be recruited to man these stations, meaning there will jobs to look forward to but according to him “it will take more than a year to recruit them”.
Earlier this week, State Public Utilities Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said Ba Kelalan constituency will finally have electricity.
An ironical statement, seeing the constituency was under BN before PKR wrested it last April.
According to Awang Tengah, “RES (Rural Electricification Scheme) funds are now ready for areas in Ba Kelalan”.
Apparently the “focus” of the RES has now been “switched” to Ba Kelalan because most of Bukit Sari is served by main lines.
Awang Tengah is Bukit Sari assemblyman and both Ba Kelalan and Bukit Sari fall under the Lawas parliamentary constituency, which BN intelligence has identifed as a “grey” area.
This aside, the Sarawak Welfare, Women and Family Development Ministry has also been doing its bit with the cash handouts – having spent over RM60 million in the last six months.
Some 47,097 poor and less fortunate people – voters no less – have allegedly benefited.
According to minister Fatimah Abdullah, the grant is for target group “to provide them with the means to carry out projects or business that can increase and improve their income and living standards”.
The giveaways now are just the tip of the iceberg. The bigger handouts will come as the polls roll out and then too it will be project funds and BN’s development agenda, not bribery.