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S’wak has seen development but..

 | September 18, 2013

Despite the government’s decades long ‘development policies’, bulk of Sarawak is still without clean treated water, road and electricity.

KUCHING: Development comes at a cost and Sarawakians in the state’s rural and interiors believe they have paid a heavy price under Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s agenda when compared to the colonial days.

Human rights activist Mark Bujang said that after 50 years in the federation of Malaysia, some might say that Sarawak has changed a lot.

“In some ways, I agree but if we look into the situation of our people – the indigenous people – in terms of our rights to our land and resources we seem to be regressing.

“Over the years a lot of our laws such as land laws, forestry ordinance, land custody development authority (LCDA) ordinance, just to name a few have been amended but not for the betterment of our indigenous communities.

“These laws have instead made it more difficult for us to claim our inherent rights,” said Bujang, who is also the executive secretary of Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS).

He said despite the government’s decades long development agenda which has seen the opening up of commercial and industrial lands, bulk of the indigenous communities in Sarawak are still without basic amenities such as access to clean treated water, roads and electricity.

“A responsible government would normally give priority to these amenities but instead priorities are given to commercial land and industrial development.

“All these developments are at the expense of our own people and the environment,” he said, citing Sarawak Corridor Renewal Energy (SCORE) as a case in point.

Bujang added that as far as he was concerned Sarawak is still under-developed.

“Some may argue with me that Sarawak is very much on track to be a developed stated, but what is the point of attaining a developed state, when your environment is ruined.

“Worse, the indigenous people have no more land left,” he said.

Colonial government more sympathetic

Orang Ulu National Association’s (OUNA) Miri chairman Peter Kallang echoes Bujang’s views.

Kallang claims that the majority of natives in Baram consider the colonial government as more democratic than the present Barisan Nasional administration.

“The colonial government always respected our customs, Adat, our livelihood and our rights, whereas the Barisan Nasional government takes away our customary rights (NCR) land and does not recognise our rights,” he told FMT.

He said the Bakun Dam had submerged thousands of hectares of NCR land, communal villages, longhouses and displaced thousands of natives in the name of progress.

And despite having seen and experienced the ground implications of their decision, they’ve gone ahead to build more dams.

“The present government is planning to build another dam – the Baram Dam.

“Once completed, the dam will submerge more NCR land, villages and longhouses, and more than 20,000 natives will be relocated.

“Despite our protests and appeals, the government just ignores us. And for those who dare to protest and erect blockades would find themselves being arrested and sent to jail.

“Is this not cruel?” asked Kallang, who pointing out that the colonial government did not jail natives for protecting their rights.

“The colonial government was more democratic and sympathetic to the natives than the present BN government,” added Kallang who is also the chairperson of SAVE Sarawak Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers).


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