Tuesday, December 2, 2014

NGOs carry out reckless anti-palm oil campaign

The State Government, through the Ministry of Land Development and relevant agencies, is working together with Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) to carry out a comprehensive Public Affairs Program to correct the misconceptions about the palm oil industry in Europe, which has been subjected to a long running anti-palm oil campaigns by western NGOs and media.

The strategic objective of this program, which focused on Sarawak, is to close the knowledge gap on Sarawak among the western NGOs and consumers, which have been alleging that oil palm cultivations in Sarawak involve deforestation, destruction of peat land, and exploitation of people and communities.

The anti palm oil campaigns, mainly carried out by very unfriendly foreign NGOs and media, have been alleging that oil palm cultivation in Sarawak involve deforestation, destruction of peat land, and exploitation of people and communities. The State, as a major producer of oil palm, must address the challenges and correct the misconceptions about the palm oil industry. 

The Minister of Land Development, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr. James Jemut Masing, in his winding speech on the debate of Budget 2015 during the recent sitting of the State Legislative Assembly, said his Ministry together with MPOC recently organized a visit by a team of 11 journalists, comprising editors and senior reporters from key European countries, to Sarawak in the overall efforts to close the knowledge gap on Sarawak among the western NGOs and consumers.

They represent media organizations in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and France. Their visit was to enable members to gather information on the conservation and protection of forests and wildlife initiatives being implemented by the State Government.

 They also paid field visits to meet with smallholders in order to gain first-hand knowledge about the contributions of palm oil industry to their socio-economic well-being. They also visited plantations including those on peat soil in Sibu to see how the oil palms are planted on peat soil.

After Sarawak, the journalists continued their visit to Peninsular Malaysia where they had the opportunity to meet the Minister for Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Amar  Douglas Uggah Embas.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing said their reports and articles will essentially be used to change the negative and misinformed perceptions of European consumers over the palm oil industry. They are expected to have more balanced reports on the situation in general.

He said Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and the State Secretary, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Mohammad Morshidi Ghani joined him during a question and answer session with the journalists during the visit. 

Besides, a team led by qualified Danish forester, who has substantial experience in hands-on forest management and analysis, has also been invited to visit Sarawak by the Ministry of Land Development to study and produce a report on the State’s management and conservation of forests and the development of oil palm on peat land.

Essentially, the Public Affairs Program is an extensive public relations and communication exercise, which the Government undertakes at the international level, with the assistance from experts from outside the country. It is targeted at specific audience in Europe, and eventually to reach consumers of palm oil and products in Europe.

He thanked the Ministry of Primary Industries and Commodities in sorting out the funding, which is estimated to cost RM1.76 million, which runs over a period of eight months commencing from September 2014. Subsequently, the Ministry has also decided that activities under the Public Affairs Program will form part and parcel of MPOC’s annual overall promotional program for palm oil and the industry as a whole.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing said the State Government, realizing the importance of oil palm industry in contributing toward the State’s economy and the development of rural areas, is expanding oil palm cultivation to NCR land and other idle land areas. These are mainly to cater for smallholders and NCR landowners.

The State has an estimated 290,000 hectares under the smallholders; of this an estimated 177,000 hectares are under organized smallholders or those who are managed by the Government agencies and 113,000 hectares under independent smallholders or those who manage their own holdings. Their number is increasing by the day as the land owners rely on oil palm cultivation to generate higher household income and move out of the trap of poverty cycle.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing said NCR lands are areas formerly under shifting cultivation; they are non-forested areas. It saddens him to hear of NGOs, who are trying to undermine the development of oil palm industry, through their negative campaigns. They are actually doing a great disservice to smallholders, who are trying to make a living out of their land.

Why do NGOs need to champion their causes to the detriment of the poor, he asked and added is it wrong for NCR landowners to plant oil palm to better their lives or is it a crime for NCR land owners and smallholders to clear their land to plant oil palm to have better income?

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing said international NGOs seem to think that it is both wrong and a crime for the natives to harness their own lands to improve their living standard. They accuse planters of doing injustice to the natives by assisting them to improve their lives.

The State must never allow others, mainly foreign NGOs, to stop the people from bettering themselves nor should foreign NGOs, which do not represent anybody, be allowed to determine the destiny of the local people. Obviously, the State has to face and overcome many challenges from NGOs in the next few years to come.

 In this regards, all the people including members of the opposition, elected members in particular, must join in the fight against the undesirable actions of unfriendly NGOs, who should be considered as common enemies.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing assured that legal NCR land owners will not be deprived of their rights to own land. No one can deprive NCR land owners of their land as the Land Code is very clear on these matters.  Any disputes or claims over ownership of land in Sarawak whether it is on ‘temuda’ land (land cleared after shifting cultivation), ‘pulau galau’ (communal reserved land) or ‘pemakai menoa’ (land where foraging and hunting take place), will be referred to the Courts for their decisions. 

He said in tackling NCR land issues, the State Government had already amended the Land Code to allow NCR land to become a commodity of  trade state wide and thus increase the value of NCR land carry out  the perimeter survey to demarcate State and NCR land.

He believed once the perimeter survey is completed, disputes between State authorities and NCR land claimants will be a thing of the past. The perimeter survey thus offers security on NCR land ownership among the native community.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing, who is also the President of Parti Rakyat Sarawak said Malaysia stands firm as a nation of moderates. Hence, it will not tolerate nor condone extremism and religious bigots. Sarawak will not allow itself to be bullied by bad hats from Malaya on issues, which can destabilize peace, religious tolerance and political unity in the state.

His party stands firmly behind the Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Haji Satem on all issues including banning of all religious bigots and extremists from entering into Sarawak. The party is also firmly behind Chief Minister in fighting against corrupt practices in whatever form they appear.

He called on the people, comprising of various ethnic and religious groups, all to stand alongside the Chief Minister to make this country a better place for everyone. Obviously, the Chief Minister needs the space and time to find amicable solutions to problems that are besieging the state or country.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing said there were 1.28 million hectares of land planted with oil palm as at 30 June 2014, an increase of 7.5% from the 1.19 million hectares achieved up to 30 June 2013. The private sector companies continue to be at the helm of the industry with close to 78% of the total oil palm area or 992,188 hectares developed by them.
The balance of 285,787 hectares was planted by government land development agencies, Joint Venture companies and the independent smallholders. The areas planted by the independent smallholders totaling 101,920 hectares show the highest increment of 16.6 percent from the 87,410 hectares up to 30 June 2013.

He said there are now 71 palm oil mills and six refineries in operation to cater for the processing needs of the palm oil industry.   Another 9 new palm oil mills are at various stages of construction. The Government has been approving new mills and expansion of processing capacities of existing mills from time to time to cater for the increasing needs of the planters, including the smallholders.

The total export of Sarawak’s oil palm products, consisting of palm oil, palm kernel oil,
palm kernel cake and finished products, increased to 5.3 million  in the first nine months of 2014 from 4.8 million tonnes for the same period in 2013. This generated total export revenue of RM12.6 billion, which is an increase by 17.8% or about RM1.9 billion from the RM10.7 billion recorded in 2013.

Up to 30 September 2014, a total of 75,167 hectares of NCR land located in 48 project areas have been planted with oil palm by 42 joint venture companies. This shows an increase of 7.3% from the 70,059 hectares achieved a year ago. The participants, numbering 13,646 landowners, received cumulative monetary benefits amounting to RM143 million comprising of dividends, upfront payments, and incentives.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Masing said his Ministry has been tasked to pave the way for the development of NCR land areas already perimeter surveyed and gazette as Communal Reserves under section 6 of the Land Code. In this connection, officers from his Ministry have to identify the claimants/landowners, conduct dialogues and consultations with the landowners to determine how they want their NCR land to be developed. 

Obviously, the Ministry must assess the availability of underutilized NCR land and suggest the type of development and agencies to undertake the development.  The Ministry has already received 115 gazette NCR land areas encompassing 101,140 hectares from the owners for development.

The Ministry, given the manpower available, has prioritized 17 areas, which are fairly distributed among various ethnic groups and different administrative Divisions. Officers from the Ministry have carried out the first round of the field visits to 15 of the areas.

Tan Sri Datuk Amar James Jemut Masing said his Ministry, with the feedback from the participants of a workshop to identify and formulate a new model for the development of NCR land, has succeeded in formulating new approaches as alternatives to the existing joint venture model. One model, called the ‘Management Model’, is now being introduced with the implementation of a pilot project in Sibu.

Another new model, to look into the various legal, financial, technical and operational issues, is still being studied.  Two Ministries, four government departments and seven statutory bodies are still studying the details. Once the exercise is completed, the new model will be put up to the government for approval early next year. 

Sarawak Monitor
2 December 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Adenan gets full backing in fight against corruption scourge in Sarawak

Sarawak has less than 2230 days prior to December 31, 2020 to attain the goal of the National agenda to become a high income economy or a developed State.  As Budget 2015 is the last for the Tenth Malaysia Plan, it is an appropriate time for Sarawak to set the stage for the Eleventh Malaysia Plan. Hence, the State must ensure that all the planned programs and projects in the 10th Malaysia Plan must be implemented as planned. 

The State will implement Sarawak Socio-Economic Transformation Program (SETP) under the 11th Malaysia Plan, 2016 to 2020, with the primary objective to ensure that Sarawak will not be left behind in the nation's efforts to become a developed country with high income economy by the year 2020.

Obviously, SETP will demand much more from the people to organize themselves to work closely and actively in support of the Government’s policy to make Sarawak peaceful, politically stable and harmonious by the year 2020 and beyond. For example, they must make conscientious efforts in support of human resource development program in matters relating to education, social, economy and national security.

Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri (Dr) Haji Adenan Haji Satem, who is also the Minister of Finance, in tabling Budget 2015 during the just-concluded sittings of the State Legislative Assembly, said the State Government had made bigger allocations for the implementation  of the rural transformation programs with the primary objective to address the economic gap between the rural and the urban areas. 

Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri (Dr) Haji Adenan Haji Satem
It was his view that the rural population, which has steadfastly been loyal to the Government, must be given opportunities to participate actively in all aspects of Government’s development transformation programs.

Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang, who is also the Minister of Rural Development, in his winding speech on the debate on Budget 2015, said Budget 2015 is very well received by the Rakyat, by the rural people in particular, as it is aimed at implementing development projects to improve their income and standard of living.

He said the budget manifested a very positive move by Sarawak Barisan Nasional’s Government to address the economic imbalance between the rural and urban dwellers. It is a true manifestation of the fact that the government really cares for the welfare and prosperity of the people.  

The budget 2015 allocates RM4,546 million or about 71% of the total allocation for development  purposes and RM1,813 million or 29% of it for operating expenditure.  More than 50% of the development allocation is for the implementation of programs and projects in rural areas. 

Datuk Patinggi Jabu said the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak has always acknowledged that the rural population of Sarawak must be given priority attention in the continuous efforts to narrow the economic gap between the rural and the urban dwellers. Obviously, both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin care for the rural people and understand their problems and hardships.

He said the people, who comprise of diverse racial and religious groups, are strongly united in their support of Barisan Nasional’s Government being led by Datuk Patinggi Datuk Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak at the national level and Datuk Patinggi Haji Adenan Satem at the state level.

He has been hearing very favorable comments during his regular visits covering extensive areas in rural Sarawak on Datuk Patinggi Adenan’s very strong and unwavering commitment of assurance that Christians throughout Sarawak can continue to use the word Allah in their bible.

Indisputably, Datuk Patinggi Adenan has deep understanding and respect for Christianity and other religious dominations in the State.  Generally, religious toIerance is being accepted as one of the strong pillars for Sarawak to continue to have peace, political stability, racial harmony and prosperity into the future.

Datuk Patinggi Jabu pledged full support to Datuk Patinggi Adenan’s bold policy and initiatives being taken in the fight against corruption, illegal loggings, rampant thefts of oil palm fruit bunches and illegal cyber gambling throughout Sarawak. Every Sarawakian must be united to fight the social ills, which can cause disaster to the peace, political stability, unity and racial harmony that have been enjoyed by the people.

Understandably, the hard-line stance of the Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Haji Satem against corruption in Sarawak is very much welcomed by the National Administration. The corrupt practices in the logging sectors in particular had caused enormous losses not just to Sarawak but the country as a whole. 

Unavoidably, the image of the State and the country had been tarnished by bad publicity caused by corrupt practices that had allowed illegal logging to persist in Sarawak. They also put the reputation of the enforcement agencies in a bad light. 

Obviously, the Chief Minister needs the full backing of all in the fight against the corruption scourge in Sarawak. In this regards, the players in the logging sector cannot close their eyes to what is happening just because the money keeps coming in for them.

Basically, the timber industry is not just about money. More importantly, it should take into account issues on integrity, protection of the environment and sustainability of the forest resources and biodiversity. 

Datuk Patinggi Jabu pledged to continue to emphasize on the development of facilities and basic infrastructure amenities in rural areas in implementing the Federal Budget 2015, which has been tabled by the Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohd Najid Tun Haji Abdul Razak, who is also the Minister of Finance. An allocation of RM1.35 billion has been allocated by the Ministry of Rural and Regional Developement to Sarawak for the following projects:
  • Rural Road projects – RM738. 2 million;
  • Rural communication roads projects – RM32.5 million;
  • Rural Water Supply projects – RM117.4 million;
  • Rural Electricity Supply projects – RM416.6 million; and
  • Rural Housing Assistance Projects – RM50 million. 

Besides, the Federal Ministry of Rural and Regional Development has also allocated RM126.4 million for the year 2015 to Sarawak for implementing various projects by agencies of the Ministry like KEMAS Sarawak, FELCRA Berhad, MARA and RISDA to make rural development more active in the State. 

The State government, with the additional allocation, will upgrade public utilities and infrastructure consistent with commitment of the Government to intensify a more comprehensive development for the rural areas.

Datuk Patinggi Jabu said the first Rural Transformation Centre (RTC) program in Sarawak, which is a driver and complement of the Rural Transformation Program, will be operational from January 2015 at Bekenu, Sibuti in Miri. Its primary objective will be to accelerate efforts to upgrade the quality and prosperity of the people, those in the surrounding areas in particular. 

The RTC is being carried out under the initiative of   National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS), which emphasizes on costs saving, big impact on the people and to maximize the usage of premises and existing government buildings, which have not been used fully used by various related agencies in the service of the Rakyat.   

Based on the slogan of One stop, Multi services, RTC Sarawak, Sibuti will provide various aspects of services by various agencies of the government, private sector, tourism, food and drink outlets and training centre of entrepreneurs.

A total of nine agencies will operate at RTC Sarawak, Sibuti as follows::
  • Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara;
  • Jabatan Kesihatan (Klinik Pergigian);
  • Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat;
  • Jabatan Kemajuan Masyarakat (KEMAS);
  • Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), cawangan Miri;
  • Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia (LKIM), cawangan Sarawak;
  • Majlis Daerah Subis (MDS);
  • Kiosk Informasi 1Malaysia and Jobs Malaysia; and
  • AGRO Bank. Meanwhile, Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ) and FAMA will open counters twice in a month at the RTC.

Datuk Patinggi Jabu said the program of raising the level of income (Program Peningkatan Pendapatan (PPP), with the primary objective to raise level of family income to enable them to come out from the vicious cycle of poverty being coordinated by the Ministry of Rural Development, provides financial assistance and management to enable recipients to carry out economic projects in various sectors of the economy. 

The Program Peningkatan Pendapatan (PPP) gives emphasis on four scopes namely Agro –based enterprises, small businesses and service and agricultural activities. The target groups are Ketua Isi Rumah (KIR) or heads of families, Ibu Tunggal (IT) or single mothers, Surirumah (SR) or housewives and Ahli Isi Rumah (AIR) Miskin Tegar or family members of hard core poor families like those who are sick and school dropouts; they must have interests to carry out economic projects.

The maximum grant for a participant is RM10,000.00 to buy tools, rent workshop/ retail outlets, purchase of raw material and  capital for the development and operation of the business. A total of RM8 million was given out as grants to 860 people, who registered as participants of the program in Sarawak for the year 2013/2014.  

Datuk Patinggi Jabu said the implementation of Rural Roads projects and Housing Assistance Program, being coordinated by the Ministry of Rural Development, will be intensified under budget 2015. A total of 268.9 km rural roads were constructed or upgraded with the total cost of RM173.3 million until the end of last October under the initiative of National Key Results Areas (NKRA) beyond the target of 107.7KM as being targeted by JKR and Drainage and Irrigation Department, Sarawak.   

He said a total of 1,653 units of houses were successfully constructed or renovated during the same period. The target set under the Housing Assistance Program was 2,496 units with the allocation of RM34.1 million. The Ministry of Rural Development will continue to focus on the construction of more rural roads and rural link roads throughout the State.

Datuk Patinggi Jabu believed the implementation of these projects will create an environment, which is more conducive to precipitate the development of diversified economic activities and raise the level of quality and standard of living of the rural communities.

He said work to upgrade the link roads under phase two of Long Jegan and Long Loyang link road project, being carried out by Syarikat Samling Resources Sdn. Bhd. with the cost ofRM4.55 million since last September,  is scheduled for completion in February 2015.

He said work on preparing the site for the housing scheme with the estimated costs of RM26.46 million to resettle fishermen at RGC Semop was completed last June. The construction of infrastructure and amenities, depending on the availability of fund, will commence once the area, which has been filled with sand, becomes strong and stable 

The solar hybrid system at Long Sukang, once having to relocate site due to blockade by the locals, will be commissioned by the end of December 2014. This design and build project was awarded by the Ministry of Rural  and Regional Development  to the appointed contractor and Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) serves as the project technical adviser to ensure that all the system design fulfils the SESCo’s standards, requirements and guidelines.

The contractor is responsible for performing the system’s testing and commissioning and Sarawak Energy Berhad will take over and operate the system after 30 days continuous reliability run. The defect liability period of two years puts the contractor responsible for the maintenance of the system and equipment.  

Datuk Patinggi Jabu said the Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Modernization of Agriculture will work together with other stakeholders to establish paddy farming area in Sebelak and gazette it as a Paddy Granary Area. The Department of Irrigation and Drainage Sarawak has been tasked to develop the infrastructure in the overall program to turn Sungai Sebelak into a rice bowl.  

Besides, the Ministry of Rural Development and LCDA (PELITA) has planned to carry out the impact study at RGC Telaga Air before the end of the year. The impact study will focus on effectiveness of project implementation in raising the level of prosperity and quality of life of the local people.  

Datuk Patinggi Jabu said PELITA, since the middle of RMK-8 from 2003, has been appointed by the State government as the lead agency in the development of Rural Growth Centre. During the same period, LCDA has already spent RM111.9 million out of the total allocation of RM163.6 million for the purpose. The balance of the allocation of RM51.7 million will be spent according to schedules of the implementation of projects.

He congratulated Yang di- Pertua Negeri Sarawak Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud on his appointment as the Chancellor of UNIMAS and Datuk Patinggi Adenan on being conferred the award of Darjah Yang Amat Mulia Datuk Patinggi Bintang Kenyalang, which carries the title of "Datuk Patinggi" on the occasion of the 78th birthday of the Yang di Pertua Negeri.  

Sarawak Monitor
28 November 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Increase in membership of DUN is justified with size of Sarawak

The Dewan Undangan Negeri (Composition of Membership) Bill, 2014, which has been passed by the State Legislative Assembly, will increase its members from the current 71 to 82.

The re-delineation of electoral boundaries is made by the Election Commission under Article113 (2) (ii) of the Constitution  after an interval of not less than eight years between the date of completion of one review and the date of commencement of the next review under this clause.

The last review in 2005 increased the membership from 62 to 71. Hence, the current exercise is within the stipulated period as provided for by article 113.(6)  that states “ there shall be separate review under Clause 2 for the State of Malaya and for each of the State of Sabah and Sarawak”.

The Article 14(1)(b) of the State Constitution provides inter-alia that the Dewan Undangan Negeri shall consist such number of elected members as the legislature may by law prescribed. By virtue of Article 14(2) read with the Dewan Undangan Negeri (Composition of Membership) Ordinance, 2005, the current number of elected members is 71.

This increase is principally due to the growing number of voting population consequent upon the accelerating pace of development and expansion of economic activities in the State since the last review of electoral constituencies which was undertaken in 2005. Constitutionally, electoral constituencies are reviewed at intervals of not less than eight years.

The Minister of Housing, Datuk Amar Abg Haji  Johari Tun Openg, who is also the Minister of Tourism,  in winding the debate on the Dewan Undangan Negeri (Composition of Membership) Bill, 2014 said having regard to the physical size of the State and the vast areas that some Assemblymen from the rural constituencies have to serve, the increase in the number of elected representatives is justified and necessary.

He said the increase in number of State constituencies from the current 71 to 82 is a fair reflection of the rate of increase in electoral boundaries in the State, which forms a third of the country. The increase in number in terms of providing adequate and effective democratic representation for the people in the State Legislative Assembly is reasonable and fair.

He said the increase in number of State constituencies is a fair reflection of the rate of increase in electoral boundaries in the State. It is also reasonable in terms of providing adequate and effective democratic representation for the people in the State Legislative Assembly. 

During the first ballot election to the State Legislative Assembly held in 1969- 1970, the number of State Assemblymen was 48. The number was increased to 56 in 1985. Subsequently, during the   review in 1995 after an interval of 10 years, it was increased to 62. It was further increased to 71 after the last review in 2005, after an interval of 10 years.   

The current exercise is part of the continuous exercise, which can be made after an interval of nine years, to provide effective representation of the people to enable elected representatives to serve the Rakyat better. Some of the constituencies like Belaga is bigger than Singapore. The constituency has rugged terrains and mountainous and the people are scattered in small groups over a wide area.

The new Ordinance will be enforced on the date to be fixed by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri in time for the next State Election. In other words, the new composition of the State Legislative Assembly will take effect at the next State Election when the voters will elect 82 State Assemblymen.  The re-delineation of electoral boundaries within the framework of the Federal Constitution as stated in Thirteenth Schedule part 1 and part 2 is the work of the Election Commission Malaysia.

The State government is not involved in the process of establishing or delineating a constituency and it trusts the Election Commission in carrying out the duty to establish the re-delineation of constituencies for an increase from 71 to 82.

The Election Commission, based on the previous reviews, will consider perhaps two issues: population and demography; and fair representation based on the area. However, it is entirely up to Election Commission to decide on how to go about doing the job.

Members of the opposition, during the debate on the bill compared Satok, which is a small constituency to Padungan, a big constituency, as typical of the unfair representation of the people in the State Legislative Assembly based on the principle of one man one vote. 

Datuk Amar Abg Haji Johari, who is also the State Assemblyman for Satok, said his constituency may be small but the voters have rejected the Opposition at least eight times in the previous elections. Obviously, members of the opposition are opposing this bill for an increase of 11 state constituencies because the additional constituencies will create bigger problems for them 

For example, DAP and PAS are in the process of going separate ways over the insistence of PAS to implement Hudud or Islamic law in Kelantan; DAP and PAS have already got problems among them.  On top of that DAP, the backbone of Pakatan in Sarawak, and PKR are quarrelling about the number of constituencies that each should contest in the forthcoming State Election, which will be due in 2016. The additional seats will surely create bigger problem for them.

The members, those from the Government and their counterparts from the Opposition were poles apart in their views and comments on the bill. They were from Pantai Damai, Lingga, Telang Usan, Tamin, Engkelili, Palawan, Padungan, Ba Kelalan, Nangka, Kota Sentosa, Batu Kawah, Semop, Bukit Kota, Pending and Kidurong.

The Member for Pantai Damai, Dr Haji Abdul Rahman Junaidi, the first to speak in support of the Bill said Sarawak, which forms a third of the country, has a land surface of 124,450 sq. km. It must make a paradigm shift to accelerate the process of physical development in a more organized manner. Admittedly, the State, in various aspects of development of public utilities and facilities, is still lagging behind other states. 

He said the delay in the development of infrastructure like highway, roads, electricity and water supplies is mainly due to difficulties in opening up some of the areas in the hinterland for development.  Some of the areas, which need more effective representation, are vast.

The last exercise to review the electoral boundaries was in 2005. A number of things have happened during the last nine years. For example, the population of Sarawak, based on statistic from the Department of Statistics, was 2.31 million. The projection for 2015 is 3.19 million.

The people, who were qualified as electors in 2006 was 892,537. But the people, who are qualified to vote, based on the data of the Election Commission as at 24 September 2014, is 1,108,627.  The big increase is very significant and timely in the context of this electoral review.

Logically, the level of services and the process of channeling development projects will be more efficient and beneficial to the people with the increase in the number of elected representatives in the State, which is as big as Semenanjung Malaysia.

The number of members of the State Legislative Assembly has been increased from time to time after the interval of eight years based on the need of time in accordance with Article 113(2) of the Federal Constitution. The State government can request for the review of the electoral boundaries with the view to create new constituencies from the State Election Commission after the interval.

The Membership of the State Legislative Assembly increased from 48 to 52 in 1985. It was further increased to 62 during the review in 1995. During the review in 2005, after an interval of 10 years, the membership was increased to 71.  Therefore, the current review with a view to increase the membership to 81 is appropriate and timely.

Dr Haji Abdul Rahman Junaidi considered it very strange that members of the opposition, those from DAP in particular are against the increase; DAP views the increase as unnecessary and a waste of public fund.

The Member for Semop, Abdullah Haji Saidol said whether a constituency has a big population or not is not important in a big state like Sarawak. Obviously members of the opposition, who represent urban areas like Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu have not experienced using boats or motorcycle to visit places in their constituencies.

Abdullah Saidol, who is also the Chief Political Secretary to Chief Minister, reminded them urban areas like Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu owe their progress and advancement to resources from rural areas. They are being developed as administrative, business, financial and educational centers with the revenue and resources from rural areas.

In other words, the urban areas owe their progress and prosperity from the revenue and resources from Native land and revenue from rural areas. It is an act of ingratitude to belittle the contribution of rural areas in the overall development of the State and country.

The Member for Bukit Kota, Dr. Haji Abdul Rahman Ismail, in his speech said the accusation by the Opposition that the re-delineation exercise is a hidden agenda of the government to cling to power or to solve conflicts within component parties of Barisan Nasional Sarawak is being made with malicious intention. Generally, they seem to have negative perception of whatever policies being formulated by the government. 

He welcomed the policy to give more focus to rural areas in development in order to narrow the development gap between the rural and urban areas. The aspiration could be realized sooner with better representation from rural areas.

Basically, the State must move forward to attain the development level at par with that in Peninsular Malaysia.  The focus must necessarily be to reduce the development gap between the rural and urban areas by the year 2020, which is about six years away.

He requested that the majority of the seats should be located to rural areas because some of the constituencies are as big as some states in Peninsular Malaysia, for example Telang Usan, maybe as big as Pahang.  

The Member for Ba’kelalan, Baru Bian said through the years many comments and criticisms had been hurled at the Election Commission in their re-delineation exercises that many are of the opinion that they are not done in accordance with the fundamental principle of equal-size constituencies.

Therefore caution should be made that in any delineation exercise, it must not result in the debasement of urban votes to that of the rural votes or an advantage of one race over the other.

He recognizes and appreciates the vastness of rural constituencies over the others and that there is the greater difficulty of contacting voters.  In some cases, there is a real need to reduce the size of large rural constituencies, which may be necessary to lighten the burden of elected representatives in areas with poor communications and transport facilities. 

He agreed that a measure of weight age should be given to rural constituencies but cautioned that the weight age should not be so skewed that in some places the value of rural vote is more than double or triple the value of an urban vote.  However, the exercise should not be carried out to the extent of nullifying the “one man, one vote, one value” principle.

Sarawak Monitor
18 November 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nothing will change Sarawak’s position as integral part of Malaysia

Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Haji Adenan Haji Satem has stated in no uncertain terms that Sarawak will remain an important integral part of Malaysia forever in future; nothing will change that. Sarawak has been an important part of the country for more than half a century and it will remain so forever in the future. The people of Sarawak decided 50 years ago that they wanted to be part of Malaysia and nothing is going to change that.

More importantly, there is no provision in the Constitution to say that any parts of the country including Sarawak or Sabah can have a referendum to decide on their positions in the country in future.   Singapore, unlike Sabah or Sarawak, ceded from Malaysia by mutual agreement between Singapore and Malaysia.

Regrettably, it is easy for some people, now that Sarawak or Sabah has become prosperous, to talk about cessation, which cannot be done by constitutional means any more. To do so will be unconstitutional; unless they want war between any of the Borneo states and Malaya.  

It will also be the betrayal of the struggle of the past generation to fight for Independence and decide to make Sarawak to be the partner in the formation of a bigger federation called Malaysia.

During the period 1962 – 1963, the people were asked three questions relating to their fate and future in response to the proposal by YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj, the Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, that Malaya, North Borneo (Sabah), Brunei, Sarawak and Singapore should merge to become a bigger federation called Malaysia. 

The first question was whether they wanted Independent from Britain or not?  The second question was whether, after Independence, they supported the formation of Malaysia comprising of Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah Brunei and Singapore or not? No. 3 whether they wanted Sarawak to be part of Malaysia with conditions?

The answer to the first question was that the people of Sarawak wanted Independence from Britain. They no longer wanted to be ruled by the British anymore; they wanted to be Independent and take care of their own house, no doubt about it.

The answer to the second question was one third of the people supported the formation of Malaysia, while one third rejected it and the remaining one third supported the formation of Malaysia with conditions.  Obviously, the majority of the people, who formed from 60% to 70%, supported the formation of Malaysia with conditions; there were conditions attached to it. That was how Malaysia came about.

Their views were expressed not by way of referendum, but through the fact finding mission being carried out by Cobbald Commission in 1962.  The members had to travel all over the state from Tanjung Datu to Lawas to ask the people of Sarawak whether they wanted Malaysia or they did not want Malaysia.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan said the people the young people in particular must properly understand that Sarawak did not join Malaysia. It helped to form Malaysia, which came about through an agreement called Malaysia Agreement.  Malaysia came into being because of an agreement between Malaya, Sarawak, Singapore, Sabah and the United Kingdom, as the overall colonial power, to form the federation.

Obviously, the small groups of people, who are talking about reviewing the positions of the state in the country, are not being grateful for what the people in Semenanjung had done for Sarawak.

The State gained Independence and decided to become a partner in the formation of Malaysia against the backdrop that in 1961/1962 there were threats from   Malayan Communist Party to such an extent that there was an urgent need for the expansion of the police force and Armed forces.

The struggle of the communists was to turn Malaya into a communist state based on the domino theory that countries in the North like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia would fall one by one to become communist states.   

During the same period Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI ) being led by D.N.Aidit was the biggest political party in Indonesia that the late President Sukarno had to form a National unity government called Nasakom, which was a combination of Nationalist, Socialist and Komunis government.

The communists, in collaboration with other forces, plotted to bring down the Government of President Sukarno in Indonesia. If they succeeded Indonesia would become a communist nation.

Obviously, Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah were in the midst of the two dangers from the North and South. Actually, Singapore almost fell to the Communists.   The Government of Lee Kuan Yew had a majority of one seat only over the Barisan Socialists, which had the support of the communists, mainly from Malayan Communists Party.  The communists almost formed the government in Singapore, which had already been dubbed as Cuba of the East.

Then Sarawak was under threat from Clandestine Communists Organisation or CCO, which already had members going underground to carry out armed insurgencies in Siburan/ Tapah/Beratok area in Kuching and Sarikei, Sibu and Kanowit areas.   They operated under the umbrella of Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara or TNKU ) with the common aim to conquer Sarawak and turn it to a communist state.

Then Sarawak did not have a strong army to fight against the well armed communist insurgents. It had personnel of Sarawak Rangers, who were armed with shot guns only against well armed communist insurgents.

Therefore, Sarawak had to depend on soldiers from Semanjunang Malaysia to fight against the communist insurgents. Some of the Malayan soldiers, who fought alongside forces from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others in the defense of Sarawak, got killed or maimed.  For their sacrifices, the people of Sarawak owed them; that the people and the State should never forget. 

However, this does not mean that the people and the State must agree or adopt what the Federal Government is doing. Or it must endorse what the Federal government is doing.  Instead, it must insist on the constitutional rights as enshrined in the Constitution, which provides the autonomy for Sarawak over and above other states. 

Datuk Patinggi Adenan assured that the State Government under him will continue to insist and zealously guard the State’s constitutional rights within the nation.  The rights, as accorded in the Malaysia Agreement cannot be surrendered otherwise he and his colleagues will be accused on not protecting them.

He said he has got a guarantee from the Prime Minister, Dato Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak, who is also the President of UMNO that the party is not interested to come to Sarawak.  There is already UMNO called PBB in Sarawak; they are the same thing. Therefore, there is no reason for UMNO to come to Sarawak.

For example, PBB has the capability to win all the seats either State or Parliamentary seats in any elections. The party can deliver all the seats as expected of it. More importantly, the demographic pattern in Sarawak is very different as compared with those in Semenanjung, which has only Malays, Chinese, Indians and Orang Asli; that is all.

But in Sarawak, there are Malays, Chinese, few Indians, Ibans, Bidayuhs, Orang Ulu, Kelabit, Kayan, Kenyah, Lun Bawang and others with the total of about 30 ethnic groups. There is no Lun Bawang or any ethnic groups that form Lun Bawang community in Malaya. Nor are there any ethnic groups that form the Orang Ulu community there; the situation is not the same. That must be the primary concerned of leaders of all component parties in Barisan Nasional.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan, who is also the Chairman of Barisan Nasional Sarawak said an overwhelming majority of the people in rural areas support Barisan Nasional. All component parties will continue to work hard to ensure that they will support BN the local way, his way.

Regrettably, some politicians from Semenanjung, during their visits suggest, after Independent for 50 years, Sarawak should abolish the autonomy on Immigration or on any other matters. They overlook the fact that that the State’s constitutional rights were accorded under the Malaysia Agreement. 

The people expect their elected representatives, be they State Assemblymen or Members of Parliament to protect such rights. Otherwise, they will be accused of not doing their jobs by  allowing the rights to be abolished.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan said he would not allow the Opposition style of politics in Peninsular  to spread in Sarawak. They are alien to the local customs and traditions and they are alien to the local environment, where the people, in spite of their diverse ethnic origins, religious beliefs and other backgrounds, can live in peace and harmony with each other. 

More importantly, the local people know their state better than outsiders; it takes Sarawakians to know what to do in Sarawak not other people. The people of Sarawak know better than others what to do for the progress and prosperity of their own state.  In this regards, he does not pretend to know Negeri Sembilan or Terengganu or any other states and tell them what to do. 

Datuk Patinggi Adenan, who is also the President of PBB and Chairman of Barisan Nasional Sarawak, admits an overwhelming majority of the people in urban constituencies, whether State or Parliamentary constituencies, did not support Barisan Nasional in the State elections in April 2011 and the General elections in 2013. They supported DAP in big numbers at the expense of SUPP, which suffered its worst defeat.

But the same happened in Semenanjung with Gerakan and MCA, losing most of their seats in the last General elections.  However, he never doubted   their love and loyalty to the State and country.  When they take their oath of office they swear to uphold the Constitution of Sarawak, the Constitution of Malaysia.

They differ in opinions, for example, on how to achieve the goal to bring about greater progress and prosperity to the State or country. However, differences of opinions are allowed in the country’s democracy provided they do not touch on the legal position of the Yang di Pertua Agung, the Malay rulers, the rights of the Malays, the position of Islam as the official religion and others as being enshrined in the Constitution. 

The people, including members of the opposition are expected to be loyal to the State, to the country. This is the only country that we, as Malaysians, have. Therefore, it is only right that we owe it our loyalty. 

Sarawak Monitor
10 November 2014