Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Kuching will become the mixture of old and new city

Arguably, the City of Kuching has gone through a transformation from a town of about 200,000 in the 70s to a city of about 800, 000 people now due to numerous steps being taken by the State government through the City Hall of Kuching North and the Municipality of Kuching city south to achieve a healthier development and at the same time maintain the unique feature to make Kuching city a modern city in the midst of history. 

Both the city hall and the Municipal council are being guided by the philosophy that the city should not pursue progress at the expensive of its root, which has been part of the local history for centuries. 

Kuching Waterfront

Generally, the State Government upholds the principle that the development of the city must take into consideration its unique features that should be preserved as its identity.   The city, which has a long history and continuous development, has been able to witness a lot development and changes. But the people remain happy and friendly not only among themselves but with the visitors too.

The city has a wide and long river, which, at one time, was not really appreciated as its important feature.  Actually, both sides of the city, one side being the Malay area and the other the Chinese area, are being surrounded by river banks. Hence, the development in Malay Kampong and the town area cannot be separated from the feeling of being peaceful and in tranquillity because they are being surrounded by rivers and natural environment. The river as the asset of the city must be preserved. 

The development, being accelerated, must not ignore and eventually lose the river as the asset and the traditional Malay kampong, with their unique features that have been able to promote the close rapport and goodwill among the people. 

The people may no longer bathe near the river banks or use the river for transportation like before  but the river must remain as part of the environment of the kampong or the city as a whole.

The old architecture from the cultures of the Chinese and Malays, who had been living together harmoniously for hundreds of years, must be preserved, in order to preserve the aura that  Kuching, no matter how much it is being  modernized, still has its tradition and origin.   

Old Post Office and Plaza Merdeka

Obviously, the city has been growing because of business activities, which have become its nerve and lifeline for expansion.  However, it will not be a healthy development if the city  only depicts business activities as the main feature to such an extent that the people do not show the feeling of being close and friendly toward each other; they have the attitude of being indifferent towards each other. 

Admittedly Kuching city  is not best shopping centre in the world and business and shopping is not what attract the people to the city but its overall pleasant environment. More importantly, it has the heritage and history that  can be traced back to more than hundreds of years ago.

The city has a certain legacy, which is the people must endeavor to preserve and perpetuate for the future generations. Understandably, one of the reason the State government decided to upgrade Kuching to become a city was to provide the efficient administration for the preservation of its heritage and history.  

Arguably, the thriving atmosphere of commerce could only be merged in areas within the jurisdication of Kuching city south, and not in the North, which has the relax and happy atmosphere. For this reason, Kuching city North and Kuching city South must work together in carrying out development without discarding historical,  social elements and humanistic features in the greater Kuching city. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, during a speech in launching DBKU agenda, believed  it  had the potential to become the platform to promote unity and solidarity among the various ethnic groups in the State.  The agenda reflected the commitment, the concerned and pledge of DBKU to penetrate the livelihood of the people, those who really need  its servics in particular.

Understandably, DBKU has planned a number of programs to implement the programs as best as it could for the benefits of the people. In this connection, all levels of  society, government agencies and the private sector must co-operate fully with DBKU towards realizing the goals of its development programs. 

Basically, conscientious efforts must be made avoid making Kuching to become a city without the soul like other cities that develop very fast and with the emphasis on doing business only.  

For this reason, the State government has decided to gazette an area as a legacy square of Kuching city  in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Merdeka  celebration.The permanent vision was based on the development achievement along the waterfront whether in the South or North of the city. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said the Legacy square is a way to remind the people there is something precious about the city that can be found in trees, buildings, roads, public facilities, whether shopping malls or bazaars; they are somehing much more subtle without too much mundane of commercial reference or busy lifestyle of the people.

He said the legacy square concept is not only trying to show the beautiful and charm  of Kuching but also to  generate activities right in the middle of the city. It will also generate   greenery and lots of surrounding activities that can attract interests of the people from all walks of life. 

The 10 - year plan to develop the Legacy Square will give time  how Kuching is being develo0ped from a slow going, gentle and friendly place to become a city with thriving and happy environment.

Then the people will flock together in business centre that is more personal than material in nature. Undoubtedly, the development of the city has succeeded in transforming Sungei Sarawak to become an importantly feature of the city. 

Satok Area

There is a beautiful river, a large span of green land, lots of beautiful buildings, old shop houses and many landmarks, which date back at least 100 years.  This is what Kuching is like. It is old but growing forever young in another way.

The Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, in his speech during the Goodwill night organised by the Community Association of India Street last Wednesday night said  Kuching has grown from a small town, combining traditional Malay kampong with Chinese shop houses with lots of boats in the river. Now it is consisting of the same population but the changing physical environment.

For example, the city from the old style of physical growth now has shopping centres as good as in other cities in Malaysia.  The environment like Padang Merdeka, roads and bridges, flyovers, mosques, churches, temples all get renewal while preserving the aura of the multi -racial city with friendly residents from both sides of the rivers.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said the population, which used to comprise of Chinese and Malays only, now also has more and more Ibans, Bidayuhs, Orang Ulu  and other ethnic groups that are coming to the city to share the responsibility of  running the government and  manning the business and industries, which are increasing reflecting the co-operation of all races in the  society. 

He believes Kuching city, no matter how much it is being modernized, will still keep the feelings among the people that it still has the tradition and origin to bring them to the midst of history, which is quite enlightening.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said he has often been asked how did it come about that Sarawak, at one time, had got a white Rajah? His answer was it came about because of the pirates.  When the pirates became too many along the coasts of Sarawak, one adventurous British sailor came and fought them.

His efforts to restore peace to the coastal people made him to be elevated to become the White Rajah.  That was the day and time Sarawak did not have sufficient power to defend itself from the marauding pirates. 

But today, Sarawak, as a big part of the nation Malaysia, is fully equipped to look after its air space and territorial waters.   Besides, history can still be seen in the way that the State is being developed; the people come together hand in hand to beautify the towns and cities throughout the State.

For example, the Datuk Bandar of City hall of Kuching North has become a mayor of Chinese as well as Malay areas.  He is being assisted by qualified Non Bumiputra officers to administer the city that has got multi  - facetted identity.

He is responsible to look after Chinese town surrounded by Malay kampong. It is not easy to find such a situation elsewhere in Malaysia. It is God’s creation for the people comprising of various ethnics and religious groups to come together as can be reflected on what Kuching city is to the people, visitors in particular.

Admittedly, the people in Kuching city during the last few years were not as close as they used to be but today they have been trying to get closer together again.  This is a good sign.   

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib believed that Kuching, in spite of its massive development, will be able to retain the centre, which will be rich in history and vibrant in commercial and modern activities.  The people will still be tied to the history and the past of Kuching. This is something seldom seen in any cities that are progressive all over the world.

A lot of them have lost their past because they are becoming too crowded and their activities become too fast with the dominant of commerce without giving the security of the people.

He said the city must provide security to the people to enable them amble around in the luxury of elective environment so that they can see each other in the shopping area and along the water fronts, which are getting more pleasant and beautiful for the local people and visitors to enjoy.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said the social and cultural activities are still lacking if the people walk from Hilton hotel at Bukit Mata Kuching to Ban Hock wharf, which are as good as any places in cities, which have riverfronts; they clean and beautiful. 

He believed that the people in India street could play active roles in getting the activities to come up in keeping with the glamour and mixture of people doing their shopping in the street.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib believed the people along Gambier road would become recipients of benefits of changes that would come up.  He suggested that they should study the tastes of new shoppers,   who will probably buy more sophisticated things like hand bags or shoes   or any other things. 

Basically, they must recognize changes taking place in their midst and adjust themselves accordingly. Eventually, the local people will start to congregate all over the centre of Kuching and improve the identity of Gambier Street. Unavoidably, they improve the way they do business as a way to enhance the beauty of the city and reflect their pride in its progress and advancement.

His Excellency called on the people, regardless of their ethnic and religious groups to continue to play their roles in a pleasant way ensure that material progress will bring about spiritual and social changes in a more generous degree from what has been inherited from the past.

For example, the change of Kuching from the old conservative town, with all its tradition,  to become the mixture of the old and the new city, could start from India Street, the friendly place, to become the bustling shopping area. May the people of India Street and surrounding areas prepare this evolution of Kuching to become the mixture of the old and new city of modern Sarawak.

Sarawak Monitor
1st April 2015 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sarawak instills strong spirit of nationalism among Rakyat

Anybody with an open mind will be ready to admit that Sarawak, Malaysia has done very well for a country that has diverse backgrounds comprising different religious and ethnic groups and yet able to work together in pushing for socio – economic development for the betterment for the Rakyat.

Generally, a lot has been done in terms of development for Sarawak during the last 50 years of Independence.   For example, Kuching, Miri, Sibu, Bintulu and other major towns, as service centres, get the influx of businesses as they have ports, airports and other facilities to do business. 

But development should not stop in cities and towns only. Rightly, the State Government, at the risk of being accused as biased by the opposition, which has been trying to find faults with whatever it is doing in development, took a bold decision to give priority to rural development in the current budget. 

The Yang di Pertua Negeri Sarawak, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, in his Chinese New Year message, said continuous efforts must be made to ensure that every ethnic group throughout the nooks and corners of the state regardless of whether they are in urban or rural areas should be able to enjoy the prosperity and success of the State and country. 

It is quite obvious that the Chinese and other ethnic groups enjoy good relationship and interact very well among them in the common efforts to push the state to a higher level of excellence towards the year 2020 and beyond. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said some of the Chinese groups, who have shares of the economy in rural areas, are prepared to invest more money for the overall development of such areas. They have been able to find opportunities to undertake economic activities and play major roles in the development of the rural economy, something which they had not done during the last 50 years. .

He believed the new trend would become the basis to strengthen the unity and solidarity of the people as they move closer together to become more united and meaningful members of the Malaysian society.

For example, he does not only speak to the Chinese alone, even though they are celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year, as the people comprising of about 30 ethnic groups all share the joy of the celebration. The Chinese also join the celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Gawai Dayak, which serve as avenues for the people to renew and strengthen the relationship that they have been able to build among them over the years.  
He said this truly manifests the fact that the people during the last 50 years have mutual respect for each other and share the common desire to live in peace and harmony among them.  The people have the ability to preserve their unity and harmony in pushing development forward.

It also manifests the ability of the people in instilling a strong sense of pride and in preserving the prosperity, peace and harmony among them.  In this regards, politics is no longer being considered as an avenue to determine who is the stronger among them. They understand that the future of the state and country hinges on their ability to preserve the unity and prosperity that have been achieved thus far.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib called on the people to continue to celebrate the Lunar New Year, like any other festivals, in the true spirit of goodwill and harmony in the overall efforts to promote the sense of belonging among the various ethnic groups. This is the best way to guarantee that happiness and the way of life of the people will bring greater prosperity and success for them in future.

For this reason, the people are encouraged to interact among them to renew and strengthen the unity and progress that have been achieved to a higher level of excellence.  The good relationship among the people should serve as the foundation in carrying out social activities that can push the people towards a higher level of excellence in the socio-economic development towards the year 2020 and beyond.

Generally, all the ethnic groups in Sarawak have memories and thoughts of what is best for every ethnic group and how they can share a higher level of progress and prosperity together in future.  They have common interest and desire to accelerate the pace of development that can give greater progress and prosperity to all ethnic and religious groups in the country. 

In other words, the people, after 50 years of Merdeka, have acquired the spirit of Nationalism, which may not be clearly seen, unless efforts are being made to analyze it properly. The spirit has been imbibed in the people to enable them to co-operate and work among them in serving the interests of the State and country.

Clearly, the State has forged a new kind of nationalism that will eventually make it a curator of Malaysian citizens of the future.  The people must all realize how lucky they can be when all the races can come together for a celebration. They will how this togetherness is developing in a very rewarding way to all concerned.

Generally, the people have been able to see over a long period of time since the 50s and 60s that Sarawak has been able to develop and progress to what it is today due to the ability of the people, regardless of different racial origins, religious beliefs and other differences to work together and live in peace and harmony with each other.

This is the greatness of the society that the people must endeavour to preserve as the State moves forward to become part of developed nation by the year 2020. In this regards, it is incumbent upon the younger generations to ensure that the greatness of the society must remain cohesive and fight against those with individual political agenda based more on debates and less on performances. They must endeavour to upgrade themselves to become more innovative and knowledge - oriented to achieve the desired goal.

The common goal must necessary be to ensure that Sarawak remains multi-racial and multi-cultural with people being reconciled to the fact that no single community can represent the majority in Sarawak.  No single race whether they are Chinese, Malays Ibans, Bidayuhs or Orang Ulu can claim to be in the majority or form the majority.

The majority can only be produced by the readiness of the people, comprising of diverse ethnic and religious groups to learn to agree on basic issues that affect their livelihood.  Hence, the people must continue to agree to work together to ensure that the hopes and expectations of the younger generations can be realised. Otherwise, the policy will become the debating points among them, which will be a sad day for Sarawak.

In this regards, the people must be very focused on preserving the multi-racial and multi-cultural society, which can be achieved by encouraging excellence rather than by having the consideration for the colours of skins, ethnic origins, religious beliefs or any other peculiarities in our services for the people, state and country.

The demand of working for a cohesive society has become more urgent as it begins to suffer the effects of social disintegration.  Quite obviously, there is the break-up of the extended family into nucleus family, for example, due to the inclination of the second generation of families to move into the housing schemes or estates. 

Besides, the process of socialization, which has helped to create cohesiveness in the society, has also become weakened. The people have to work for an alternative environment to keep the people revolving around the Adat and the old process of interaction and establishing close link and friendship among them. 

This needs time but people it must be done in order to uphold the greatness of the society.  Arguably, prosperity is not the best helper in the task to create a cohesive society as the people are getting more mobile and have less time for interaction among them. For example, the younger people are getting individualistic; it is very difficult to make them good comrades or partners in life. The increase in the rates of divorces speaks volume of this.

Sarawak may no longer be considered a poor and backward as it used to be until the middle of the 80s. However, there are still a lot more work to be done to ensure that it will remain in the mainstream of development and become part of a developed nation by the year 2020. 

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the people to ensure continuity in leadership as the State moves forward. The primary concern must necessary be to determine the quality of leaders that that will come up for the next one generation.

In this respect, the people, the new generation in particular must work together to set up an alternative environment for the people to interact and establish close links among them.  Obviously, this is getting more difficult now as the people begin to suffer the effects of social disintegration and sometimes dramatic changes in life.

Generally, the people must be involved in the process to transform the economy from the medium income to high income economy as outlined in the New Economic Model by the year 2020.  The transformation requires at least one third of the population of Sarawak that constitutes the work force to have tertiary education; the State has about 20 to 25% today.

Fortunately, the State has been able to catch up due to the timely initiatives and efforts of the State government to hasten the pace of setting up UNIMAS and university campuses like UiTM, Swinburne and Curtin and a number of branches of renowned colleges. 

Clearly, the work to transform Sarawak to become a high income economy is enormous and the bulk of the work will be done by younger generation, who must be performance oriented. They must endeavour to upgrade themselves to become knowledge - oriented and be more innovative and productive in whatever they do in the services of the people, state and country. 

More importantly, they must be willing to shoulder a heavier responsibility in preserving Sarawak as a peaceful and harmonious state.  They must remain reconciled to the fact that they do not represent the majority unless they remain united on issues that affect their livelihood.

Undoubtedly, the State has laid a strong foundation to remain a multi-racial and multi-cultural State but the task ahead will be heavier with continued and sometimes very robust attempts by outsiders with strong political persuasions away to dissuade the local from the desired goals.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the people to remain focused on preserving a multi-racial and multi-cultural society so that they can continue to work and live harmoniously together towards 2020 and beyond. It is up to the people to decide our own future.

Regrettably, some leaders of the opposition have every tendency to belittle the progress and development in Sarawak without realising that the state is about 95% of the size of Peninsular Malaysia and started development six years later.

Though road constructions involve huge allocations, Sarawak has been able to construct more than 26,000 KM of roads now from about 2,000 in 1963. The problem of road development in Sarawak is compounded by the fact its topography features rough and rugged terrains in the hinterlands and soft and muddy lands along the coast.

Sarawak has got the largest wetland areas in the country to necessitate it to spend money from its own coffer in order to push road development, though it is a federal matter, in order to make more remote and isolated areas to become accessible to growth areas.

Generally, the people realise that they should not waste time to argue, involve in politics to inflame the feelings of anger and frustration among them. The time for making promises, like being done by the opposition, is over. Such kind of politics is out of date and archaic; the people want substance.

Sarawak Monitor
31 March 2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

Natives must endeavor to take active part in land development

Usually, the oppositions engage in rendering talks that the government’s policies on education, commerce and industry are favorable to Bumiputras only in the run up to the election or by – election in particular.  They allege that the non Bumiputras and Bumiputras are not playing on a level playing field in such areas of development. 

Those were the basis for them to come up with the slogan of social justice and in their campaign for change of the Government both at the Federal and State levels. Arguably, the peak of their campaign for change was in the run up to the 13th State elections, which they carried out vociferously to such an extent that they even engaged evil writers and western propagandists to make unsubstantiated allegations against the leadership.    

Generally, the response from some Bumiputras is understandable. Of course, the government policy is not fair. If it has been fair the Bumiputra in Sarawak, who form more than 70% of the population should have 70% share in the State wealth. But the reverse is happening; they own less than 20% of the wealth.

But as Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, the fourth Prime Minister, used to say if everybody is unhappy with the related policies then they can be considered to be fair. Otherwise, if the Bumiputras are happy and the Non Bumiputras are not happy, the policy is only favorable to the Bumiputras and not to the Non Bumiputras.  

However, as the government is by the people and for the people, it must assume the primary responsibility to help Bumiputras to raise their stakes in the State or national wealth, if Malaysia is to emerge as a reasonably just society by the year 2020.  

However, the Bumiputra communities on their part must endeavor to find ways to participate more meaningfully in the implementation of the development plans and programs to ensure that they will not to be left out of the mainstream of development. They must take full advantage of the thrusts of the current and succeeding development plans that give them opportunities to equalize themselves with other communities.

Basically, the Economic Transformation Program is the migration from the middle income to high income economy by the year 2020. Its primary objective is to tackle the problem of poverty, try to equalize the incomes of the country and sustain the debt level so that Malaysia can become a developed nation by the year 2020.

 More importantly, the country, the state by extension must be able to sustain the level of income of between US15,000 to US 20,000 as a developed nation. These are high targets.  

The Prime Minister, Dato Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak, in a very imaginative way, wants problems in implementing the development plan should be identified, analyzed and solved as early as possible by taking into consideration the local situations in order to achieve the desired goals.   

Understandably, the style of administration must accommodate local knowledge or problems so that they can be valued in a more imaginative way. For example, the delivery system must operate based on the slogan of people first, performance a priority to ensure that the country or the state will achieve the desired targets.

The Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, while still the Chief Minister, in his speeches used to remind the people that as Sarawak gained Independence six years later than other states in Peninsular Malaysia, it has got quite a lot of catch up to do. For example, the State has to build more roads and extend more electricity and water supplies to the people in rural areas as a matter of priority.  

More people in rural areas should have the basic amenities to catch up with the people in the urban areas. Arguably, major urban centers and cities are enjoying rapid growth and small towns have grown into bigger towns. This shows that development has taken place faster in the urban areas when compared to rural areas.

Sarawak Rural Development Plan

Logically, the State Government must intensify efforts in developing the rural areas in the coming years In order to narrow the development disparity in the State. Therefore, the State Government as spelt out in Budget 2015 will give priority to the development of rural areas especially those with vast economic potentials. 

With the growing demand for more development, the State Government will place greater priority to the development of key infrastructures such as major road connections, clean water and electricity supplies and other public amenities for the rural people.  

The new development, among other things, should be able to create environment in areas that is conducive for the private sector to venture into viable economic activities such as plantation development, aquaculture, large - scale food cultivation and processing and other resource-based value added industries.

Hopefully, the new emphasis will be able to yield better results in spite of the problems of transportation, scattered community in small numbers and a bit of below par number of people, who have got the right skills and talents to mobilize the rural economy. 

There will be lot problems, not only administrative and procedural in nature, but how to equip the people, young people in particular with the right kind of skills and qualifications to work in industrial plants and factories with industrialization.  

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said the development plan for Sarawak all the way to the year 2030 has been formulated based on the policy of trying to integrate the most backward parts of Sarawak namely the central region of Sarawak that comprises places like Kanowit, Kapit, Belaga and Ulu Baram into a kind of corridor in order to harness their potentials in development.

It means the integration of the economy in order to create the economy of scale to undertake projects that can give economic industries. Quite obviously the plan coincides with the concept of the New Economic Model. 

However, the State Government has to identify a kind of force that can make the integration possible.  The central region, unlike the southern part which is quite densely populated, is sparsely populated. However, the region has greatest magnet in the form of water resources.  Hence, the approach to the new development plan has to concentrate on how to give comparatively cheaper rates of energy to industries.

Besides, Sarawak is known to have about half a billion ton of coal reserves that can become sources of energy on top of hydro power.  Hence, the State can be more flexible in planning the development of the energy resources and even out the curves in building the supply of energy.

But hydroelectricity is not easy development to undertake especially for a developing State like Sarawak, which not long ago was in the back water of development. It takes at least four to five years to plan and probably three to four years to develop a hydro dam.  

Sarawak, with half a billion tons of coal, is in the position to fill in the gap between the thrust of the supply of hydro energy with those from coal fired generating power plants. The State has a plan to generate 3,000MW of electricity by 2016.  The target is to have a minimum of 20,000 MW of electricity all the way to 2030.

That will enhance the State’s ability to give energy at the earlier stage. The State aims to produce as much energy as possible in the early stage so that heavy industries can come in earlier.

Understandably, the state has the ambition to bring world class industries to come to Sarawak as its emphasis on industrialization. Therefore, it has to work hard to get the necessary investments and capital to develop the energy resources to attract heavy industries that can give real impact to the local people.

Generally, they will be able to create downstream industries for the benefits of the local people. For example, the aluminum industry will be able to create wide range of downstream industries including a factory worth of RM1 million to produce aluminum products for windows or other things.

The State’s plan is to have four or five other mechanical pulp and paper plants, each in Ulu Baram, Kapit and Betong, where the soil is more suitable for tree planting industry.  A plan will need the support of 50,000 hectares of forests, which will be planted with fast growing species of trees. 

Hopefully, the development will be able to produce high value products and create more opportunities for better employment for the local people to improve their livelihood.

The State is estimated to export RM4 billion worth of Halal products annually from Tanjung Manis within seven years. Some of the products will come all the way from Bintulu, Igan or Tunoh in Kapit division. The Halal hub industry has already started the right way with the setting up of a laboratory. 

The State is investing with Taiwanese investors as partners to develop the hub to produce food that should be devoid of chemical hazard or other things. For example, the hub plans to produce chickens that do not contain lots of anti-biotic. The hub has the formula to ensure that the meat to be produced will be free of anti-biotic. That will be a premium formula. There will be many other things that will benefit from bio-tech process.

The Halal market is still fresh area to be exploited in the world market. Therefore, there is no reason why Malaysia, as a respected Muslim country all over the world, should not to take the Halal hub very seriously. The State has planned to make Tanjung Manis, which is riddled with rivers and a good water body, as the centre for the Halal hub industry.

The region has got a very good port and another port will be built at Paloh, which is deeper than Kuala Rajang, to provide easier access to the world market.

It is estimated that about 1.5 million jobs will be created by the year 2030 with the development of heavy industries and their downstream activities.  Obviously, Sarawak will have a lot of new things that have not been tried in Peninsular Malaysia with the development of SCORE.

However, the success of the development of heavy industries hinges on the State’s capability and efficiency in producing people with technical knowledge and skills and professionals to man local industries.  Hence, conscientious efforts must be made to encourage more Bumiputras to undertake technical education rather than the normal path of education.

This will help to ensure there will be no mismatch between the kind of people being trained and the kind of jobs that will created by industries in the development of the economy in future.

The State, which started the oil palm industry later than Semenanjung Malaysia, has been able to take necessary steps to contain and control pollutants. For example, the State has fish ponds in areas where the water from the factories is being discharged. Sarawak will have 2 million hectares of palm oil by the year 2020.

This is the kind palm oil industry, which can be considered to be more modern, being developed in the State. Generally, the State has reached a stage of development that puts great emphasis on environmental protection that even the timber industry does not pollute the environment.

Hopefully, more qualified Bumiputras will return to work in rural areas to manage plantations or take part in downstream industrial activities as development is being pushed to their areas towards the year 2020 and beyond.  

Sarawak Monitor

6 March 2015

Sarawak pioneers formula to develop Native lands

Arguably, Sarawak, through Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA) has been quite successful in implementing a sophisticated formula for the development of Native customary Rights land for the benefits of the owners.

Even countries in North America or Pacific Islands nations have not been able to come up with solutions to develop customary rights lands, which have been serving as the basis for early settlements, for the benefits of owners.

The State’s target is to develop 2 million hectares NCR land to enable most of the people, who have been dependent on lands, to have a pension scheme. Probably their children, who may not want to go back to land like in the old days, will have a choice, either to hold shares or work in the estates, something that will give them better returns.

This is what SALCRA, now a successful business organization, has been doing for nearly 20,000 participants of its estates with a total acreage of more than 50,000 hectares.  More importantly, SALCRA has found a solution to help the people, who have been ignorant, helpless and unable to use market mechanism and modern business strategies to develop their lands.

Admittedly, SALCRA started with lots of problems. A lesser organization than it   would easily give up because of quarrels, misunderstandings and opposition to whatever it wanted to do for the landowners. 

Besides, the opposition and unfriendly NGOs would be quick to instigate land owners not to participate in any development that could make their land to become real economic assets.

Undeniably, SALCRA owed its success to efforts of the State Government under the leadership of Tun Pehin Sri Haji Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, then the Chief Minister of Sarawak, who since the early 80s started to think seriously how to make a success of SALCRA schemes as a way to help the people, who had largely been living in hardship and spreading in small groups over a wide area, to improve their livelihood.

Then the Natives among themselves could accumulate about two million hectares of land through the traditional practice of shifting cultivation of opening and occupying new areas before January 1. 1958.  Logically, they should be accorded the rights to keep the lands and be assisted to get good values from them. 

There is already a vast tract of Native Customary Right land over the land surface of the State but the owners do not get much benefit from them largely because they do not have the capability to convert the lands to become assets.  

Generally, there is a big gap in the value between land owned by Bumiputra and lands owned by non Bumiputras because they do not have certainty of sizes; most of the Native lands do not have titles. 

Regrettably, those with titles tend to go into the market and get sold at cheap prices because of economic pressure on life. This practice, if allowed to continue unchecked, may make Native land owners poorer in having assets.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, while still the Chief Minister, said the State Government must have the resolve, determination and political will to tackle the problems of NCR lands even though they were full of traps and difficulties. There was no other way to help Bumiputras, who have lands in rural areas, except to use the lands that were already available to them in order to raise their value. 

He recalled in the First Malaysia Plan, which introduced New Economic Policy as the main thrust to eradicate poverty among the people, the Natives in Sarawak could not be included within the purview of the policy.  In Semenanjung Malaysia, poverty was being interpreted to mean estate dwellers, residents of New Villages and people, who did not have land.

Then the State could not argue about their position as the Federal authority was not knowledgeable about the form of land holdings or land system in Sarawak. The problem was made more complicated as the people could not develop their land due to the internal security problems posed by armed members of the Communists Organization operating in Sibu, Sarikei and Kapit divisions. The area had to be declared a special area and administered under Rajang Security Command to tackle the security problem.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib attributed the success of SALCRA to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who is also the Minister of Modernization of Agriculture and the Minister of Rural Development and Chairman of SALCRA, who had  wide experience and deep understanding of the feeling and attitude of the Dayaks in guiding its development programs.

Datuk Patinggi Jabu, as an agricultural scientist, has expert knowledge about agriculture like rubber, palm oil and other crops.  He is very detailed  in his approach to any problems.   

Undeniably, SALCRA has grown up to become a corporate organization, a money making organization with the ability to build a new attitude among Bumiputra towards the prospects of developing their Native Customary Right lands or NCR lands.

Obviously, the success of estates being developed by SALCRA helps to induce a lot of qualified people to go back to Ulu areas and to help the local people.   In other words, SALCRA has become a mechanism in creating jobs for people with good education to come back and help their own people.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said SALCRA had already started doing a good job since 1981 but its schemes did not have the economy of scale. For example, there were many people being engaged to open up a small tract of land only.

Hence, the priority was to build the economy of scale for SALCRA. In the period of 1982 – 1983, though the State did not have much money, the Government decided whatever cash that could be accumulated by managing the country well, must be used by SALCRA first. Very few people knew about this.

In other words, any surplus money could be used to make SALCRA a bigger operation with an economy of scale. From thence onward, the State Government had a view that SALCRA should play a bigger role than what it used to do in developing Lemanak and Skuau land schemes.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib recalled he got involved in opposing the proposal in 1965 to amend the Land Code to allow Native land to be developed without any provisions to safeguard the rights of owners over their lands. Hence, SALCRA must be strengthened to enable it to play a more significant role in the development of Native lands.

He said appropriate steps must be taken to reorganize SALCRA and inject it with more money; the whole organization had to be revamped. Besides, the government also decided that SALCRA should concentrate on its estates in First and Second divisions in order to be more focused and efficient in their development. It could risk experiencing logistical problems if it were allowed to spread over a wide area of operation.

However, the success of SALCRA has not been a complete solution yet for reason that while people who own more than 10 acres of land and have the patience to participate in Native Estates being developed by SALCRA, can benefit from it those who own below 10 acres may not be able to do so. 

Even those with less than five acres want their land to be developed as part of the estate. Generally, people, each with five acres or below, do not get many dividends from their lands. They may not be satisfied with their income.

Regrettably, they are also prone to instigation by the opposition not to join estates being developed either by SALCRA or Pelita, which they allege as instrument by the government to grab Native lands. 

Therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to formulate a new scheme, which must be more flexible to help the participants, once they become too old to work on their lands, to have some income.   BY then, they have to depend on small dividends to support their livelihood.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the State government to consider, instead of giving welfare fund, to use the money to buy shares as way to increase their assets. Once they can have more shares in the estates they should be able to get more monthly income to support their livelihood.

Understandably, the State government has discussed with the Federal Government on a scheme to give loan and that half of it can be used to buy shares to be allocated to poor participants of any estates.

Besides, the State government could also implement a land exchange scheme for land owners, who do not want to develop their lands any more, to sell their shares to the scheme.  However, the shares cannot be bought by non Bumiputras as it remains illegal for non-Bumiputras to take over the NCR rights in any joint- venture company.

The land exchange scheme provides the new generation with two choices, firstly to work in the modern agricultural sector or keep their shares in Native Estate development scheme that can give them dividends every year.  In other words, they can choose either to keep their money in Trust Fund or shares in land development companies.

Generally, Native land owners are encouraged to make a perimeter survey of their land. In this regards, the State government is prepared to consider making the perimeter survey and return the land to the people that have basis for joint ownership according to proportions of land owned by them. The land and survey department has already identified lands that will be surveyed. 

The State government should be able to launch more estates to involve more land owners, once they have made a perimeter survey of their lands in modern estates development.
The modern estate development, which emphasizes on usage of modern management and having access to capital and bank money, is an efficient way to involve more owners of NCR land in modern land development and get benefits from it.

Besides, the new development will also give opportunities to non Bumiputras to participate legally in such development, which is the most important thing for the people to do.  It will create a sense of partnership and not a sense of isolation in the new development. 

Undeniably, the State has found a solution to develop NCR land. But it requires all enlightened people among Bumiputras to be willing to come forward to explain its objectives to land owners. The way of LCDA now takes between two to three years to implement a project; it is a bit slow.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib said the State Government was of the view that it should not restrict the development of NCR land to LCDA only. The organizations like SALCRA, FELDA, FELCRA, as established organizations, should be encouraged to form joint ventures with NCR land owners to develop their lands.

Ideally, the land should not remain idle as they do not give any benefit to anybody. It is a waste that has to be tackled by all likeminded people, who have the welfare and interests of the people in their heart.

In this connection, the people must fight with greater determination attempts by foreign NGOs or unfriendly local NGOs in opposing efforts to develop NCR lands mainly for their own political consideration. They have resorted to spread false propaganda or outright lies to instigate the Native land owners to oppose any proposals to develop their lands.

He assured that the State Government has the political will to do what need to be done to convince more Bumiputras to develop their lands in the era of modern business and accessibility to bank loans and other capitals. 

Undoubtedly, it is an efficient way to ensure that Native land owners do not get trapped in having a lot lands that do not command good value.     Generally native lands, which used to be valued at RM200 or RM300 per acre before the inception of SALCRA and LCDA, now can command the same value as any land that is being developed for estates by investors. 

Sarawak Monitor
28 February 2015