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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tun Abdul Taib has strong command of essentials of politics

Going through some of the articles on  views of  the late YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia and Father of Malaysia, on the leadership of the Governor, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, who served as the fourth Chief Minister from March 16, 1981 to February 28, 2014, it is obvious that the late Tunku started to train his eyes on Abdul Taib as a young State Cabinet Minister of the first post  Independent Sarawak since 1963.

Abdul Taib, a young lawyer, was appointed the Minister of Communication and Works in a six-member State Cabinet, when Sarawak  was granted internal  self - government by Britain on July 22, 1963 after more 200 years of rule by the White Rajah and the Whitehall.  

The late Tunku was very open about his warm relationship with Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, who he considered as one of his best friends. Then, he thoroughly believed that Abdul  Taib was the best man as the Chief Minister of Sarawak.

The Tunku said Tan Sri Abdul Taib is an ardent believer in a joint political front for Sarawak and has worked hard for the welfare of the people. However, like every political leader, he is not free from political jealousies even within his own party. Many have criticized his leadership style and administration but his party is well supported by the people. 

Even SUPP, with its long history in the opposition, accepted the leadership of Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib very well. For a long time, SUPP formed a strong unit with PBB as the backbone of the State Government and Barisan Nasional.

The Tunku recalled when Sarawak became Independent in Malaysia in 60s  there were many political parties bickering among them. At that time Abdul Taib was the secretary general of Barisan Rakyat Jati Sarawak (BERJASA) formed in 1962. He felt that his party should merge with Parti Negara Sarawak (PANAS), a Malay party formed in 1960, in order to strengthen the position of the Malays.

Abdul Taib  worked together with the President of PANAS, Abang Ikhwan Zaini and in 1967, the two parties merged to form Parti Bumiputra. Other parties soon joined them and they made up the Sarawak Alliance, which after the 1970 elections, formed the government.

Then in 1972 Pesaka, the Iban dominated party, decided to merge with Parti Bumiputra and in 1973 Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) was formed.  The PBB and SUPP formed the Coalition government, headed by Dato Haji Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, the first in Malaysia, after the 1970 elections. Both coalition parties joined Barisan Nasional in 1974.

The Tunku said Sarawak National Party (SNAP) joined the coalition in 1976 but in the 80s the party split into two factions and a new party called Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) was formed . PBDS wanted to join the Coalition but SNAP opposed it.

However, Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, who was then the Chief Minister of Sarawak, felt that Dayaks should not be left out of the mainstream development and by means of a special formula, which he drew to help them, the PBDS gained entry to Barisan Nasional in  December 1983.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, in an interview for the Coffeetable book:  “Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, visionary builder of Modern Sarawak”  observes that Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib has a very strong command of the essentials of politics in Sarawak. He managed to get strong support especially from the natives whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims; whether they’re Ibans, Bidayuhs, Melanaus, Orang Ulu and others. 

He says it is worthwhile listening to Pehin Sri Abdul Taib rather than do something else not in accord with his perception of things. He has a complete grasp of the situation.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed says Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s greatest contribution to Malaysia, Sarawak in particular, is his ability to get the people, comprising  of different tribes and origins, to work together in the common pursuit for progress and development. It is not an easy thing to keep the people, comprising of about 30 ethnic groups together.

Even, the Chinese, who have always been very independent-minded accept his leadership.  Although some tried to pull away, they could never make any significant split to withdraw support from Barisan Nasional being led by Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s  primary concern, since he took over the helm of the State government on March 26,1981, was to pull Sarawak out of the backwater of development into its mainstream.  He was preoccupied with the idea that Sarawak must run faster than other states in order to catch up with their progress and advancement.  

Then the rate of poverty was about 60 per cent and unemployment among the people especially youth in villages and longhouses were very high.  The demographic pattern of the State was about 80% rural and 20% urban. The situation gave rise to an explosive feeling of dissatisfaction against the government, which was being percieved as pursuing politics of favoritism. 

Consequently, instigating racial and communal feelings was the best weapon to win support, though a highly divisive support, in any elections.    

He believed the new way forward was to mobilize the people and orientate them towards development. Besides, conscientious efforts must be made to motivate youth to have more confidence in themselves and reinvigorate members of the civil service and synergise their services with the demands of development. It was indeed a tall order. 

Clearly,  both the Tunku and Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, who were both very influential people in the political life of Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, must have taken note of his early speeches relating to a “ joint political front for Sarawak”. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, who was the President of PBB and Chairman of Barisan Nasional Sarawak, during the sittings of the State Legislative Assembly said on DUN Nov. 13, 1986: “Whether we like it or not our lives have been so intertwined by our inter - dependent on each other in various fields, be they in economics, politics and other fields. We have got to make a success of this co-operation. Nothing else is a better alternative in the way we look to our future”.

He believed what ever political views the people entertain, political leaders in particular, must not prevent them from agreeing, as a matter of principle, on the question of development for the people. Unfortunately, politics had gone quite far that some opposition leaders thought that they should continue to harp on development issues to suit their political agenda and score political points on the ground. 

 “It is time for the people to stop with these petty politics and instead work together in matters of development for the overall progress and prosperity of the people.  Those persisting with petty practices in order to score political points will only have themselves to blame if they cannot deliver the goods that they have promised to their constituents. This is the reality of the future.”

In winding a debate duing the sitting of the State Legislative Assembly on DUN May 26, 1988, he said : “Our policies are meant for all people, all sections of the community. This country does not have to be trapped in wrangling between races and groups as we have ample of wealth to be shared by all. It is the problem of how to distribute it. Our politics should not be based on how to deny others and grab as much as possible for ourselves but rather on how to realise the potentials of this country.” 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib believed that politics in Sarawak, like those in the rest of the country, must be based on sincere desire to achieve something to fulfill independence with good economic growth and development that can bring positive changes to the people.  

He has been pursuing this line of politics in the form of the politics of development  as any other forms of politics, those with a lot of rhetoric or worse empty talks in particular, do not bring any benefits, development benefits in particular to the people, state and country.  Only the politics of pragmatism can bring about a transformation that brings improvement and the betterment of life for the people.   

Therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to reduce politicking among the people because, in any political fights, it is the people who get confused the most, their line of thinking and attitude will be distracted. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, in his speech during a sitting of the State Legislative Assembly on May 18, 1990 said: “Two things, I have been able to learn: Racial and extreme religious practices and politics that tend to divide the people must be fought by all people. These two things cannot be compromised as the development of the future cannot afford to accommodate negative elements”.

He  gave this reminder during a sitting of the State Legislative Assembly on May 18, 1991:  “This government, being led by me, is obliged to fight against any form of racialism or religious extremism because they are like cancer that saps our energy. We want to put maximum efforts behind our developmental drive. Our development program, which is new and innovative in concept, if successfully implemented, can give maximum impact to the people.

“We must fight against conservative forces or correct any misunderstandings, natural or induced, on the ground. We must introduce new concept of development, which entails new ways of doing things, because we have a commitment to bring the people of Sarawak to the mainstream of development.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, in responding to debate that appeared to be bordering on communalism and other sensitive issues, said on May 25, 1993:  “This country has no majority from any particular groups of people.  Therefore, we should avoid arguing that certain groups can become a majority or certain groups should dominate and there should be politics of dominance of one group over the other groups.”

Admittedly, it is an attractive way of trying to wrestle power but does not provide a guarantee to a smooth development of the future as development must be able to increase the size of wealth and develop a good distribution machinery for the people to benefit from it. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s mammoth task, since he took over the helm of the state government on March 26, 1981  was to propel, reshape and develop Sarawak, with the land surface almost the size of peninsular Malaysia, still under-developed and had small population of 1.5 million people, in order to catch up with the progress and advancement of other states.  

However, his problem was compounded by the fact that the small population was scattered in 5,000 pockets of settlements over a wide area. Besides, the State inherited a very poor network of roads. Then, the villages and longhouses were distant apart with the distance of anything between three to 100 miles apart.
Essentially, he must make make conscientious efforts to bring about 30 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups together  in the common struggle to nurture goodwill and harmony among them as the cornerstone of progress and advancement of Sarawak towards the year 2020 and beyond. Basically, the political situation must be made healthier, stronger and more stable. 

More importantly, he wished to see that justice to all must serve as the prevailing means of serving the people, state and country. The common struggle must be motivated by the desire to preserve the unity and solidarity of the people and ensure that no community should be left out of the mainstream of development.

Sarawak Monitor
22 October 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tun Abdul Taib was a leader ahead of his time

Sarawak, in the 60s and 70s was under developed and the economy was largely based on agriculture, forestry and mining. Then the economic activities were largely low value added; they could barely meet the basic needs of the rakyat.

The incidence of poverty was approximately 50.0% and the average monthly income per house hold was about RM580. The access to basic infrastructure and social impeded the expansion of economic activities.

Obviously, connectivity and accessibility, considering the big size of the State and the scattered population in rural areas, were the biggest challenges being faced by the Government in undertaking development activities.

In 1980, Sarawak has only 15 Government hospitals and 165 doctors. Now, the situation has improved and the rakyat have better access to health services with 22 hospitals and 1,717 doctors. The quality of health services has also improved with better doctor to population ratio from one doctor serving 7,068 people in 1980 to one doctor serving 1,483 people in 2012.

The State’s road network has increased from about 5,000 kilometres in 1980 to 23,000 kilometres in 2013. The electricity coverage has also expanded from 34.0% in 1980 to 90.0% in 2013.

About 86.0% of the population has enjoyed treated water supply in 2013 as compared to 32.0% in 1980. Admittedly, there are still gaps in the provision of basic infrastructure between the urban and rural areas.

Sarawak, despite the slowdown in the global economy, continued to record positive economic growth at 4.2% in 2013; it is expected to grow at 5.0% this year. Sarawak is the third largest contributor to the Malaysian economy.

Reputable international and local rating agencies such as Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s have been giving good ratings to Sarawak’s good economic performance.

Moody’s Investors Services gives A3 Stable Outlook and Standard & Poor’s A- Stable Outlook. Undoubtedly, these are good ratings that help to enhance investors’ confidence in doing business in the State. 

The State’s real GDP has increased significantly from RM3.5 billion in 1980 to RM75.0 billion in 2013. Over the same period, the GDP Per Capita has increased manifolds from RM4,066 to RM41,115. This is well above the National GDP Per Capita of RM32,984. 

With rapid economic growth, the value of trade has increased tremendously from RM6.3 billion in 1980 to RM147.0 billion in 2013. The balance of trade remained positive and increased substantially from RM1.7 billion in 1980 to RM68.7 billion in 2013.

The rakyat are now able to enjoy better livelihoods with more new business and employment opportunities. As a result of rapid economic growth, more and more employment opportunities were created.  This can be seen in the increased numbers of job vacancies from 374 in 1980 to 68,646 in 2012.

Arguably, the unemployment rate was reduced from 5.8% in 1980 to 3.8% in 2013. The average monthly income per household has also increased from RM580 in 1980 to RM4,293 over the same period. Due to systematic and relentless Government intervention in poverty eradication, great success has been made.

Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Haji Satem in his recent speech during a mammoth rally and parade held in conjunction with the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud’s 78 official birthday, said the socio-economic landscape started to change with increases in development momentum when Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, then Datuk Amar Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud,   took over the helm of the State leadership as the Chief Minister on March 26, 1981.

A total of 114 contingents, representing uniformed and non uniformed organisations including youth, cultural and welfare bodies, community associations, government departments, statutory bodies, Institutions of higher learning, Police and the Army, were mounted during the parade, the biggest ever held for any events.  

Under his leadership from March 26, 1981 to February 28, 2014, Sarawak achieved success by leaps and bounds in all aspects of development, be it physical, economic and social.  The progress made has benefitted the Rakyat be they in urban or rural areas.

Undoubtedly, the success of Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s Politics of Development has brought about political stability, rapid economic growth, prosperity, social harmony and unity among the various ethnic groups.

The implementation of Politics of Development, to address both the development issues and challenges, emphasises on the socio-economic equity and changing the mindset of the rakyat so that they could effectively participate in the process of development.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan, in paying a glowing tribute to Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib said his predecessor was a leader ahead of his time. For example, he made tireless efforts in preparing Sarawak to face greater challenges brought about by globalisation, trade liberalisation, ICT and k-economy.

He initiated the development of Sama Jaya Free Industrial Zone for the setting up of high tech industries like the wafer fabrication plant and other sophisticated industrial plants in the zone. 

Undoubtedly, the development of Sama Jaya Free Industrial Zone, which has successfully attracted many young talented Sarawakians working abroad to return and serve the State, has positioned it in the forefront of high tech electronic industries.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan, who served in various capacities in the State Government being led by Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, said the State Government has always been pragmatic in introducing several new measures to accelerate economic growth and development. These included the economic diversification policy that had changed the structure of the State’s economy from primary sector based on commodities to higher value - added manufacturing and service sectors.

Indisputably, many achievements had been made including the success of attracting more private investment and creating more new business and employment opportunities for the rakyat over these years.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan said the incidence of poverty has been reduced drastically from 47.8% in 1980 to 2.4% in 2012. Obviously, the Government is committed in addressing this issue through the continued implementation of the various poverty eradication programmes.

He said the Government, with political stability, strong economic foundation and social harmony, had been able to plan and implement more development programmes including the provision of health and education services to the rakyat. 

 He said a lot of efforts have been made to improve the quality of education in the overall efforts to develop the human capital, which is one of the pillars in the country’s development in the State. Obviously, the efforts have produced encouraging results as manifested in the better teacher to student ratio in the secondary schools from 26 in 1980 to 14 in 2012. 

He believes Sarawakians, with the presence of 110 institutions of higher learning including technical colleges, are enjoying better access to tertiary education including opportunities to further their studies in the branch campus of foreign universities.

He said rural transformation will be one of the key thrusts of the State’s Eleventh Malaysia Plan. The State government under him remains committed to address the gap between urban and rural development. Hence, it will work closely with the Federal Government to ensure success in bridging the gap.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan said his predecessor’s wisdom in realising the potentials of water, with Sarawak being blessed with many rivers and plenty of water, has brought about the systematic development of hydro dams to generate electricity to attract energy intensive industries.

This idea has led to the formulation and subsequent implementation of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy or SCORE, which is of a long - term development plan to propel Sarawak to become a developed and high income State by 2020.

He said SCORE continues to make good progress. More investors have expressed their interest to invest in SCORE.  The State has been successful in attracting many trigger projects such as aluminium smelting, ferro alloy, polysilicon, metallic silicon and chemical industries.

The development of trigger industries has better positioned Sarawak to attract supporting industries including local Small and Medium Industries. The establishment of both trigger and supporting industries augurs well with the plan to develop clusters for the respective industries.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan said 19 projects, which are expected to create more than 16,000 direct job opportunities, have been approved in SCORE with total investment of more than RM32.0 billion. Samalaju Industrial Park continues to be the main attraction.

He said 15 projects with a total investment of more than RM27.0 billion have been approved in the Park. The remaining four projects with investment worth more than RM5.0 billion are located each in Mukah, Tanjung Manis and Kidurong. This reflects the confidence of investors on SCORE as an attractive investment destination in the region.

 Datuk Patinggi Adenan assured the timely provision of social and basic infrastructure in Samalaju Industrial Park. The construction works related to Samalaju New Township, Hotel, Service Centre, Samalaju Port and other industrial infrastructures are progressing well.

He believed SCORE has provided Sarawak with the foundation for industrialisation for it to prosper in the years ahead. Therefore, the State government has decided to go along the path of industrialisation towards the year 2020 and beyond.

However, the establishment of trigger or even downstream industries demands the availability of technical and skilled manpower. Therefore, young people must take up technical training to meet such demands. 

 Sarawak Monitor 
16 October 2014