DEWAN UNDANGAN NEGERI SARAWAK
20-29 MAY 2013
YB BARU BIAN’S SPEECH
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this august House on the occasion of debating the Motion of Appreciation on the address of His Excellency the Governor of Sarawak given on 20 May 2013.
Indeed, as mentioned by His Excellency, we are thankful that the 13th Parliamentary Elections were carried out in a calm and peaceful manner. However, there are challenges to the legitimacy of a number of seats allegedly won by the BN and voices of dissatisfaction are ringing out throughout the country. I wish to assert here, that these are the voices of Malaysians who truly love their country, and who wish to have a fair and just government to look after the interests of all citizens, regardless of race, religion and social standing. To borrow the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president...."
In our case, it is the unified voice of 51% of Malaysians who are speaking up for the country, and defending it against manipulation of the state institutions and democratic processes by those who have much to lose. This is a natural response in any democratic countries and Malaysia is no difference. There are allegations that illegal gathering are conducted by the opposition throughout the country. To me, we leave that to the authority concerned. If there is any breach of the law, prosecute. After all, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is also rights guaranteed under Malaysian laws. But in the end, after the dust had settled, everyone must accept the out come of this democratic process and we should move from here as responsible citizens of our beloved country to ensure that our nation move together to greater height of nation building for the benefit of all citizens irrespective of race, religion and political affiliation.
We are appalled that the newly appointed Home Minister as reported, chose to mark the start of his term by asking citizens who are merely standing up for this country to leave if they do not like the system of the elections. This display of the typical superior mentality of many elected representatives is totally unjustifiable and frankly, an embarrassment to the Malaysian Federal Cabinet. The Honourable Minister should also accept the voice of dissent. I sincerely hope that this unfortunate affliction does not find its way across the South China Sea to be inflicted upon the people of Sarawak. Ministers and elected representatives would do well to remember that they are merely temporary servants of the people, and not masters of the masses.
As for Limbang Constituency, Mr. Speaker. I wish to congratulate Mr. Hasbi for winning Limbang. (The Honourable Member for Bukit Kota, please convey to YB Hasbi). I accept defeat honourably but I do abhor unfounded, false and misleading allegations like I am running away from Ba’ Kelalan, because of unfulfilled empty promises as alleged by the Honourable member for Bukit Kota and raising sensitive issues during the election time, etc etc. What promises have I made, after all we are not the Government. Yes we have our Manifesto but manifestos can only be implemented if we became the Government. Mr. Speaker I do not wish to make any excuses for my defeat in Limbang because after all this is a democratic process. It will serve as a lesson in life. Whatever it is, Mr. Speaker, I believe our words and action today will be judged later, if not in this life, definitely hereafter. What we sow we will reap. Therefore I believe in doing what is good for all.
Mr. Speaker, in any democratic country where democratic election is held, there is bound to be political differences. We may have different political beliefs but all of us are patriotic Malaysians who love this country. Speaking for my colleagues and myself on this side of the political divide, notwithstanding our political differences, we will always strive for the betterment of Sarawak, Malaysia and her people consistent with our oath of office.
2. The Environment
Mr Speaker, I fully concur with His Excellency that protection of the environment is the responsibility of everyone. Sarawak does not only belong to us; it is also entrusted to us to be handed down to future generations in as pristine a condition as we found it, as far as possible. However, the question is, how much the government has actually done to protect the environment. Many times, projects are commenced without EIAs, provisional leases are issues for large tracts of land to be logged, and rivers are being polluted all over the state. The sight of the Sarawak River, which flows past this very building, evokes a little sadness in those of us who remember a time when the water was actually the colour of water and not this undignified muddy brown hue. In my area, as I have mentioned before, the Bario – Ba’ Kelalan road project has now contaminated the nearby water catchment areas and the once clean waters of the rivers and streams, making life hell for the people who depend on the river for their crops and their daily needs. The pleas of the people to re-route the road fell on deaf ears. Just take a flight from Kuching to Sibu, Bintulu, Miri, Limbang, and Lawas and you will note that all the main rivers and streams are completely polluted. I note the reply by the Honourable Deputy Minister for Tourism to the Honourable Member for Pantai Damai this morning pertaining to Sarawak River that is encouraging as there is the consciousness from the Honourable Deputy Minister of the importance of rivers to all of us, and an attempt to clean Sarawak and Miri rivers is applauded. But, is there any attempt or bigger plan by Government to rehabilitate the whole rivers in the State, as I believe Sarawak is blessed with great potential for tourism?
It was timely that His Excellency brought up the subject of security, for that is a matter, which has been on the minds of many people since the troubles at Lahad Datu. I wish to stress that security of the border with Kalimantan at Ba’ Kelalan and Bario must be strengthened with the building of immigration and army posts and increased security personnel. At the moment the Immigration personnel at Ba’Kelalan are sharing their office with the army. I hope the construction of the Immigration Post will be done immediately to ensure a smooth flow, check and control of human traffic between our State and Kalimantan.
On a related matter, I was made to understand that a GPS reading was taken of the Bario - Ba’ Kelalan road which is being built which shows that the road is being built much too close to the international border. I would be grateful if the honourable Minister could put my mind at ease on this matter whether this is permissible in accordance with security laws. We must not be complacent where security is concerned after the bitter experience of Lahad Datu.
His Excellency expressed his appreciation for the allocations received from the Federal Government, which is used for various purposes including the building of hospitals and clinics. In this regard, I wish to state that our healthcare is woefully inadequate, particularly if we want to claim to be a developed, high-nation economy. Just take a visit to the Radiotherapy Unit at the General Hospital. The beds are filled by patients from all over Sarawak as the Kuching GH is the only hospital which has the facilities and doctors to treat cancer. The family members of these outstation patients sleep wherever they can, mostly on the floor beside the beds, as they cannot afford hotel rooms. What about patients who cannot travel or who cannot afford to travel? A relative of mine is now here in Kuching undergoing treatment. She missed two days’ radiotherapy treatment last week because two of the three machines at GH were down. This is sad and disappointing because her health and chance of recovery has been compromised.
I was rather surprised to note that according to the Social Statistics Bulletin Malaysia 2012, Sarawak has only 7 Rural Clinics (Klinik Desa). We also have 197 Health Clinics and 8 1Malaysia Clinics, making a total of 212 clinics. Compare this with Perak, which has about the same population as Sarawak. They have 328 Clinics out of which 242 are Rural Clinics. Pahang, the largest state in Peninsula Malaysia but with an area less than a third of the size of Sarawak, has a total of 324 clinics, 243 of which are Rural Clinics. Whichever way one looks at it, it cannot be denied that Sarawak has not been getting her fair share of allocation, resulting in deprivation of adequate healthcare for her people. The people deserve the same standard and accessibility of healthcare as that received by their fellow citizens in West Malaysia but it seems that this will continue to be denied to them for many years yet.
I sincerely hope the Minister concerned fight from the Federal Government sufficient allocations in this aspect knowing that we are one of the States in Malaysia that contributed so much to the Federal coffers and yet is given pathetic health facilities.
5. Malaysia’s 50th year
Fifty years ago, the Prime Minister of Malaya Tunku Abdul Rahman said that one of the principal objectives in forming Malaysia was to further the economic development of the Borneo Territories so that their standards of living and technical skills might be raised, and a firm basis provided for accelerated economic growth. He announced that
“measures would be introduced to accelerate industrial development in the Borneo Territories, and to minimise the disequalifying effect of free play of the economic forces so that the gap between a relatively backward state and the advanced would be narrowed and not widened.”
Half a century after the formation of Malaysia, the ethnic communities of Sarawak are still not able to integrate into the economic system of Malaysia. At this 50th year mark, it is appropriate that we examine the extent to which Sarawak has benefitted from the economic progress of Malaysia, given that prior to the formation of Malaysia, the political leaders of Malaya made many promises, tacit or expressed, regarding the potential diffusion of socio-economic development from Peninsula Malaysia to Sabah and Sarawak.
Of the matters brought up by His Excellency, the one issue, which is of particular interest to me, is that of poverty eradication. The poverty rate was said to have dropped to 2.4% in 2012 from 5.3% in 2009. Whilst I would dearly like to believe this statistic, my observations during my trips in the rural areas and in the interior of Sarawak give me reason to doubt the accuracy of this figure.
The standard of living of a population is causally related to their educational attainment, which in turn determines their levels in the occupational hierarchy. In Sarawak, even to this day, the indigenous people, with only primary education or a lack of formal education, are relegated to jobs at the bottom end of the occupational hierarchy such as skilled agricultural workers or elementary workers.
The Labour Force Survey Report Malaysia 2010 shows that Sarawak has the second highest number of workers in the labour force with no formal education that is 94,000 workers, which accounts for 22.6% of the national total. The figure for Sabah is even higher, and in total, both the Borneo states account for 55.5% of the workers in the Malaysian labour force with no formal education.
Worse still, there are 242,000 Sarawakian workers with only primary education, who account for 23% of the labour force of Sarawak and 12.8% of the labour force of Malaysia. The number of workers with no formal education combined with those who have only primary education account for 31.9% of the Sarawak labour force and 35.4% of the national labour force. Sarawak accounts for only about 8% of the total labour force of Malaysia, but within that small fraction, our workers account for 35.4% of the country’s functionally illiterate workers. This disparity bodes poorly for Sarawak in relation to our standing and competitiveness within Malaysia.
With such a large proportion of the Sarawak labour force having inadequate education, how can the government hope to achieve its high-income economy goal by 2020? In fact, the energy-intensive SCORE region in Central Sarawak has plans to attract 1.2 million foreign workers over the next decade or so. Already, there are 600,000 foreigners in Sarawak and of these no less than 240,000, it has been estimated, are illegal immigrants from Indonesia and elsewhere. This leads to various other problems, which have been brought up here before in this August house.
Workers with no formal education combined with those who only have primary education are classified as ‘functionally illiterate’ by the World Bank. The majority of them currently work in the primary or agriculture industry and in secondary (or manufacturing) and tertiary sectors as unskilled or elementary workers. Whatever mechanical or technical skills they may have acquired will not prevent them from being marginalized when micro-electronic processes are introduced to their work places in the near future. Skills are becoming obsolete more rapidly, and the demand for continuous skill training for the current workforce will be tremendous.
Around 51% of this portion or 123,420 of Sarawak’s labour force are less than 35 years old and will still be alive by 2040. The government needs to provide adequate training for them in community colleges so that they can acquire some form of skills and functional literacy to survive the Knowledge-based economy of the future. Sadly, according to the Social Statistics Bulletin Malaysia 2012, there are only 3 Community colleges in Sarawak: Kuching Community College, Mas Gading Community College and Branch Betong Community College with a total enrolment of 182 students. I urge the government to seriously address the needs of the 123,420 workers who will need to be trained.
Still on the subject of learning institutions, I was surprised that His Excellency said in his address that Sarawak has 76 private and public technical and skills training institutes. According to the Yearbook of Statistics Sarawak 2011, there are 5 Vocational Schools and 2 Technical Schools in Sarawak, which cater for about 2000 students in total. Is it safe to assume then that the other 69 institutions are privately owned? If that is the case, the indigenous population is again marginalized and excluded, as many of them cannot afford the fees for private education. Can the Minister concern clarify this matter?
7. LOCAL ISSUES IN BA’KELALAN CONSTITUENCY
· Agropolis project proposal
Several years ago, there was a proposal for an Agropolis Project, that is, sustainable agriculture for rural highland communities by the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, a government–driven initiative project in the Highlands of Borneo in Ba’ Kelalan and Bario. A report by the WWF in 2005 identified Ba’ Kelalan as one of the few locations in Sarawak with great potential for sub-temperate crops including fruits (apples, longan, lychee etc), vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc) and flowers. If I am not mistaken, subsequently, the Sarawak Agropolis Advisory Council was established to advise the Government on the direction, plan, programme and strategy of the project. Since the initial hype about the project, there has been no development or activity in the designated areas. I believe that the Agropolis project can succeed and bring some economic development to Ba’ Kelalan and I urge the government to revive the project if it had been abandoned.
· Solar Power Projects
I note with excitement the solar power projects carried out in Long Sukang and Long Semadoh in my constituency. But sad to note that to this day the said projects are yet to be commissioned. I would like the Minister concerned to clarify what the problem is with these two projects. I was informed that a few more similar solar projects will be implemented in Bario soon probably by the same contractor that did the two in Lg Sukang and Lg Semadoh. My concern Mr. Speaker, is that good and qualified contractors must be employed to do these projects to avoid repeated delay and wastage of public funds. Besides solar system projects in the rural areas of Sarawak, I propose that the Government should look into mini-hydro power to be implemented in the rural areas including Ba’ Kelalan as we have proven this to be feasible through mini-hydro projects carried out by NGOs rather than the mega dam projects now planned by the State Government.
We must never forget that Sarawak agreed to form Malaysia on the understanding that the government of Malaya would help to uplift and improve the standard of living of Sarawakians. What has happened to this promise? Half a century on, we are still addressing the problems of poverty, access to education and healthcare, and the provision of basic infrastructure. These issues continue to plague the rural population who remain as far removed from development and progress today as they were in the early days of Malaysia.
The inequality in treatment that we have had to put up with only serves to confirm the fears of our forefathers and gives justification to the voice of the 60% who were against joining in the formation of Malaysia in 1963. The people of Sarawak are getting very close to, if they have not yet reached, “the sour end of that sugarcane” which was in the mind of the late Temenggong Jugah anak Barieng during negotiations for the formation of Malaysia.
I challenge the BN government to prove to Sarawakians its sincerity by putting in extra resources to decrease the socio-economic and developmental gap between East and West Malaysia. It is time to pay the long overdue interest on their fixed deposits to the holders of that account. Sarawakians are slowly awakening to the fact that 50 years after the formation of Malaysia, they are not doing much better than their forefathers. The drop in support for BN in Dayak majority seats during the recent General Elections is evidence that the people are now keeping watch on the performance of the BN government and are not willing to remain blind fixed deposits for much longer.
Finally, I wish to note with thanks that the entries pertaining to Official Religion and Official Language in Sarawak Facts and Figures 2010, about which I expressed much concern a year ago in this august house do not appear in the 2011 volume of the same publication. I wish to record my thanks to the Department concerned for putting right what were misleading.
May God bless Sarawak and His Excellency the Governor and Toh Puan with joy, happiness and many more years of good health.
I would like to wish our Dayak members, staff and friends who celebrate Gawai an abundant harvest and ever-increasing prosperity. Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
N70 Ba’ Kelalan