Friday, May 9, 2014

ALI BIJU'S SPEECH: DUN SARAWAK 5-15 MAY 2014


FRIDAY 9TH MAY 2014

Thank you, Tuan Speaker

A very good afternoon to all members of this House who have debated and added their responses as well as listened patiently to the issues brought up by all Members from both sides of the House.

Before I begin my speech which will respond to Tuan Yang Terutama’s Speech delivered on Monday, allow me and my constituents to record our congratulations to YAB Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Adenan Bin Haji Satem upon taking over the Chief Ministership from the previous Chief Minister who is now our TYT Governor. Congratulations to both veteran politicians who now helm our beloved Sarawak. If there is one thing that unites us all in this House, it is our love and our allegiance to the state of Sarawak.

Tuan Speaker, Sir.

EXPEDITING THE DISPOSAL OF CASES BY THE DISTRICT NATIVE COURTS.

I would like to inform this House that the backlog of NCR Land cases tried at the District Native Courts level is alarming. The statistics indicate that currently there are about 1,300 cases already filed at all the District Native Courts in Sarawak. These exclude the cases filed by the NCR landowners at High Courts throughout Sarawak. The fact that the number of cases is more than one thousand indicates something is not quite right and therefore the government should take immediate steps to pay urgent attention to resolving and settling these cases.

The District Native Court has only 3 Magistrates, all of whom had served as District Officers before. In fact, their appointment as District Native Court Magistrates was due to their work experiences dealing with various cases which included land and marriage matters.

Slow rate of disposal of the cases is most likely due to TWO major reasons:

1.     All of the landowners are from rural areas. Usually it takes one day to come to the District Native Court which is situated at the District Office and another day for them to go back to their respective longhouses. During the actual trials, the land inspection will be carried out by the Magistrates together with land claimants. If, however, the land being disputed is far from the District offices at least another two days will be spent for the purpose of inspection. Logistics and travel time is one major factor.
2.     This means that by average one case requires about 2 weeks for a full trial, up to the delivery of judgment. So far, one Magistrate could settle 2 cases per month. Therefore, by average the three District Native Court Magistrates could only settle six cases in one month. In others words, within one year the total of only 72 cases could be settled, assuming that there is no appeal to the judgments. However, from 2006 up till now, only 260 cases have been settled, which means about 37 cases were disposed within a year. The lack of Magistrates is a glaring factor.
 Tuan Speaker, 
1.     In view of the very insufficient number of District Native Court Magistrates engaged by the state, I urge the government to increase the number of Magistrates with immediate effect in order to expedite trials and settle the land disputes as fast as possible.
2.     I would also like to suggest that the government train as many officers as possible to gain knowledge on the Adat pertaining to Native Customary Rights, particularly on the creation of NCR lands. 
Tuan Speaker, Sir, another legal issue that is often brought before the District Native Courts is divorces in marriages.

Divorce and the dissolution of marriages under Adat Iban is common and this gives rise to complications in the lives of the litigants after divorces. The fines and maintenances given to the aggrieved parties and children are provided in various sections of Adat Iban Order 1993. With regard to the quantum of fines and maintenances, I would like to point out that the current numbers which date back to 21 years ago are obviously insufficient to meet the needs of the aggrieved parties in today’s economic downturn. With the uptrend increase of the cost of living, I would like to suggest that the Majlis Adat Istiadat reviews and amends, among others, the relevant sections with immediate effect in order that the quantum of fines and maintenances be increased in tandem with the increase of cost of living.
                  
The most serious consequence of divorce is when the guilty party who divorced the other stops providing monthly maintenance. Monthly maintenance might be paid to the aggrieved parties and to the children for only several months. There are cases when the guilty party stops giving monthly maintenance either due to being unemployed or his/ her whereabouts cannot be traced. The matter can be more serious when the guilty party works in another country and cannot be contacted whatsoever.

When the aggrieved party cannot cope with today’s financial need, the children might not get proper education as a result of the broken marriage. To ensure that the Native Courts be effective, the Police, District Officers, Residents and other relevant agencies should play their roles to help strengthen and implement the Adat, so that the problems faced by the aggrieved party and the children can be minimized. I therefore propose the setting up of a One-Stop Counter for all aggrieved parties after the settlement of their respective cases where government aid, support and welfare can be expedited to support the aggrieved parties on the spot.

Tuan Speaker, Sir.

FIRE PREVENTION FOR LONGHOUSES.

I am alarmed as by the string of cases of longhouse fires in Sarawak lately. According to Jabatan Bomba, 72 longhouse fires were reported in the last 4 years involving a total of 1,297 pintu, with estimated accumulated losses of more than RM60 million.

In my constituency of N.34 Krianalone, 5 longhouses have burnt down in the last 3 years alone. These are Rh. Unding of Sg. Jirak, Rh. Chendang of Sg. Antu, Rh. Kupon of Itop, Rh. Lawat of Libas and Rh. Kayan of Ng.Telik. Immediate assistance was given by various parties to help rebuild their lives. Except for Rh. Unding of Sg. Jirak, the other 4 longhouses have yet to be rebuilt. Thus, I urge the Ministry of Housing Development to prioritize the fire victims with assistance in terms of longhouse loans.

From my investigations with the fire victims of my constituency, all 5 fire incidents could have been contained, controlled and even prevented from spreading had all the longhouses possessed basic firefighting equipment.

1.     I urge the government to allocate funds to purchase fire extinguishers and install fire hydrants attached to firefighting hoses at all longhouses. Fire hydrants, as far-fetched as it may sound to some, are very doable. So long as a longhouse has piped water facilities from JKR, I see no reason why additional pipes be connected for the sole purpose of fire-fighting.
 2.     The Fire and Rescue Department (Jabatan Bomba) should also conduct basic firefighting training at all longhouses, especially if requested by any longhouse JKKK. The basic knowledge of how to connect and operate firefighting hoses together with how to operate fire extinguishers should be a priority programme by Jabatan Bomba for rural inhabitants. Therefore the implementation of a Rural Fire Awareness Programme as a preventive measure should be carried by Jabatan Bomba Officer.
Tuan Speaker, Sir.

POVERTY ERADICATION IN THE STATE.
Throughout my tenure as Wakil Rakyat for the last 3 years I have supported government policies eradicating poverty among rural the population. Through my discussion with and feedback from rural folks themselves in Krian, I have proposed various measures during previous DUN sittings that could help upgrade the rural standards of living, mainly the introduction of oil palm smallholdings and rubber mini-estates.

I have urged government agencies like MPOB, RISDA and the Agricultural Department to set provide more allocations for rural farmers. I am pleased to report that rural farmers in Krian have been very happy to receive such assistance from the government through MPOB, RISDA and the Agricultural Department to plant oil palms and rubber. Credit should be given when it is due and I wish to put on record that the rural farmers of Krian acknowledge and appreciate this assistance.

Thus far, I have assisted rural farmers with their applications and signed ‘Sokong’ in their application forms. In fact, I continue to personally encourage the farmers to apply for these facilities to help them in the government’s overall efforts in poverty eradication. However, it has come to my knowledge that an officer from the Agricultural Department in Saratok informed people during a gathering at Taklimat Tanaman Pekebun Kecil Bhg Betong (JabatanPertanian/MPOB) at SK Min Sen, Saratok, on the 9th April 2014 that his department in Saratok will not process applications that are supported or signed ‘Sokong’ by Opposition YBs.
                  
In the past, farmers in Krian did not encounter such a problem until Saratok Agricultural Department got involved in the application process. I have received clarification from this august House TWICE, not once, but TWICE regarding whether Opposition Wakil Rakyat can sign ‘Sokong’ or NOT in the application forms. The written answers provided in this Housewere BOTH in the affirmative. Sadly, an officer from the Saratok Agricultural Department has not carried out his duty in accordance with the policies reiterated TWICE in this August house. The Westminster Convention is clear; no one can override the policies created in this august House. Even the Agricultural Minister himself has mentioned several times that poverty eradication is beyond politics and I totally agree with the honorable Minister. Therefore, I request that this defiant act of the civil servant must be stopped immediately.

Tuan Speaker, Sir,

CLEAN WATER SUPPLY.
I would like to highlight the issue facing the construction of the much anticipated Saratok Water Treatment Plant at Kaki Wong in Krian. The construction work started on the 2nd of December 2011, and has yet to be completed. Although extension of time was given several times to the contractor, the work is yet to be completed and progress looks very slow. There seems to be no extra initiative by the contractor to catch up with the schedule. The initial completion date was supposed to be the 1st of June, 2013 and since then the contractual completion was revised 3 times; 1st it was September 15th, 2013, 2nd it was October 4th, 2013 and the last one was May 2nd, 2014. Even a Minister recently announced that it would be completed before Gawai this year.

Therefore, I would like the Ministry in charged to enlighten this august House of the mitigating plans that will be taken by the contractor to expedite the works to complete the project. The government must not hesitate to impose strictly contractual clause in terms of LAD - Liquidate and Ascertained Damages. This is by no means to penalize the contractor but more as a deterrent against future incidents. The contractor has to assume responsible for the delay. Further extension of time should not be given again for the 4th time. If given, there must be very strong justifications.

Another water related issue affecting Bandar Saratok is low water pressure which has created water shortages, especially in the afternoon. This situation is caused by the outdated, insufficient and aging piping systems built in the 1970s. The old pipe is only 6in which is too small to cater for the needs of Bandar Saratok. The piping system needs urgent upgrading with bigger pipe diameters to be laid to replace the old ones.

I have been made to understand that allocations for upgrading works have been approved but until now, there is no news on the status of the tendering process. I would like the Minister in charge to update this House on the project’s status. Further, I am concerned that unless the old piping system be replaced first, these old pipes may not be able to withstand the increased water pressure from the soon to be completed Saratok Water Treatment Plan. Additional increase in water pressure will definitely burst the old fragile pipes. Furthermore, of gravest concern to us all is that the old pipes are made of asbestos. Asbestos, as the whole world knows, is a banned substance since it poses a dangerous health hazard to human beings.

Tuan Speaker, Sir.

INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT.
The upgrading works to tar-seal Ulu Awik and Ulu Krian Roads were progressing very well on schedule and completed on time. The completion of upgrading work which covers 12 km for both roads has alleviated the suffering of commuters. They appreciate the effort by the government and are happy with the smooth rides to Bandar Saratok. The local contractors that carried out upgrading works also have demonstrated their capabilities to complete on time basis which will be part of their track record to bid for similar projects in the future. However, there are remaining portions of the roads not covered by the contract. As such, I would like to ask the Minister in charge when will the remaining portions of the roads be carried out?

The road upgrading work to Engkudu-SgAnak is ongoing and the residents along the road are happy and hopeful the upgrading will reach up to the end of road to Sg Anak longhouse.

Another unique case that I have mentioned many times already in this august is the construction of an access road of a few kilometers to Rumah Ibi, Nanga Ibus, the only longhouse in Krian constituency not yet connected by any road. The access kampong road now does not reach the longhouse so the residents have to ply the Seblak River, which is infested with crocodiles, with small perahus. The Government, through the local authority, can use the MARRIS Fund to finance the project.

Other roads that badly need upgrading and are applicable under the MARRIS Fund are Nanga Batang, Ulu Senulau, Ulu Awik, Babang-Krangan Rusa, Nanga Dara-Nanga Alum via SESCO transmission line and Sungai Engkabang-Drau Road.

Another infrastructure project started 2 years ago but  far from completion is the construction of the concrete bridge crossing Sg Melupa near Rh. Untan, Sikop. I urge the relevant authorities to conduct a thorough and immediate investigation into what has caused this drastic delay.

Tuan Speaker, Sir.

Having raised pertinent points which affect not just N.34 Krian but also applicable to many if not all rural areas in Sarawak, I ask the Government of the day to look into the concerns raised with no delay. And with this plea, I thank this most august House, I rest my case and take my seat. Selamat Gawai Dayak, gayu guru, gerai nyamai, lantang senang nguan menoa.

ALI BIJU
N34 KRIAN

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