DEWAN UNDANGAN NEGERI SARAWAK
5-15 MAY 2014
BARU BIAN’S SPEECH
With your leave may I begin my address in Lun Bawang under Standing Order 5:
“Terima Kasih ku nemare kareb kuan ku pebala bang Dewan ini pad miak pelibal terawe ratnan bala bala luk inicing TYT Governor Sarawak bang tanggal 5 bulan Lima 2014.”
Translated in English it means:
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 5th May 2014.
1. PRESERVATION OF LANGUAGE AND CULTURE
Mr Speaker, it is widely recognized that a people’s culture and language are closely interrelated and it is thus impossible to discuss one without the other. Humans learn their culture through language. Culture is a defining feature of a person's identity, contributing to how they see themselves and the groups with which they identify. The various Sarawakian ethnic groups are well-known for their ability to interact and exist harmoniously with one another. In order to preserve this, it is of utmost importance that we continue to promote the understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity in Sarawak. This will provide the key to countering racism, which is rearing its ugly head in ever increasing frequency in Peninsula Malaysia, and which we want to keep away from our shores.
In order to preserve culture, traditions and shared values, language must be employed. UNESCO reports that it is estimated that, if nothing is done, half of the 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century.
Mr. Speaker, the importance and uniqueness of our native languages is given recognition in the Sarawak Constitution by way of Article 24(8) which provides that subject to the Standing Orders of the Dewan Undangan Negeri, members may use any Native language in addressing the Dewan. Standing Order 5 confirmed this constitutional provision which allowed the use of “any Native language” to be used in this august house. There are officially 27 ethnic groups in Sarawak, each with its own unique language and some with many variations of their language, such as the Bidayuh community. To preserve the identity and significance of these groups, it is imperative that each ethnic group’s languages and dialects be taught to its younger generation. Certain groups like the Kelabits and the Lun Bawangs have a ready source of material to draw from, including the translated Bible and hymns. If we do not take any steps to ensure our languages remain relevant, I am afraid that in 20 years’ time, we may call ourselves Lun Bawangs, Kelabits, Penans, Ibans and Bidayuhs but that will mean nothing if we cannot speak our languages or appreciate the rich culture of our ancestors.
In this regard, I am requesting the State government to consider allocating a special budget to provide mother tongue education for each ethnic group, at least from pre-school level until Primary 6. I have raised this issue before in this august house but not with this emphasis. Mr. Speaker, if a budget is forthcoming, representatives from each ethnic group can be tasked to organize the lessons. Currently the Chinese, Iban, Tamil and Kadazan Dusun languages are taught in some schools but other languages are neglected. We must make every effort to ensure that the minority groups are given equal opportunity to preserve their unique culture and traditions by providing the means to guarantee the survival of their languages. In that way, we will be ensuring the survival of Sarawak’s multicultural diversity, which is one of our strongest assets.
Before I leave this subject, I wish to stress that the safeguards put in place by our founding fathers when we joined in the formation of Malaysia include the freedom to conduct our business in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and the native dialects. Let us not promote one particular language to the exclusion of the others. We would be taking a myopic view to restrict the use of other languages in our workplace and in our lives. Sarawak does not prescribe to one particular language as her official language and we should be proud of that fact.
2. MEDICAL CARE
Mr. Speaker, I would now like to bring up the worrying issue of negligence by the providers of medical care in Sarawak. In Lawas I have handled 2 lawsuits arising from medical negligence. One involved the death of a mother in the process of delivering her child. Such cases should not happen in this day and age, but it did happen in Lawas. In the second case, a needle was left in the stomach of an expectant mother, who had to undergo emergency surgery to remove it. Recently, I have had reports that the medical officers going to Long Semadoh and Ba’ Kelalan on their routine visits could not even perform simple tooth extractions and left fragments of teeth in the patient’s mouths. A dentist in private practice subsequently volunteered to go and finish the extractions for these patients. There is another case recently where a doctor botched up the caesarian section on a woman, resulting in her suffering permanent injury and disability. This was two months ago.
The dropping standard of medical care is of great concern to us all. Why is this happening? The people of my area have been telling me that they do not want to be used as human guineapigs for inadequately trained doctors and medical officers. They need the medical visits to continue and encourage such visits but request that those who are sent to help them are properly qualified to treat them, and not to harm them. Those who have suffered from the negligence and incompetence of medical officers are hit harder than city folks because they have to travel to towns for restorative treatment. Many suffered physically from lack of proper care. These patients and their families are often not aware of their rights and are left to live with their injuries or loss as best they can.
Notwithstanding the above, I wish to acknowledge the many committed medical staffs in rural clinics who have been servicing the rural population for many years. They have persevered despite the many challenges of rural medical practice, and we salute them for their dedicated service. We need to make sure those that are employed for such duties get the best training and that they are up to the tasks at hand.
3. EDUCATION – FACILITIES
Mr. Speaker, over the past six months, I have visited almost all the schools in my constituency and to my dismay, the majority of them are facing problems stemming from neglect over the past few decades.
One of the common problems is that of inadequate and poor quarters for the teachers. Many of these teachers are not locals and thus need to be provided with housing. In SK Long Tengoa, the headmaster had no choice but to surrender his quarters to four teachers. He was able to do that because he lives in the next village. But in other schools, the teachers are not so lucky.
The quarters that exist have all seen better days. Many are in serious disrepair, having received no maintenance or upgrade since they were built. In SK Long Tukon, the first school ever built in the Trusan area, I saw wooden steps and rails that had rotted and broken off as well as a leaking roof in the teacher’s quarters. According to one of my seniors in school, the primary school building in SK Long Tukon, which was built in 1949, is exactly the same as it was when he attended the school in the early 60’s. The state Education director stated last month that most rural schools were built using substandard materials over 40 years ago and were not meant to last. The same applies to teachers’ quarters. How many of us still live in houses that were built in the 60’s? Even if we do, our houses would have been properly maintained and repaired over the years so that they would remain habitable.
With the exception of SK Long Luping and SK Lg Sukang, all the other Primary Schools in Ba’Kelalan Constituency are generally in need of new buildings. I was made to understand by the YDP of SK Puru Sia that they were promised a new school under the 9th Malaysia Plan but with the end of the 10th Malaysia Plan in sight, the villagers are still waiting for this promised school. I would be most obliged if the Minister could enlighten us as to whether approval was actually given for a new school to be built and if so, the reasons for the long delay in fulfilling the promise made so long ago.
Another common problem schools face is that of a clean and constant source of water. For instance, SK Long Luping has been struggling with the problem of a lack of a clean water source for many years. The PIBG have built a small dam on a river nearby but need pipes to bring water to the school. Several years ago, some donors provided RM70,000 to lay pipes but the money ran out before the pipes reached the school and the project was abandoned. The schools were given some water tanks but this is insufficient and the teachers’ quarters do not have any. SK Long Tukon also lacks a source of clean water. I fail to understand how a school can be planned and built without consideration given to the source of water for it.
A peculiar feature of SK Long Tukon is its location – it was built on the other side of the river from the village, which poses a problem for parents sending their children to school. The school has asked for a boat to ferry the students across the river – I hope the government can take this into consideration.
Internet access is also problematic for all the schools that I visited. One of the 11 key shifts of the Education Blueprint is to ‘Leverage ICT to scale up quality learning across Malaysia’ by providing Internet access and virtual learning environment via 1BestariNet for all 10,000 schools by 2013. According to a statement in February this year by Idris Jala, the CEO of Pemandu, approximately 90.5% of public schools across the country have been connected with high-speed Internet access (4G technology) through the 1BestariNet programme and all these schools also have access to a learning programme called Frog’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The schools that I visited must belong to the remaining 9.5%, which are still lacking in this technological advancement. May I inquire when these schools will receive sufficient computers in line with the Education Blueprint's Wave 1 target for 2013-2015 of a minimum ratio of one computer for every ten students so that they may be able to enjoy internet access when it is eventually provided?
Speaking about technological advancement for schools, ironically there is an even lesser technological advancement that is still lacking in the schools I have visited. Some of them have no photocopying machines, which are needed to make copies of worksheets for the students. In particular SK Lg Tengoa specifically asked me to raise this problem in this august house. Besides photocopying machines, these schools are in need to workbooks and reference books as well.
I would like to ask how the RM1bil announced in February by the Deputy Prime Minister for the rebuilding of 600 dilapidated schools in Sabah and Sarawak will be allocated and the timetable for implementation. It is stated in the Education Blueprint that by December 2013, all 1,608 schools in the country requiring critical repairs would be fixed and that these repairs would start in Sabah and Sarawak. From what I have observed in the villages, the implementation of the Education Blueprint repair programme is way behind schedule. Is the RM1bil allocation given as part of the Education Blueprint programme or is it a separate and supplementary budget? Will some of the money be used to repair or build quarters for teaches? I am concerned that this amount is insufficient even for repairs of the schools alone because in February, it was reported that there are 800 dilapidated schools in Sarawak alone. The Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister had said that these schools are unfit for occupancy but continue to be used as the students and teachers have no choice.
I would ask that the priority of budget allocation be given to rural schools as the rural schoolchildren are at a huge disadvantage over those in the cities. Providing good school infrastructure for the rural schools would be a step in addressing the problems of rural inequality and injustice in Sabah and Sarawak. The younger generation in the rural areas deserve the opportunity to learn and better themselves through education and to have that, it is important to provide schools that are conducive to the process of education, not the dilapidated and collapsing buildings that many have to contend with now.
Besides the rebuilding of dilapidated schools and teacher’s quarters, the government needs to address the many other problems faced by our rural schools including the lack of computer and science labs and equipment, competent teachers and libraries with sufficient up-to-date books, to name a few.
4. STANDARD OF EDUCATION
Mr. Speaker, still on the subject of education, I would like to inform the Dewan that several parents have approached me and expressed concern that their children are not proficient in the English language. They asked me for ideas on how to improve the learning of this language and some told me that they had read about the Peace Corps teachers from America who are teaching English in certain schools in Malaysia. The parents asked whether some of these teachers can be sent to their children’s schools or whether some retired English teachers can be employed to help the children with their command of the language. I must say that I was surprised and a little shocked at the parents’ observations. However I am glad that they are motivated to seek solutions and I am requesting that their wishes for the services of the Peace Corps and retired teachers be granted by the Ministry of Education through the good office of the Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring up my deep concern about the standard of Education that is provided by the schools in this country. The recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) on creative problem solving ranked Malaysia at the bottom quarter at No 39 out of 44 countries, while Singapore was ranked at the top, making a lie of the Minister of Education’s statement that we have a world class education system. Earlier this year, Dr Frederico Gil Sander, a senior World Bank economist pointed out that the poor quality of Malaysia's education system was more worrying than the debt level of its households and that Malaysians should be "alarmed" that their children were doing worse in school than children in Vietnam, a country that was poorer than Malaysia. Let us leave politics aside in this debate about education. How many honourable members in this House would actually allow their children to be put through the higher education system in this country? Last week it was revealed that no Malaysian University made it to top 400 universities in The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2013-2014. Only the University of Malaya managed to get a place in the 401-500 range in the Academic Ranking of World University Ranking 2013.
Yes, Education is under the purview of the Federal government, but are we going to let our students be led down the slippery slope of a shoddy schooling system to a lifetime of shameful incompetence? We have at least 2 generations of spoon-fed, rote-taught Malaysians who have no ability to apply their minds to critical thinking and analysis, while many of those who have had the advantage of an overseas education have chosen not to come home. Let us not be taken in by the Education Minister’s unfounded insistence that our education system is on par with that of many advanced countries. This is a man who set his standards so low that he could be pleased that only 37% of trained English teachers in the country are at par with their counterparts in the United Kingdom, where proficiency in the language is concerned. One only needs to recall the way the majority of our Malaysian leaders and officers responded (or did not respond) to the MH370 crisis to cringe in embarrassment at their evasive, incoherent and inconsistent statements. Besides the general malaise that seems to envelope a large portion of the working population of this country, I believe that the declining education standards of this country has played a huge part in shaping their apathetic attitudes and behavior.
I have spent the major proportion of my time speaking about education because I believe with a passion that a sound and proper education is the key to all advancement and progress in any society and freedom from oppression and intimidation, and ultimately, the achievement of true democracy. The Education system needs fixing and I suggest again that the State should have a say in how our children are educated. May I remind this House of Point 15 of the 18/20-point agreement on Education that ‘The existing educational system of North Borneo/Sarawak should be maintained and for this reason it should be under State control.’ The standard of our Education system started to decline the moment the responsibility was handed over to the Federal Government by Abdul Rahman Yakub. The Federal Government has made such a mess of it that we should have the right to take it back and try to restore it to its former glory.
5. INTERNET GAMBLING
Mr. Speaker, I have spoken about the problems of illegal internet gambling in this Dewan before, and I have to bring it up again, as it is continuing to be a scourge in Lawas and various areas in my constituency, affecting all levels of society. New gambling centres seem to sprout up as quickly as they are closed down by the authorities and there does not seem to be anything that can stop them. In February this year, it was reported that 2 civil servants were among the patrons arrested in an Internet gambling centre in Sibu. The recent discovery by MACC of RM20 million in a senior police officer’s bank account was believed to be from bribes collected from operators of illegal businesses including Internet gambling centres. This is a problem with huge ramifications for our society and I wish to ask that the authorities step up their efforts to eradicate this social ill.
Mr Speaker, I wish to convey the wishes of the people of Long Ibau, Long Tengoa, Tang Sango A, Tang Sango B, Tunas Baru, Beriwan Kito, Batu Tari, Tang Lapadan, Long Bidang, Bukit Batu, Pa’ Lobo, Beriwan Tengah, Puru Sia, and Kampong Long Ugui, Long Sebangang Lama, Long Sebangang Baru, Batu Mulung, Tang Itung, Long Tuma and Gaya Baru Lawas that the 7.5km logging road from Simpang Empat, Kampong Bukit Batu to Kampung Long Ugui, Long Sebangang Lawas Damit be upgraded so that the villagers will be able to travel a shorter distance to Lawas by using this road.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our new Governor and Chief Minister on their recent appointments. This change of guard marks a new era in the governance of Sarawak and I hope that we will be able to co-operate in a spirit of mutual understanding for the benefit of the people, whose interests we have sworn to protect. I wish to applaud the Honourable Chief Minister and my friend the Honourable Minister of Land Development for their recent statements on the significance and the relevance of the 18/20 points agreement vis-a-vis the relationship we have with our Federation partners; in particular the stance on religious freedom, the call for an increase in petroleum royalty and the affirmation of being equal partners with Malaya in the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.
On the first point I hope we will never forget that Sarawak was declared to be a secular state and that our religious freedom must be protected. Contrary to the assurance by the Prime minister and other Political Leaders from the Government of the day that the decision in the Herald Case would not affect Christians in Sabah and Sarawak, that very decision was the very reason used by the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s Judge to dismiss the Sabah SIB Church’s application for a Judicial Review last Monday to challenge the Minister’s decision in confiscating or seizing their religious books in 2007, saying she was bound by the Court of Appeal in the Herald’s Case. I had predicted that this would happen but many disagreed. Mr. Speaker I do hope that our State Government and her Leaders will continue to jealously guard the religious rights and freedom for all Sarawakians for the sake of our children and the generations to come.
On the second point I am glad that we have the good sense to be unanimous for once in wanting to have our oil and gas royalties increased from the 5% to 20%. It proves that when it comes to what really matters for Sarawak, we can put aside our political differences.
And on the third point being of equal status with Malaya in forming Malaysia, our benefits and allocations in the Federation should commensurate with this status in terms of the parliamentary constituencies, heads of Departments, ambassadors and the like. I hope our new YAB Chief Minister will pursue this angle in the coming days, as these are our birthright.
Finally, although my attempt to introduce a Private member’s Bill to amend the Sarawak Land Code was rejected yesterday by the majority of the Dewan following Mr. Speaker’s succinct, but may I say, misinformed reasoning and ruling, I am still hopeful that the Land Code will be amended in the near future to further protect the rights of the people. The matter being rejected without debate, I regret that I did not have the opportunity to enlighten this Dewan on the present state of the law on the matter. Allow me to just say, that contrary to the insinuation in Ground 4 of a financial gain for me, it is highly likely that litigation over NCR lands would cease if the Bill had been passed and the amendments made as suggested. That, Mr Speaker, is the ultimate goal.
In closing, I wish to quote a portion of a letter written by the first white Rajah, James Brooke to his mother:
“Had I been other than who I am and sought wealth and aggrandisement, I should have never obtained the hold I have on the natives, and now that it is obtained, if self was the moving principle, I might gain something, but no real benefit would accrue to the natives.
I may be, mother, my own enemy, but I will never be the enemy to the human race, or the numerous tribes that look to me for aid. I will never desert the principles I have cherished in secret through my whole life: any paltry personal wealth is scarcely worth the seeking save as a means, and that to devote a life to its acquisition is inimical to the higher virtues. I believe I have done something to better the human race and persue (sic) the path of goodness and intelligence.”
May all of us in this august House be able to declare these same words in good conscience when our work here is done.
Lastly may I wish all my Dayak friends a Happy Gawai and a bountiful harvest for 2014.
MAY GOD BLESS SARAWAK.
Thank you, for your indulgence, Mr Speaker.
N70 Ba’ Kelalan