Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Baru Bian's debate speech, DUN Sarawak May 2017


STATE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY SARAWAK

11-22 MAY 2017

Mr. Speaker,



Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this august House on the occasion of debating the speech of the Governor on 11 May 2017.



·       OPENING


I wish to record my condolences to the widow and family of the late Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem who passed away on 11 January this year. We may have been on opposite sides of the floor but we were on the same page in wanting the best for Sarawak and Sarawakians. I congratulate the newly elected member for N3 Tanjong Datu and wish her all the best for a fulfilling term as ADUN.



My best compliments to the new Chief Minister, the newly appointed Deputy Chief Minister, Ministers and Assistant Ministers.



·       DRUG PROBLEM IN LAWAS

The first issue I wish to bring up is the drug scourge in Lawas and the associated problems that arise. Three weeks ago, the Anti Drugs Agency revealed that 23 out of 99 students in 4 schools in Lawas tested positive for drugs in a random urine test.



This figure of almost 25% students using drugs may have come as a shock to many, but it was no surprise to the people of Lawas and the surrounding villages. It certainly was not a surprise for me, as I had been talking about this problem in almost every session of DUN since 2011.



The drug problem is now widespread in the schools and villages. I am thankful that the authorities have finally acknowledged the seriousness of the drug abuse problem in Lawas and I applaud the Minister Of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family And Childhood Development for going to the ground there to see for herself the seriousness of the situation. The people were very encouraged by the dialogue with the community leaders in Lawas in December and in Buduk Nur in April. The workshop organised by the Ministry early this month in Lawas was timely and necessary and I am glad that there is now a concerted effort to engage various segments of society in the war against drugs and a programme called TAHAI (Tiada Ancaman Dadah Hidup).



The 3-prong programme involving Education, Community and Rehabilitation includes training teachers and community leaders to identify drug addicts by visible signs and conduct urine tests, consistent anti-drug messaging by school principals, giving powers of arrest to certain individuals, enforcement of homemade rules for villagers such as curfews and smoking bans, all of which I support.



I was also informed that the police have a programme in place and are planning to carry it out in Lawas as a pilot case. I look forward to positive results from this programme and hope that it will be successful enough to be implemented throughout Sarawak.



The only way to move forward is for parents, teachers, community leaders, religious institutions, government agencies, and community groups and associations to work together, and I hope that all parties will work relentlessly until the drug scourge is eliminated.



One factor that must be considered is the provision of rehabilitation facilities for drug addicts. There is only one rehabilitation centre in Sarawak, located in Kuching. The government must consider opening more such centres, perhaps one in the central zone and another in the northern zone. Besides making treatment more accessible, this would make it easier for recovering addicts’ families to visit them regularly to provide the support they need to go through the process, and thereby reduce the chances of them falling back to their old ways.



In the war against drugs, the authorities must also step up their efforts to identify and arrest the drug bosses and their major dealers. It was heartening to read about the arrests made in the past few months, but we are still waiting to hear of charges being laid against those arrested. In the case of the teacher arrested, I understand that he had been transferred to Lawas Education Office. This move was taken by the villagers, and they are puzzled that the teacher seems to have been spared punishment. I hope that the authorities will conduct their investigations speedily and bring charges against those arrested without delay. 



In a related matter, I was most disturbed to learn of the mistreatment of 3 arrested Sarawakians in Long Bawan in Indonesia barely 2 weeks ago, which led to a temporary blockade of the road access to Indonesia at Ba’ Kelalan. The first suspect was ambushed by the TNI (Tentera Negara Indonesia) at the border and was apparently beaten up. The other 2 suspects were arrested not long after and they were made to crawl some distance across the border, resulting in injuries to their knees and elbows.



The TNI transported the 3 suspects to Long Bawan but did not hand them over to the police until the next day. When the family members and a member of the Malaysian police force went to Long Bawan to see the first suspect, he had bruises and cuts to his face and eyes and looked beaten up. He was taken to the clinic for treatment upon the Malaysian police officer’s insistence, with his legs in chains, while the other two were taken to Nunukan.



The first suspect escaped from the clinic but was found hiding in a drain near Long Nawang later the same day. When faced with arrest, he stood up and put his hands up, but was shot by the police twice, injuring his arm and thigh, with a bullet lodged in his thigh.



The next day, his family members and the same police officer went again to see him in Long Bawan. They found him at the airport, lying on the ground without a stretcher, about to be sent to Nunukan. They managed to speak to him, and learnt about how he had been ill-treated. He was taken to Terakan clinic, where the bullet in his thigh was removed 6 days later.



This incident led to the blockade of the road by angry family members and villagers, who wanted to ‘punish’ the Indonesians for the ill-treatment of these 3 Sarawakians.



Mr Speaker, the villagers were not right to set up the blockade, but I can understand their feelings. I do not condone drug trafficking; in fact I condemn such activity. However, the way these three suspects were treated by the Indonesian police was completely unwarranted and unlawful. The three men should have been taken into custody in a proper manner as suspects under the law, and their rights observed instead of being shot and abused. I hope that this message will be conveyed to the authorities in Indonesia.



I understand that the Malaysian CID had investigated the incident and I look forward to learning the outcome of the investigations.



In the meantime, the families of these three men are extremely concerned about their well-being and worried that the ill treatment they received is an indication that they will not receive fair trials in Indonesia. The government must view this matter seriously and take steps to ensure that this is not repeated. The peaceful and harmonious relationship that had existed between the two sides must be restored, and I propose that there be a reconciliation meeting between the heads of the communities from both sides, so that we can come to an understanding. We must not forget that we are the same people, the only difference being our nationalities.



·       TELECOMMUNICATION ISSUES

Whilst the people of Ba’ Kelalan are thankful to the Telco for constructing the telecommunications tower in Long Semadoh, the network has been down for the last 2 months, resulting in a loss of communications for the people. The villagers have been patient but two months is really too long, and I hope the problem can be rectified without delay.



·       ROADS

The Long Semadoh - Ba’ Kelalan road condition has deteriorated so much that some parts are impassable when it rains. The road had been handed over to JKR but has not been maintained. I would like to ask the Minister concerned what the allocation is for the maintenance of this road and when repairs will be taken. I had noticed that rails are being placed along the road, but that appears to be a misplaced priority as it is impossible for cars to be driven at any speed along the road that is in such bad condition.



The Lawas-Damit Road, for which repairs were supposed to commence in April, according to JKR, is still in appalling condition. The temporary road repair carried out consisted of throwing gravel on the potholes and broken parts of the road, which has not improved the road in any significant way. I hope the JKR will take immediate measures to undertake proper repairs of this major road immediately.



·       SCHOOLS

I am grateful to the Minister Of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development for her visit to my constituency and especially to SK Long Sukang to see for herself the abandoned construction. I would like to know whether the retendering for the project has been done, and when construction is expected to recommence, noting that this is listed as a project of the highest priority in Rolling Plan 1.



The schools in Ba’ Kelalan and Lawas are old and dilapidated. Only two schools in Ba’ Kelalan are made of concrete, the others being constructed of wooden boards. Several are very unsafe, and SK Long Luping is still without water supply. How can we hope to provide a proper education for the children in the rural areas when the facilities are so lacking? We are failing the people in a big way when we do not provide adequate educational facilities.



·       ILLEGAL GAMBLING

Cyber gambling centres are still operating in Lawas despite the occasional reported raids on such places. There appears to be an enforcement issue here. Can the Minister concerned please inform this Dewan of the number of arrests made, cases prosecuted and convicted in Lawas during the past year? What measures are being taken to continuously monitor the town for such activities and to shut these places down?



·       NATIVE CUSTOMARY RIGHTS

I welcome the setting up of the committee by the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land & Regional Development to look into the amendment of the law to recognise the rights of the people to their ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ territories. The decision of the Federal Court in December last year that the concept of ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ have no force in law was misconceived and caused grave injustice to the native landowners of Sarawak. There is no other way but to amend the Land Code and I urge the government to ensure this is done no later than by the next sitting of this Dewan.



·       INTERIOR PARALLEL HIGHWAY AND RAILWAY

In December last year, the Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation had proposed the building of an interior highway from Balleh to link the three hydro-projects near the Sarawak-Indonesia border. I support this suggestion and propose that this interior highway be extended to link with the northern hinterland from Lawas to Ba’ Kelalan and Bario. This will open up the area for tourism and act as a catalyst for economic development.



I would also like to suggest that the government seriously consider building a railway to link Kuching to all the major cities all the way to Lawas and eventually to Sabah. This would make travel so much easier, and benefit all the people of Sarawak. Most countries have railway services that are the major mode of intercity transportation of both people and goods, and in many countries, the existence of railways helped to bring about economic change, if not economic revolution. The excess power from the Bakun Dam can be utilised to power the trains, if we should have a railway line. Undoubtedly the capital outlay will be high, but the advantages and benefits to the people and the economy may justify the expense. I request that the government commission a cost-benefit analysis to be carried out for consideration.



·       BUDGET ALLOCATION FOR REPRESENTATIVES

Mr Speaker, recently the matter of budget allocations for ADUNs has been discussed in the public forum and again, it was pointed out by certain ADUNs from BN that the allocations such as the RM5mil Rural Transformation Project allocation, the federal ‘Projek Mesra Rakyat’ allocation and the Minor Rural Programme fund are not available for non-BN representatives. This is nothing but the government bullying and punishing the people for exercising their democratic rights to vote for the representatives of their choice. The funds come from the people in the form of taxes – income taxes, road taxes, property taxes, GST and so on -  and every citizen has equal rights to enjoy the benefit of their tax contribution. If they continue to be deprived, can they elect not to pay any form of taxes?



I am urging the government to stop this archaic and oppressive practice and to start operating in a more democratic and fairer manner. The creation of a new ministerial position, Minister in the Chief Minister's Department (Integrity And Ombudsman) must mean that the government wishes to project itself as one that values integrity. One of the key features of a government of integrity is that all citizens are treated equally, and none discriminated against for their political leanings. Therefore, the allocations must also be made available to representatives from the opposition, who have the same duties to their constituents as the BN representatives have to theirs. Otherwise, the discriminatory actions of the government will just make a mockery of the office of the Minister of Integrity and Ombudsman.



·       CHALLENGES TO THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION AND MALAYSIA AGREEMENT



Mr Speaker, the Federation of Malaysia was founded on the Malaysia Agreement and the Federal Constitution. The Malaysia Agreement has been the basis of the engagement between Sarawak (and Sabah) and Malaya, and the Federal Constitution is regarded as the social contract between the many racial groups in this country.



Increasingly, the guarantees and rights preserved in these contractual documents are being challenged by several groups, and we must repel these challenges if we are to realise our founding fathers’ vision of the Malaysia they had hoped to achieve.



The independence of the judiciary had been undermined over 20 years ago by an amendment to the Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution, and the recent decision of the Federal Court written by Justice Zainon Ali that the judicial power of the court resides in the Judiciary, is to be applauded. We need more strong and courageous voices to be heard as we try to restore the separation of powers in this country. The executive has had increasing power over the other 2 arms of government, so that they are now effectively controlling the country, and this has impacted negatively on the country’s democracy index. Each of us, irrespective of political leanings, must do our part to ensure that the basic tenets upon which our nation was founded are restored and preserved.



Mr Speaker, the economic situation is getting worse by the day. The prices of goods have been steadily increasing, and the people are feeling the pinch. The middle and lower income groups are unable to make ends meet, many of them falling into debt. Recently, it was revealed that Cuepacs estimates that 100,000 civil servants are near to bankruptcy. There are external factors at play, but one of the major factors is the appalling mismanagement of the nation by a government of self- serving politicians. Malaysia is well known for the mega corruption scandals, most notably the 1MBD fiasco, which is costing the taxpayers billions. Enforcement agencies are unable or unwilling to act against the masterminds, but focus on catching the small fish in corruption crackdowns, just to placate the masses. This is why we must restore the integrity of government, and the separation of powers, so that no arm of government is subject to another, and all wrongdoers can be made accountable for their crimes.



Finally, on the matter of religious freedom, I cannot emphasise strongly enough the very fundamental understanding between Sarawak/Sabah and Malaya, that the Federation of Malaysia, which they had agreed to form, was to be a secular country. The attempts by PAS to introduce hudud law show complete disrespect for this agreement, and we must stand up against this assault. The feeble justifications that the RUU355 is not hudud has been debunked by many scholars, and the even more ludicrous assurance that the laws will not apply to non-Muslims is met with disdain and disbelief, for history is replete with instances where non-Muslims have been subject to Islamic practices in the name of modesty, avoidance of confusion, respect and other such excuses. Such incidences prove that our concern is not misplaced. We must ensure that Malaysia remains a secular country – if at any time she loses this secular status, we consider the Malaysia Agreement to be breached and repudiated.



On a related matter, I wish to express my alarm at the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh, and the disappearance of Pastor Joshua and his wife Ruth Hilmy. These incidences are widely believed to be acts of religious vigilantism or terrorism, and many are baffled at the inability of the police to solve the case. This raises the issue of security, for how safe are we, when innocent citizens can just disappear without a trace, and the police are seen to be impotent?



With all the problems plaguing this country – corruption scandals at high levels, economic strife, lack of security – it looks like Malaysia is fast becoming a failed state. UMNO has wrought immeasurable damage on this country long enough, and we must reject them at the next elections if we have any feelings for this country and her long-suffering citizens. Barisan National component parties in Sarawak must face the fact that the Prime Minister has failed Malaysia, and withdraw their support for him and UMNO. This is the chance for Sarawak to make a mark in the history of this country. Our forefathers did not intend for us to be mere followers of Malaya; they wanted us to exercise our own judgment and stand up for what is right for this country and her people. We have the golden opportunity to make a difference and I pray that we will have the courage and conviction to seize the opportunity.



In closing, I wish all the Dayak communities a Happy and Safe Gawai. and a fruitful harvest. To all Muslim friends, Selamat Berpuasa and Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.



May God Bless Sarawak and all her people, and let justice and righteousness flow like the mighty Rejang river from this august house and flood our beloved ‘Fair Land Sarawak’.





Thank you, Mr Speaker.



Baru Bian

N81 Ba’ Kelalan.




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