I stand here before you tonite as PKR's co'ordinator for the bidayuh community.
As such, i will confine my address to the feelings and aspirations of the bidayuh as a community within sarawak and malaysia as a whole.How do the bidayuh feel about their present situation and what do they expect for the future?
To be honest, we the bidayuh feel that, we have enjoyed some fruit of development, but at the same time we feel that what we get is a pittance, the crumbs left by others.
We also feel that we have been discriminated against, particularily in relation to another bumiputra community which is being treated with special favour. We are told by our leaders in BN that we are a united community but the reality is they have actually divided us among all the BN component parties.
As a result of the inadequate and discriminatory treatment accorded to us through this divide and rule policy we feel increasingly marginalized.
The state govt boasts a lot about its development achievement, but let me tell you, many villages in the bidayuh areas, most of them not far from Kuching, are still without some basic infrastructures. Some still do not have proper road access. Some still do not have pipi water. Some still do not have electricity. And some still have none of all three...road, pipe water and electricity. Some of the development projects in the bidayuh areas which were supposed to bring a lot of participation from and benifits, to the community ended up as a total farce.
The Borneo Heights, for example, was supposed to provide a lot of employment to the bidayuh. But not so many bidayuh are being employed there and those that are being employed there are offered only the lowest level job, worst still, the project which was to attract a lot of foreign tourists, to play golf mainly, is now only a place where the rich display their wealth, with their big concrete houses in the middle of the jungle. But the bidayuh who owned the land on where the project stand have lost their land forever.
In Mambong, the bidayuh in the area were similarily promised job opportunities from the clinker plant that's been built in the area. They were also promised that they would not suffer from the pollution that would arise from the plant as adequate measures would be taken to prevent such eventuality. But now the people in the villages near the plant have to literally shut their doors and windows against the dust coming from the plant. Instead of benifitting from these project they have become it's victims.As if that is not enough,Mambong was also choosen as the site for a rubbish dump for Kuching rubbish. Why Mambong? Surely there are better sites nearer to kuching.
In Bau, the mining of gold at Tasik Biru has turned the once beautiful lake, which used to be the town,s major tourist spot and the place to swim turned into a lake of mercury. With so much mercury being poured into the lake by the mining company involved it is now a health hazard to swim in it. The notice by the lake warn you of such danger.How much dit the mining operation benifit the bidayuh in the area? Your guess is as good as mine.. the promise to rehabilitate the lake remain a promise.
In the dam project in Bengoh, to provide water for Kuching, which supposedly will need more water in the future, four bidayuh villages will have to be relocated.The government has promised adequate compensation and that it will take care of the people involved. But the villages who had been relocated to make way for the Batang Ai dam and the Bakun dam have all ended up much worse than when they were staying at their old longhouses. Can the bidayuh people who will be relocated as a result of the Bengoh dam end up any better? I think the answer is obvious. Indeed, the government itself has already provided part of the answer. Only recently it was reported to have given out one part of the compensation, for the land that will be affected. On average each family was reported to have been given Rm79,000.00.
Considering the amount of land involved, the amount is really pittance.With the present cost of living we can easily envisage where these people will really end up, in the slump. But a more pertinent question than that of compensation is why should the dam be built there at all. If indeed Kuching need more water, can we not built multiole dam involving other rivers within the region. The Bengoh dam will not only wipe out one of the most beautiful rivers i have ever seen but it will also wipe out part of the bidayuh heritage, in particular those bamboo bridges which crosses the river in various parts. I do not know whether the government has taken these fectors into consideration but what is true is that the company concerned must have found the project very financially attractive..It had rush into starting it,s operation even before any compensation was paid for the land and property involved.
On SALCRA(Sarawak land consolidation and rehabilitation Authority), a project in which quite a number of bidayuh have surrendered their land for the plantation of palm oil.The Sarawak state minister concerned recently proudly proclaimed the benifits(dividen) from the scheme that been given out to the participants.But in actual fact these dividens are nothing at all to boast about.Dividing the total amount being paid out by the total number of participating families, on the average each family gets only ringgit Malaysia ninety (RM90) per month.. which is way below the national poverty level. By just keeping his land idle, the owner could get about the same amount if not more through appreciation of value etc.
I could go on and cite other projects that are supposed to be undertaken for the benifit of the bidayuh. I would like to highlight another feeling and concerned of the bidayuh...that is, the feeling of being treated as a second class indigenous people of sabah and sarawak. Infact the bidayuh need the assistance provided under the NEP more than their malay counterparts as they are infact in a more disadvantages position compared to the latter.They have less experience in commerce and industry and acquired modern education at a later date then the malays. But still we are only asking for our due share, no more.
Our land, which is increasingly becoming more sub urban is left largely unsurveyed, making our land and our rights to the land vulnerable to the design of greedy and corrupt BN leaders. The reasons which the BN government give for refusing to survey our land and issue documents of tittle insult our intellegence but none of our leaders in BN ever spoke for us.
The bidayuh cummunity has made some advanvement, in certain fields more than others, but i have to say that on the whole they are still lagging quite far behind particularily when compared with our more advance communities. Thier future are not very encouraging. Bidayuh are not even a third class bumiputra.As we all know bumiputra are accorded certain privileges especially under the New Economic Policy.
But except to the blind or those who choose to be so, the implementation of the NEP has been carried out in a very discriminatory manner against the non muslim indigenous people of Sarawak and Sabah in every feild, be it the extending of loan for business, the allocation of scholarships, allocation of places at the institutions of higher learning, position in civil service, the military and the police, the bidayuh and the other non muslim bumiputeras has not been given their just and fair share.It is as if there is a deleberate move to marginilize them, which is contrary to the public pronouncements of the government. Such a move, i submit, is not only unjust and unfair but it is totally uncalled for and unwise.
The bidayuh like other race need not be an expert to come to this conclusion. Just observe the bidayuh in Kuching, you will find them everywhere, the restaurant, the shop, the hotel, petrol station and car repair shop. But whereever they are, most of them are employed in low ranking jobs. These young boys and girls will end up marrying their counterpart in similar positions. It needs little imagination to see where they will end up in the economic ladder. In other words, the bidayuh are likely to be increasingly marginalized. The trend could accelerate as they loose more of their land, their main economic asset, through acquisition by the government in the name of development or because of unilateral sale to meet essential expenses such as their childrens university fees.
Now, i would like to say some word on the bidayuh political position.
We have six members of the Dewan Undangan Negeri and three members of the Dewan Rakyat. One of the main questions to raise is whether the number of our representative adequately represent us. The answer is very clear if you look at the electoral seats available and the number of electorates in them.But more important is the question of participation of our representatives.How active and effective have they been? On both counts the answer sadly is the negative. News reported during one session of the Dewan Undangan Negeri last year not even one of the bidayuh representative made any speech.What are the reasons behind such reticence? We can only speculate. It could have been a lack of interest on the subjects under discussion, it could have been a lack of adequate knowledge on the subject under discussion, or it could have been the fear of speaking out of tune with the boss. Whatever be the reasons what is clear is that the bidayuh representatives and political figures as a whole has not been effective in articulating bidayuh feelings, concerns snd aspirations...which is why i am raising this tonight.
After forty five years of independence, the bidayuh have made some advancement, but it is far from enough particularily when compared with the progress made by other communities. The measures undertaken by BN government have tendered to marginalized the bidayuh.
It make promised and poise pronouncements but seldom keep them or adhere to them.The BN in becoming more and more corrupt and inert, cannot bring about the required change that needs to take place if we are to further advance.
Only a party that is truly committed to justice and fairness and transparency will be able to bring about a true Malaysia where each community however small will have itsdue share of the national cake and a voice in the deliberation of its national affairs...That party is PKR and its partners in the Pakatan Rakyat.
We rely on such party and government to lead us into the 21st century.
Before i close since i am speaking on behalf of the Bidayuh community, i would like to request two things:-
1. That Bidayuh should have adequate representation at our party highest decission making body(mpt) as this will ensure that our voices are adequately heard and that the party will know our feelings and aspirations.
2. That we are united under one common platform(PKR) and it is important that in any elections(parliamentary or state) all the Bidayuh majority seats be contested by PKR.
NOW THE TIDE HAS CHANGE- NOW IS THE TIME FOR THE BIDAYUH TO USE THEIR VOTE FOR A CHANGE.