Tuesday, September 2From The Broken Shield
The construction of road from Kanowit to Song and to Kapit and eventually to Belaga has been the dreams of Kapit leaders as it will not only link Kapit with other divisions, but will also pass through thousands of longhouses and huge tracts of land which can be opened up for agricultural development. The opening up of these tracts of land will be able to help eradicate poverty among the Ibans in the area, who are among the poorest in the country.
Kapit’s members of parliament and assemblymen have complained about the lack of road communications since the early days of Malaysia. I remember an incident in Kapit some time in 1967 when Tun Temenggong Jugah complained to Tun Abdul Razak, then deputy prime minister regarding the lack of development in Kapit especially the road construction. He said that Rahman Yakub and Taib Mahmud had neglected the Iban community in implementing development projects and accused them of practising a double standard. I remember he said: “Bisi niki pinang bisi niki nibong”. He threatened to pull off support for the federation of Malaysia. However, he kept quiet after he was offered the post of Minister for Sarawak affairs.
But his successors for the Ulu Rejang seat such as Miut Sibat, Justine Jinggut, and Billy Abit Jo and MPs for Kapit including Penghulu Abit, James Jimbun and Alex Nanta Linggi, the grandson of Jugah and State assemblymen like Jonathan Sabai, Philimon Nuing, Peter Gani, Stephen Ngelambong, Felix Bantin and Ambrose Blikau and Dr. James Masing have tried their best in requesting for road development for Kapit.
All their requests have been ignored. Now all development funds are to be focused towards realising Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy (SCORE) where 13 major companies have signed MoU with companies connected to Taib’s families and cronies. The SCORE will be developed along the coastal areas.
No wonder, the people of Kapit are very angry when they see no funds for road construction have been set aside for Kapit in the 2009 budget. Kapit has been missing several buses of economic development – to be exact nine buses (nine five-year Malaysia Development Plans.)
Why is Kapit in the doldrums of economic development? Firstly, certain people who walk along the corridor of power strongly object to the construction of the road as it will deprive the business of the express boat operators as well as ensuring the mighty Rajang River remains the mainstay of transportation for the benefit eco-tourism. Secondly and silently certain powers-that-be do not want Ibans to be “developed”. Ibans having reasonable incomes will be a threat in that they will not “kow-tow” to anyone. And being too poor will be equally dangerous to the powers-that-be. The policy is not to make “Ibans rich nor to make them really poor” as both are detrimental to the existing powers-that-be.
Now to cut the story short, Masing has got the power. The question is whether he dares to use it. Like Jugah who was the president of Parti Pesaka threatening to pull out of Malaysia, Masing as the president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) with six MPs and seven State Assemblymen can adopt the same tactic. Although Masing cannot pull out of Malaysia, he certainly can pull out of Barisan Nasional as it (BN) has not cared much for the people of Kapit. Only certain Dayak leaders like Alfred Jabu, Douglas Ugah and their cronies really benefit, some of them are given government contracts and lands for oil palm plantations.
So why remain in BN when Anwar Ibrahim is offering a window of opportunity to join Pakatan Rakyat. Perhaps with earnest negotiations with Anwar Ibrahim, who knows, PRS will not only become a greater and stronger voice for the people of Kapit, but also standing tall for the Dayak community in the new alliance.