From Hornbill Unleashed
April 2, 2009 An open letter to James Masing
You have been reported by the Borneo Post online (31.3.2009) as blaming Jawah Gerang for the lack of development in Batang Ai, because Jawah did not lobby for projects during his five terms as MP.
This sort of political narrative from a personal friend of 25 years astonishes me. Surely a person with such academic credential and long record in politics like you can say something more inspiring?
Development projects are a right to be enjoyed by tax payers, and not candies to be dangled by the ruling parties in any election to fish for votes.
Ibans are tax-payers too
The poor Ibans in Batang Ai may not pay much in income tax, because they are so poor in cash income. But for everything they buy, such as daily necessities, farm tools, fertilizers, fuel, machinery, construction materials, food, clothing, seeds, and everything they need, they pay the excise tax, sales tax, and the import tax already hidden in the retail price.
The only tax-free things they enjoy are the air they breathe. As tax-paying citizens, they have the basic human right to development in basic infrastructure.
Then there is the social contract. I do not mean the silly social contract that UMNO refers to. I mean the one proposed by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, whom you must have read in your pursuit of a Ph.D.
That contract is a theoretical construct, but its does offer the ground for the legitimacy of government.
There, a government is legitimate morally as long as it looks after the personal security, the prosperity, and the natural rights of citizens. When that government fails in its duty to the governed, then the people have the right to change the government – by a revolution even according to Locke.
Therefore, it is the duty of the federal and state government to provide basic development to the people of Batang Ai, even without the MP lobbying for it! That is what a government for the people, by the people, and of the people is supposed to do.
You may offer the lame excuse that Sarawak is too vast, with over 5000 villages spread in isolation. It is too expensive to provide basic infrastructure to all poor Sarawakians in the rural area.
How about the money generated from the timber wealth? How can that be channelled to the people rather than a few connected individuals? How about the profit generated by land use for plantation purposes? These are within the jurisdiction of the Sarawak state government after all.
How about the fantastic wealth generated by Sarawak’s indigenous oil and gas? Since you and your state government are so good at lobbying, why have you not lobbied for 20% royalty from the black gold beneath our feet?
Look at the West
In West Malaysia, electricity supply has reached 95% of the population. I think clean water and road access are about that figure. I do not like UMNO, but let’s give them credit for making some real change in rural Malaya. In the Klang Valley, the per capita income is something like RM 5000 per month! Lim Guan Eng has just announced that there are no longer cases of hard-core poverty in Penang State. Somehow, some of the money used in developing Malaya must have come from revenue from Sarawak oil and gas?
In contrast, 80% of the Ibans probably make less than RM 1000 per year.
Since you and your colleagues in the Sarawak BN are such effective lobbyists, can you please get some more funds from UMNO to eradicate poverty in Sarawak?
You and Sarawak BN have a powerful bargaining chip. You can threaten to withdraw support for the BN at the federal level, and help Pakatan Rakyat form the next federal government. After all, UMNO now depends on you guys to hold on to power in Putrajaya!
Many years ago, you told me in a private conversation that the Dayaks cannot be in the opposition. When I started in politics in 1978 in Bandar Kuching, many Chinese voters told me the same thing too.
This is where we disagree. The Dayaks can be in an opposition that can take power to become the government for the sake, not only of the Dayaks, but also for justice for all Sarawakians and all Malaysians.
I am now a private citizen and a pensioner. The Borneo Post would probably not print my letter. So I have to print it here, in cyberspace. I hope one of the readers will send it directly to you.
If you choose to reply, please send it to my email below. I promise you it will be published here in full and without censorship. Then we can have a frank debate between two fellow Anak Sarawak, just as we did about two decades ago in the media on the Bakun Dam.
Good health to you and your family,
Sim Kwang Yang