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Mahathirs legacy: An open verdict?


By Tunku Aziz
The MalaysianInsider


Let us disabuse ourselves, quickly, of the notion that 2011 would be an improvement over last year. Nothing so far has given us any reason for optimism. Just look at the way the affairs of the nation were being conducted in the first week of the new year.

Take, for example, the appointment of the Selangor state secretary. The Sultan in this very public controversy, I am afraid, has been badly advised. He has blithely, amidst much pomp and circumstance, naturally, trespassed, in a manner of speaking, into a politically explosive situation, a veritable minefield if ever there was one. Minefields, political or otherwise, are not known for their ability to distinguish a Sultan from a mentri besar.

He is a constitutional monarch, the Sultan, I mean, not the MB who is a political animal. His Royal Highness should confine himself to matters in which he has a clearly defined role to play.

Plunging into the murky waters of politics, where even killer whales fear to put in an appearance, is to risk losing the special constitutional protection that sets His Royal Highness apart from the chattering hordes of common politicians.

HRH has now blown to smithereens the aura and mystique of his royal person. Rightly or wrongly, many now invariably see him in a new light, and from a different perspective or angle, as a person who no longer is above the political fray.

I know this is not true, but perceptions are difficult creatures to tame. All rather unfor! tunate b ecause the controversy could arguably have been avoided. There is, of course, that little legal maxim The King Can Do No Wrong. Unfortunately it was inappropriate to apply it in this context. I hope we have all learnt a good deal from this unfortunate and unhappy episode.

Then, there was that clearing-of-the-air farcical drama. The ever nimble-footed, redoubtable Attorney-General of Malaysia, acting on his own initiative and, no doubt, prompted by the urgings of his newfound conscience, went to the citadel of all that is good and honourable, to prostrate himself and grovel before Ramon Navaratnam and the serried ranks of the countrys pillars of the establishment.

I am assured these are men of unquestionable honour with an unquenchable thirst for the truth. A-G Gani Patail, looking suitably contrite, shedding a few tears for effect, was there to explain how he managed, on the salary of a civil servant, to pay for the high-end haj package for himself and the accompanying family entourage. He was responding to allegations of impropriety centring on the question of who actually paid for the trip.

The good Tan Sri Gani Patail turned up with a few grubby receipts as proof that the trip was kosher. Ramon Navaratnam, the well-known eager upstager, pronounced his satisfaction with the explanation given by the A-G and, therefore, in his infinite wisdom, he verily declared that no investigation into the allegations of corruption against the A-G was necessary.

Now that a new operating procedure has been put in train, citizens suspected of corruption will not be investigated. I suppose just as well considering the incomparable cutting-edge investigation prowess of the MACC. Suspects will only be required to appear before Navaratnam & Co. And an instant decision is guaranteed. Now that a pattern has been set, we should remember that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Even the MACC can understand that.

The whole sad and disgraceful spectacle was a total sham, def! tly orga nised and orchestrated by the increasingly farcical MACC. Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan would have approved entirely the creative energy and ingenuity of Datuk Abu Kassim in producing an operetta to the accompaniment of nothing more than a lot of empty drums signifying nothing more than a lot of hot air.

If they were alive today, they would have named it The Pirates of Putrajaya as a companion edition to their own amusing The Pirates of Penzance. I should have been extremely surprised if the MACC had not produced this masterpiece of deception.

A good try both Ramon and Abu Kassim who obviously deserve each other. In the meantime, Robert Phang is being demonised because he had the moral courage and rectitude to challenge Ramons lightning verdict of NOT GUILTY. The A-G shed tears: the nation is in mourning because justice has been sacrificed and trivialised yet again.

The long-awaited coroners verdict on the death of Teoh Beng Hock had finally been delivered. The open verdict is nothing if not an affront to human dignity and a travesty of justice. Any reasonable citizen following the proceedings would have, in all the circumstances, been entitled to expect other than an open verdict which in the event has opened a can of worms to destroy the last vestige of public trust in the criminal justice system, long eroded by corruption.

The system, as we all know, was emasculated by successive prime ministers, starting with Mahathir. The unholy trinity of corruption, abuse of power with impunity, and desecration of religious, ethical and moral values in national life, sanctified by Che Det, will I am sure last many lifetimes unless we say enough is enough.

The verdict reminds me of a comment on public enquiries I came across a long time ago (source forgotten) which goes: As civil servants are apt to say, one does not commission an enquiry unless one clearly knows the answer. The coroner, a civil servant, knew at the outset what verdict should be delivered. Blame the corrupt system. ! The coro ner was merely doing the job expected of him by the Najib administration.

Mahathirs legacy has left this nation in a shambles. Should he not at least admit responsibility and ask for forgiveness so that we may start afresh to rebuild Malaysia without the excesses of the past?

Students benefit from Bakun Trust Fund ?

Peter Sibon, Borneo Post

Some 2,100 students from Belaga district have benefited from the Bakun Trust Fund in the last 12 years, disclosed Minister of Land Development Dato Sri Dr James Masing.

Of those recipients, 1,200 have completed their diplomas and degrees.

We have only spent about RM3 million in the last 12 years for the education of students from Belaga district, Masing told The Borneo Post after receiving an additional RM5 million allocation from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at a meet-the-people-session at Rumah Belor, Sg Asap, here on Saturday.

Masing said the balance from the previous allocation of RM10 million was RM7 million.

With the additional RM5 million allocation, we now have RM12 million in our account. We have been able to maintain our cost low due to our prudent spending, he said.

Masing, who is also chairman of the Bakun Special Resettlement Committee, revealed that Bakun Trust Fund was set up for the education of the people from Belaga District.

It was set up 12 years after the Bakun Hydroelectricity Dam project took off.

The Baleh assemblyman thanked the prime minister for the fulfillment of most of the governments promises to the people affected by the mega project.

Now it is for us to implement all these projects as promised by the federal government to those affected living in Sg Asap and Belaga district, Masing said.

In all, the prime minister announce! d a tota l allocation of almost RM180 million for the people of Sg Asap and Bakun District.

Among the allocations Najib announced during his visit to Belaga and Sg Asap were a RM62 million Bakun-Belaga Road, a new Belaga health clinic costing RM46 million, RM22 million for the connection of electricity to the main grid for 1,500 families in Sg Asap, the cancellation of remaining housing loans totalling RM41 million, RM5 million for Bakun Trust Fund, RM1.14 million for Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry to train Ibans, Bidayuhs and Orang Ulus in entrepreneurship skill; RM900,000 for resthouses for Penans at Sg Ulun and RM72,900 for primary and secondary students from Sg Asap.

Najib had also promised to assist the people of Sg Asap to get additional land to improve their livelihood through large scale agriculture development, since each family had only been allocated three acres of land.

When Bakun dam was built, some 10,000 people from 1,500 families, mostly Kayans and Kenyahs were displaced and resettled at Sg Asap.


Mahathir Legacy: An Open Verdict?

January 18, 2011

Mahathirs Legacy: An Open Verdict

www.themalaysianinsider.com

Let us disabuse ourselves, quickly, of the notion that 2011 would be an improvement over last year. Nothing so far has given us any reason for optimism. Just look at the way the affairs of the nation were being conducted in the first week of the new year.

Appointment of Selangor State Secretary

For example, the appointment of the Selangor state secretary. The Sultan in this very public controversy, I am afraid, has been badly advised. He has blithely, amidst much pomp and circumstance, naturally, trespassed, in a manner of speaking, into a politically explosive situation, a veritable minefield if ever there was one. Minefields, political or otherwise, are not known for their ability to distinguish a Sultan from a Mentri Besar.

He is a constitutional monarch, the Sultan, I mean, not the MB who is a political animal. His Royal Highness should confine himself to matters in which he has a clearly defined role to play.

Plunging into the murky waters of politics, where even killer whales fear to put in an appearance, is to risk losing the special constitutional protection that sets His Roya! l Highne ss apart from the chattering hordes of common politicians.

HRH has now blown to smithereens the aura and mystique of his royal person. Rightly or wrongly, many now invariably see him in a new light, and from a different perspective or angle, as a person who no longer is above the political fray.

I know this is not true, but perceptions are difficult creatures to tame. All rather unfortunate because the controversy could arguably have been avoided. There is, of course, that little legal maxim The King Can Do No Wrong. Unfortunately it was inappropriate to apply it in this context. I hope we have all learnt a good deal from this unfortunate and unhappy episode.

The Attorney-General and Ramon Navaratnam

Then, there was that clearing-of-the-air farcical drama. The ever nimble-footed, redoubtable Attorney-General of Malaysia, acting on his own initiative and, no doubt, prompted by the urgings of his newfound conscience, went to the citadel of all that is good and honourable, to prostrate himself and grovel before Ramon Navaratnam and the serried ranks of the countrys pillars of the establishment.

I am assured these are men of unquestionable honour with an unquenchable thirst for the truth. A-G Gani Patail, looking suitably contrite, shedding a few tears for effect, was there to explain how he managed, on the salary of a civil servant, to pay for the high-end haj package for himself and the accompanying family entourage. He was responding to allegations of impropriety centring on the question of who actually paid for the trip.

The good Tan Sri Gani Patail turned up with a few grubby receipts as proof that the trip was kosher. Ramon Navaratnam, the well-known eager upstager, pronounced his satisfaction with the explanation given by the A-G and, therefore, in his infinite wisdom, he verily declared that no investigation into the allegations of corruption against the A-G was necessary.

Now that a new operating procedure has been put in train, citizens suspected of corruption will not be investigated. I suppose just as well considering the incomparable cutting-edge investigation prowess of the MACC. Suspects will only be required to appear before Navaratnam & Co. And an instant decision is guaranteed. Now that a pattern has been set, we should remember that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Even the MACC can understand that.

The whole sad and disgraceful spectacle was a total sham, deftly organised and orchestrated by the increasingly farcical MACC. Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan would have approved entirely the creative energy and ingenuity of Datuk Abu Kassim in producing an operetta to the accompaniment of nothing more than a lot of empty drums signifying nothing more than a lot of hot air.

The MACC and Robert Phang

If they were alive today, they would have named it The Pirates of Putrajaya as a companion edition to their own amusing The Pirates of Penzance. I should have been extremely surprised if the MACC had not produced this masterpiece of deception.

A good try both Ramon and Abu Kassim who obviously deserve each other. In the meantime, Robert Phang is being demonised because he had the moral courage and rectitude to challenge Ramons lightning verdict of NOT GUILTY. The A-G shed tears! : the na tion is in mourning because justice has been sacrificed and trivialised yet again.

The Teoh Beng Hock Verdict

The long-awaited coroners verdict on the death of Teoh Beng Hock had finally been delivered. The open verdict is nothing if not an affront to human dignity and a travesty of justice. Any reasonable citizen following the proceedings would have, in all the circumstances, been entitled to expect other than an open verdict which in the event has opened a can of worms to destroy the last vestige of public trust in the criminal justice system, long eroded by corruption.

The Justice emasculated by Che Det & Co

The system, as we all know, was emasculated by successive prime ministers, starting with Mahathir. The

Che Det, the Emasculator of Malaysian Institutions of Governance

unholy trinity of corruption, abuse of power with impunity, and desecration of religious, ethical and moral values in national life, sanctified by Che Det, will I am sure last many lifetimes unless we say enough is enough.

The verdict reminds me of a comment on public enquiries I came across a long time ago (source forgotten) which goes: As civil servants are apt to say, one does not commission an enquiry unless one clearly knows the answer. The coroner, a civil servant, knew at the outset what verdict should be delivered. Blame the corrupt system. The coroner was merely doing the job expected of him by the Najib administration.

Mahathirs legacy has left this nation in a shambles. Should he not at least admit responsibility and ask for forgiveness so that we may start afresh to rebuild Malaysia without the excesses of the past?


Isa Samad, Soi Lek's son make vulgar jokes at sexy Tenang dinner show

Over 1,000 Tenang constituents were treated to a sumptuous dinner last night with free beer, sexy dance performance and a lucky draw, featuring a 100cc motorcycle as the grand prize.

The pro-BN 1Malaysia dinner also featured a fiery speech by former Umno vice-president Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, who had made his political comeback by winning the Bagan Pinang by-election in 2009.

He made PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim and PAS his main targets.

Describing Anwar as a liar, Isa cited the failed 'Sept 16 takeover plan' to take over the federal government and a promise to establish a shadow cabinet.

"Where are the shadow ministers? Are they talking about economy and development? No. The shadow cabinet has not been realised.

"These are all lies. We in BN have ruled the nation over 50 years. We don't need to give promises like the 100-day (reform) pledge. We are working on it every day," said Isa, who wore a orange t-shirt printed with 1Malaysia symbol.

"I know Anwar. We studied in the same university and we were both in Umno. If he really wants to help the Malays, Chinese and Indians, he would have done it when he was deputy prime minister and finance minister.

"The opposition parties are good at twisting (issues). They can twist from 180 degrees to 360 degrees. Anwar can be in front and at the back (depan boleh, belakang pun boleh). Gentlemen, please don't believe him," said Isa, drawing laughter.

Isa (left) also took a swipe at PAS, stating that the party had tried to portray DAP as an Islamic-friendly party by claiming that the latter had accepted the status of Islam as the religion of the federation and Bahasa Melayu as the national language.

"Who cannot accept this (status of Islam and Bahasa Melayu)?! Nobody is complaining about it. Gentlemen, you can accept these even before you join DAP.

"(PAS spiritual leader) Nik (Abdul) Aziz (Nik Mat) is even insane. He said the DAP understands Islam (even when) we as Muslims sometimes don't quite understand (the religion). How can (DAP chairperson) Karpal Singh and (leader) Lim Kit Siang understand Islam just by being friends with PAS for two or three years? These are all lies!

He pointed out that PAS has attempted to portray the selection of a woman candidate in the by-election as a recognition for women, but noted that BN had done so soon after independence by appointing a female minister.

"In the past, PAS had said women cannot become leaders. They have only changed (their mind) now because there are more female voters. If you follow PAS, you will go crazy," quipped Isa.

'Two faces of PAS'


MCA Labis MP Chua Tee Yong attended the event with Johor BN assemblypersons Tan Kok Hong (Bekok), Lau Chin Hoon (Pemanis), Lee Hong Tee (Jementah) and Ayub Rahmat (Kemerlah).

Chua revived the Islamic theocratic state controversy in his speech, saying that PAS has been showing a different face to each ethnic group on the issue.

"Whenever they talk to the Chinese, they say they will not implement (the Islamic state), but whenever they talk to the Malays, they say they will definitely pursue the agenda.

"Voting for PAS is equivalent to turning Malaysia into an Islamic state. Voting BN means that you are supporting 1Malaysia," he said, repeated the argument in both Malay and Mandarin.

Chua also listed the BN contributions to the Chinese community under the leadership of its head and premier Najib Abdul Razak.

These include scholarships to all SPM top scorers regardless of race, as well as government scholarships and study loans to graduates of Chinese independent! high sc hools.

"The Selangor government gave out 1,572 scholarships but only 15 were to non-Malays. Even their own leader Lim Kit Siang has questioned why - out of some 4,000 study loans disbursed by the state - only 12 were given to non-Malays," Chua added.

The dinner themed 'Majlis Mesra 1Malaysia', was hosted by local businessman Lee Cheng Chuan, who is also president of the Johor Basketball Association.

More than 1,000 invited guests from Labis and the nearby town of Segamat, attended the dinner held at a Chinese restaurant in Tenang.

Young women in sexy outfits entertained the crowd, while the lucky draw enabled several to win prizes like a Kriss motorcycle, laptop, LCD television set and refrigerator.

According to Lee, the dinner was to enhance rapport among different ethnic communities, in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia. It was noted, though, the most of the crowd comprised Chinese Malaysians.

- Malaysiakini


Utusan has gone over the limits, says former NUJ leader

Utusan Malaysia is a bad loser and a bully, says Bob Teoh, a former general secretary of the NUJ during its activist years in the 1980s, commenting on the papers witch-hunt of senior reporter Hata Wahari, the current NUJ president.

Hata has been suspended from duties, ordered illegally to be under "house arrrest", and ordered to face a domestic inquiry, which was called off after Hata placed a voice recorder on the table to assist him in making his defence, after the company refused to allow NUJ general secretary V Anbalagan to represent Hata.

In article he wrote yesterday, Bob said

  • the Industrial Relations Department must take Utusan Malaysia to task for intimidation of a union official
  • the Malaysian Employers Federation must tell Utusan to stop further provocative actions
  • Utusan is a bad loser and a bully and has lost all pretence of being a responsible newspaper
  • It has a record of victimising union officials: it has lost one case over a previous sacking of an NUJ president, with another case still in appeal.

Bobs article in full:

Readers must support Hata and NUJ

By Bob Teoh

Regardless of which newspaper they buy, readers must strongly support the NUJ and Hata Wahari, its besieged president. This is to tell Utusan in no uncertain terms that the reading public condemns its union bashing and irresponsible journalism. Utusan has been behaving like the bad boy of Malaysian journalism with impunity for far too long. Its time to stop the monster.

The Industrial Relations Department must immediately step in and take Utusan Malaysia to task for unashamedly intimidating the newly elected NUJ president, Hata Wahari, with baseless allegations of misconduct against him which has nothing to do with his employment as a senior journalist of the newspaper.

Utusans highly irregular action of resorting to a so-called domestic inquiry, which may result in Hatas sacking, is bad labour practice. It is a wilful violation o! f Hatas human right to reasonable security of his employment and his right to have a professional opinion and to express such an opinion without threats from his employers.

In an unprecedented display of arrogance, Utusan had also decided to be law unto itself by imposing restrictions on the physical movement of Hata during the period of the inquiry as if he was a restricted Internal Security Act detainee.

In another display of unreasonableness, Utusan has also denied Hata representation by his own union at the domestic inquiry. Utusan has also insisted on videotaping the inquiry proceedings but at the same time denying Hata the right to do likewise.

Utusans insanity can only lead to one conclusion; it wants to find any excuse to sack Hata at any cost. This Hata himself and the NUJ are well aware of and they are prepared to fight the ugly bully that Utusan has shown itself to be.

Utusan is known for its serial anti-union bashing tendencies, having previously arbitrary sacked a NUJ president, who was also an Utusan journalist, as well as the former chairman of the NUJ Utusan branch committee. It lost the [case against the] former upon appeal to the courts by NUJ and the latter [case] is under appeal.

The employers federation of which Utusan is associated with, must forcibly persuade Utusan to desist from further provocative actions and to drop its so-called domestic inquiry in the interest of industrial harmony.

Hata was elected NUJ president in September last year and is outspoken about free and responsible journalism. In his first policy statement as president he said, The union (NUJ) is asking all mainstream journalists, especially of Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, Berita Harian and the Star to return to their true function as deliverers of objective information to the public, and not as tools of propaganda for the government of any political party or individual, for their personal gain.

He had also singled out Utusan for unethical journalism by playing up the rac! e and re ligion card. This riled Utusans editors and Hata was immediately hauled up to face a domestic inquiry for allegedly tarnishing the newspapers image. The NUJ exco decided unanimously to fully back its president and said Utusans action is ludicrous.

At the core of the controversy is Hatas action as NUJ president and not as an Utusan employee. Hence, Utusan has no right whatsoever to try to sack Hata for his opinion. If it has the courage, Utusan should sue both Hata and the NUJ for defamation to protect its image.

As NUJ president, Hata was expressing his opinion of the impact of bad journalism on working journalists and their welfare. It is his constitutional and human right as a union leader to form such an opinion and to express it. If Utusans internal auditor says that theres something fishy about its account, we dont sack him or her, do we? So when Hata said Utusan is bad surely, we dont expect Utusan to sack him.

Utusan is also entitled to its right of reply. But Utusan chose to victimise both the NUJ and Hata instead of entering its defence in the court of public opinion. Utusan is both a lousy newspaper and a bad loser. A bully in short.

Utusan has lost all pretense to be a responsible and professional newspaper. It has litttle reputation to speak of. What Hata and the NUJ have to say about it is already public knowledge. The very fact that Hata and NUJ had said it shows the extent of Utusans rot.

The once respectable Malay daily has in recent years been resorting to gutter journalism, religious bigotry, racist, sexist, and seditious speech calculated clearly to incite one segment of society against another to the detriment of peace and harmony in the nation.

Far from trying to shore up its dropping sales by such irresponsible reporting, Utusans circulation has plummeted so much that its very commercial feasibility is now in question. It is no secret that it is generously endowed with advertising revenue from the government and government-linked corporations to k! eep it a float.

Utusan is directly controlled by Umno, the dominant partner in the ruling coalition. That it enjoys the patronage of Umno is obvious. But patronage must have its limit. Utusan has exceeded this limit and must be taken to task.

Bob Teoh, now a freelance writer, was NUJ general secretary 1984-86. He was a reporter with The Star and Business Times.


Gordon Brown on global ethic vs. national interest

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Can the interests of an individual nation be reconciled with humanity's greater good? Can a patriotic, nationally elected politician really give people in other countries equal consideration? Following his TEDTalk calling for a global ethic, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown fields questions from TED Curator Chris Anderson.

Thanks for Your Message of Goodwill and Kindness

January 19, 2011

Dear Friends,

It is not possible for Dr. Kamsiah and I to thank you individually for your congratulatory messages on the award of the Dato Setia DiRaja Kedah (DSDK) which I received from DYMM Tuanku Sultan Kedah , Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah last Sunday at a glittering investiture ceremony at Istana Anak Bukit, Alor Setar. So we have decided to say Terima Kasih via this blog.

The award is the result of the hard work of my late parents who served in the Kedah Medical Service. It is a recognition for their dedication to Kedah, for which my late mother was conferred the Bintang Cemerlang Kedah(BCK). My family has a tradition of service to the Sultans of Kedah over three generations. My grand uncle, Ismail Merican, served as Legal Adviser to Kedah under DYMM Abdul Hamid Halim Shah II ibni Ahmad Taj ud-din al-Mukarram Shah and Sultan Badlishah ibni al-MarhumSultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, and DYMM Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah.

So this DSDK award honours my forebears and parents and I am only a beneficiary of their hard work and dedication to the revered Rulers and people of the state of Kedah Darul Aman.Din Merican


Book Review Podcast

This week, our 10 Best Books of 2009; Motoko Rich has notes from the field; Caroline Weber discusses some photography and art books; and Jennifer Schuessler has best-seller news. Sam Tanenhaus is the host.

Bakun: Empty promises, damned lives

Kua Kia SoongNONE

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razaks visit to the Bakun area on Jan 15 was trumpeted as a gracious offer of largesse to the displaced peoples from the Bakun area who have been resettled at Sungai Asap since 1999.

He promised a RM62 million road linking Belaga and Bakun; a RM46 million clinic, and has agreed in principle to write off the remaining housing loans of about RM41 million owed by some 1,500 families who were displaced by the Bakun dam. Can this offset the ethnocide of the displaced Bakun indigenous peoples, the damned lives at the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme?

More than 10,000 indigenous natives from at least 15 different ethnic communities had to give up their ancestral homes and preferred environment at a time when the dam had been suspended during the financial crisis at the end of the 90s. Among these groups of indigenous peoples displaced are the Ukits, who are the only ethnic community of its kind in the world with their distinct language and culture. Theirs is now an endangered culture.

I was amazed to read that Najib was the first prime minister to set foot in Belaga town! That means that the prime minister most responsible for this monstrous project, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had never set foot in Belaga despite the long drawn-out saga of this accursed dam during his reign!

Now, even when I was a young lecturer at NUS, I managed to visit Belaga in 1978. And soon after the resettlement of the displaced peoples, I again visited the area with the other members of the fact-finding mission in 1999.

NONEYet no Malaysian prime minister had bothered to see for themselves this part of Malaysia where more than 15 different ethnic communities lived in so! me of th e most beautiful forest environments of Malaysia and where the biggest dam in SEAsia was to be built to displace these indigenous peoples!

The only word that sprang to mind when we observed the state and morale of the displaced people and their shocking new living environment was ETHNOCIDE. That was just six months after the resettlement.

Ethnocide may be defined as the process whereby a culturally distinct people loses its identity due to policies designed to erode its land and resource base, the use of its language, its own social and political institution as well as its traditions, art forms, religious practices and cultural values.

When such policies are carried out systematically by governments on the pretext of social progress, national unity, economic development, military security, then such governments are guilty of ethnocide
(Shanthi Thambiah, Cultural Diversity and Indigenous peoples in Kua Kia Soong edited, Mother Tongue Education of Malaysian Ethnic Minorities, DJZHLC, 1998:19)

Having witnessed this process of ethnocide at Sungai Asap, I have always said that this displacement of the 10,000 Bakun peoples was the single most dastardly act of the Mahathir administration and the Taib state government. For this, all component parties of the Barisan Nasional must bear full responsibility. Permit me to refresh your memory regarding Operation Exodus.

Affected communities not fully consulted

Ever since the project was first proposed, concerned Malaysian NGOs have consistently raised the issue of the lack of clear information and accountability with regard to the Bakun project. Just about every aspect of the project, including the plans for resettlement, was shrouded in secrecy, vague promises and poor consultation with the affected victims and NGOs.

It is clear that the hurry to resettle these indigenous peoples was linked to the fact that the contracts for the Asap Resettlement Scheme had been given out before the onset of the economic crisis. It was als! o calcul ated that money could be made from oil palm plantations in the resettlement area.

The displacement of the Balui population was thus part of the plan to convert them into wage labourers for these plantations. The state is in fact subsidising these plantation interests not only in creating this pool of cheap labour but in the budget allocation for the Asap Resettlement Scheme.

NONEThe affected people were promised, by the authorities, adequate plots of land (3 hectares), reasonable housing, jobs and other facilities at the Asap Scheme. Yet, until their final exodus, they had no knowledge of how the Asap Resettlement Scheme had been designed. Nevertheless, they were required to sign a sales & purchase agreement on arrival as a condition for obtaining the keys to their new homes.

As a further pressure for the indigenous people to move to Asap, the authorities closed all support services (schools, clinics, etc) in the original longhouses and all those who stayed behind or moved further upstream were warned that they were trespassing on state land and liable to be forcibly evicted. Those who refused to move to Asap were told that they would lose their right to their compensation payments.

This is hardly the situation within which such a traumatic experience for the indigenous peoples who had lived for generations in their ancestral homes, should have taken place. Instead of receiving all manner of assistance to settle in to the new life, they had to put up with veiled threats and (empty) inducements.

The entire Operation Exodus has shown a failure of planning and decision planning. The state of the Asap Resettlement Scheme itself further confirms this fact.

Damned Lives

As a member of the fact-finding team in 1999, I was shocked to witness, first hand, the appalling state of the site, considering it was scarcely a year old. Lack of an a! dequate sewerage system, lack of rubbish disposal, lack of proper access roads were serious faults, threatening the health and longer-term sustainability of the communities.

The plumbing, made of PVC pipes, can be seen under the houses, and is connected to the septic tank. Leakages in some of these pipes were already noticeable, despite the newness of the scheme. No apparent remedial action had been forthcoming from the authorities. Sewerage waste at some of the longhouses flowed directly into the river near the long houses (we saw this at the Long Geng and Long Ayak resettlement area).

NONEThe longhouses do not have a proper drainage system. There are no concrete drains and there are already sections of stagnant and putrid water in the mud drains which take discharge from the houses. This is unsanitary and poses a health hazard, being mosquito breeding grounds and pose risks to children who may play with the water.

Rubbish collection is another problem faced by the community in the resettlement area. It is non-existent. The access road is too narrow for the rubbish collection lorries. Rubbish disposal is an essential service.

During our stay at the site, we noticed at one longhouse residents were tipping rubbish into the stream, while at another, it was being dumped in a heap not far from the longhouse. They had no alternative. The question is: Who planned this site and how could the design have been passed with such basic flaws?

The situation with regard to the housing provided at Asap is also appalling. Not only is the design and condition of the new houses inadequate, but indigenous people were being forced to pay some RM52,000 for a unit through a contract that has not been explained to them and is written in English legalese.

The price of the house was extraordinary, given its shoddy quality, its location and the paltry amount of compensation ! paid for the original buildings which were of far greater substance and relevance to the people. Sarawak is supposed to be one of the worlds main suppliers of wood. (For comparison, a concrete properly finished low-cost house in peninsular Malaysia costs only RM25,000!)

The longhouses are of standard design. Each longhouse has fifteen units (bilik). They are arranged on two storeys. Downstairs is a hall and a kitchen, with a bathroom and toilet. Upstairs is just one open room, presumably for sleeping. The common balcony is much narrower than a traditional longhouse design, meaning it is difficult to use for traditional communal activities.

azlanOther than the roughly cemented toilet and bathroom floors, and the bathroom and toilet walls which are of asbestos, the houses are made of wood very poor quality wood at that. The doors and wall panels are of plywood, the floor boards are thin third-grade soft wood with gaps between the planks, while the main pillars are thin belian wood.

The long houses at Asap had been designed without any indigenous peoples inputs. Instead, a British-based company (Bucknalls) was given the contract! And from our investigations, no certificate of fitness had been issued before the resettlement and this was a serious irregularity in the planning process for the site. The state authorities had in fact acted against the municipal laws of Malaysia.

Residents claimed that they had asked for ten acres each at Sg Asap. They were promised seven but only received three acres. Three acres of land is hardly sufficient to meet their needs. The fertility of the soil is inadequate for much of the land is situated on swampy or hilly areas. The size of the land is also inadequate.

Further, despite prior warnings, the state authorities had failed to provide for the circumstance whereby the indigenous people had to abandon their previous land (! and crop s) but thus had no time to cultivate the new land. There was thus a dearth of vegetables and fruits available at the site.

Several consequences had emerged from this. Firstly, the pressure on the existing land meant almost immediately that there was a severe shortage of fish, game and jungle products. This, together with the lack of vegetables and fruits, meant that the communities were thrust immediately into a wholly cash economy, spending significant sums on purchasing food and materials which had previously been obtained for free.

High transportation costs also meant that the cost of such purchases was relatively expensive.

To attempt to offset this, some of the indigenous people had begun to cultivate state land, outside of the demarcated land for the resettled communities. Again, there was not enough of this extra land, and this had already led to inter-community conflict. In addition, the cultivation of such land (considered state land) was likely to incur the wrath of the authorities, sooner or later, meaning such cultivation would be terminated.

It was not coincidental that while the mission was in Sarawak, the State Assembly actually passed an amendment to the Land Code to outlaw squatting on state land. This would have grave consequences for the indigenous peoples at Sg Asap who had been using state land beyond the three acres they had been given.

The mission found that this was a general practice of most of the people there. The other group of people affected by this amendment would be those who have chosen to move further upriver.

The failure by the planners to properly provide adequate alternative land again reflects an apparent inability to respect and honour what the indigenous people themselves had asked for, to properly respect and honour their culture and traditions, to respect and support sustainable farming and to respect and support provision for future generations.

It further indicates how the indigenous communities have been treated like o! bjects i n a process which has provided a hopelessly inadequate alternative life for them, under the guise of development.

azlanThe residents have been displaced from a subsistence/ part-cash economy to a totally cash economy. Almost everything has to be paid for, including their staple rice, vegetables, wild boar, fish, even buah pinang and sireh which they used to get in abundance. There was a general loathing toward having to pay electricity and water rates. As they have no income, they have been living off their compensation money and this is almost finished now.

The cost of living for the households has increased dramatically after they move into the new resettlement area at Sg Asap. Now, the people are burdened with electric and water bills, which they never paid before. In their original home, they were using a diesel generator to generate electricity (the diesel was provided by the logging company at no cost) and the water supply came from the natural streams.

Although the state government had envisaged the displaced people as wage labour for oil palm plantations, in 1999 only one company had moved in. Even so, the seedlings would take at least five years to mature and allow harvesting work to be done.

From interviewing some local people at Asap, the plantation company Samling prefered to pay local people RM8 per hectare but they paid Indonesian labourers RM20 per hectare. Five companies had been given the green light to open up plantations, including the Sarawak Enterprise but only one had started. This again showed dismal planning by the authorities.

New social problems had arisen such as breakdown of family relations, distrust within communities; lack of social and recreational outlets for the youth; conflict between different communities, and disempowerment of women. We saw widespread despondency among the residents at Sg Asap; alcoholism had t! aken roo t and there was no motivation to produce their traditional handicraft beyond the plain floor matsthe symptoms of ethnocide.

Who benefits from the Bakun Dam?

The whole displacement process raises the fundamental questions of who defines and who benefits from development. The fact is that the indigenous population affected by the Bakun HEP have been asked to sacrifice their entire natural and cultural heritage in the name of development. Indeed, government spokespeople and others have lambasted critics as being anti-development and traitors.

Yet on closer examination of the way this whole project has been planned and implemented, it is clear that the indigenous people feel utterly betrayed and degraded by this so-called development.

They have been made to change a lifestyle which they controlled and from which they could plan their future, to one where everything has been planned for them and which has robbed them of their dignity, autonomy and ability to sustain their livelihood through integration with their traditional land and its resources.

It must be pointed out that the indigenous peoples of Bakun are by no means backward and living primitive lifestyles. Far from it. Most communities have been participating in part cash economy for a long time now. Their original long houses have produced quite a few university graduates and professionals. The member of Parliament for the area in 1999 was himself a former headmaster who had grown up at Bakun.

What they could have done with to improve their quality of life at their original long houses were better services: transportation, education facilities, clinics and hospitals, marketing and credit, etc. They could do with some sustainable means of power for each of their long house communities.

In other words, development must be based on the needs of the community and not the socially destructive projects such as the Bakun dam. Now their forest has been destroyed, their rivers have been depleted of fish and drinkable ! water an d even the only means of transport since the days of their ancestors the upstream tributaries of the Rajang has been terminated by the accursed Bakun Dam.

KUA KIA SOONG, a former MP, was principal of the New Era College, Kajang. He is also a director of human rights group Suaram.


Markom, Normala and Tenang




After Normala Sudirman was announced as the candidate for the Tenang by-election, the education department intended to move her headmaster husband down south to Johor Bahru (200 km away from Segamat). They were wondering why now when the by-election is around the corner. The first impression is obviously about the party they support. But the department's excuse is about failure to control Normala , for what really? When the couple told the education department that they would hold a news conference or report to the MACC, the Johor Education department backed down. - Strike One

And the education department director was caught on video speaking to schools in Segamat to organize programs, and mustering support for government (BN of course) and of course categorizing which schools in Segamat under green or blue. Though he tried to deny it, it is already too late. For it is said that this is a misused of privilege to campaign for a political party. - Strike Two

School counsellors were asked to visit houses of parents as an insidious way to see which parent supports which party and so forth. In fact out of those series of events, Markom Giran has two strikes. This is Strike Three.

If this is not Malaysia, Giran would have been fired from the job. And this video is definitely going to make its rounds in Tenang by PR if those taboo words still remain in force. You know what taboo words that I am referring to, right?

This means BN got caught with the ! pants do wn on this moment.

courtesy of A Little Taffer's Room