Tuesday, March 3, 2009

BN leaders getting jittery?

The battle cry of the Opposition in the coming by-election for Batang Ai in Lubok Antu following the death of Dublin Unting from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) is likely to be “Get back your NCR land, vote out Taib Mahmud”. This has been the message that the de facto leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has been hammering to the Dayaks whenever he visits Sarawak.But are the State BN component parties jittery in this by-election? That appears to be so at least among leaders of Parti Rakyat Sarawak.Although the name of the PRS candidate to represent the Barisan Nasional in the coming by-election is yet to be decided, some PRS leaders are worried that their members and supporters may be influenced by the message. The message has to certain extent opened the eyes of some people after they have heard from Anwar Ibrahim himself that the State BN government under Abdul Taib Mahmud has indeed taken away NCR lands and has given such lands to his cronies for the planting of oil palm, sago and trees.They have heard that owners of NCR land in Bintulu, Miri, Mukah, Sibu, Simunjan, Simanggang, Serian and Lundu have been arrested for defending their lands. Their rubber, pepper and orchard gardens and paddy fields have been destroyed. Some of these incidents including protests have been recorded in CDs that have been distributed to longhouses in Lubok Antu and else where.In fact they, the people of Batang Ai, Lubok Antu, have become victims of State Government’s unjust policies over the construction of Batang Ai Hydro-power.Now the voters in Batang Ai will have to think carefully: to vote the BN-PRS candidate they appear to condone Abdul Taib Mahmud’s policy on NCR land grabbing and this policy will render in many of Dayaks becoming landless people. For the Dayaks, land is their life, their livelihood and their future.And voting against the Opposition means they are fighting against PKR, the party that is fighting for their rights, justice and equality and the party that is defending their NCR lands.About two million hectares of lands, the bulk of which is NCR lands, have been approved for oil palm and sago plantations as well as for tree planting estates. And the State government is targeting another two million hectares of land to be developed in the next five years or so.“What worries me is that some of our own members may vote for the Opposition or they may absent themselves from voting as they did in last year’s parliamentary election especially in Lubok Antu and Sri Aman constituencies. This is our dilemma,” said a PRS supreme council member, adding: “Although in Batang Ai it is only a by-election, the PKR victory is bad for us and may portend the coming of political tsunami into the shores of Sarawak.”Certainly for BN, it will make all available resources; State departments, Information Department, Kemas, RTM and local council will be deployed to help in the campaign and in addition, it will renew promises which are yet to be fulfilled and pledge new ones. Like previous elections, money will be distributed through Tuai Rumahs (longhouse headmen). The more nervous the BN is, the more money it will dump into the campaign.However, the focus will be on Dayak voters who form about 95% of the electorate. But the biggest question is: Can they resist these temptations of financial rewards and development projects?

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