Rural Sarawak still without water or electricity
If Penang, which has far less resources, can eradicate poverty in its state why can't Sarawak?
KUCHING: Thirty percent of rural Sarawak has no electricity, 41% no water coverage and 47.8% of the state’s hardcore poor are native Ibans. These, according to Bukit Assek assemblyman Wong Ho Leng, are the hard facts about Sarawak.
“Under the BN, people see the SESCO’s (Sarawak Electricity Supply Corporation) power grid above longhouses. But many of these longhouses do not have electricity supply.
“About 33% of rural areas in Sarawak do not have electricity coverage, compared to 0.5% in Peninsular Malaysia. This shows that the performance of BN is a disgrace.
“We have the Batang Ai hydro-dam. We also have the Bakun Dam. Yet, in many areas that I visited, particularly areas near the power grid and the dams, many longhouses do not have electricity supply.
“These areas are BN strongholds and served by Ministers. The areas that I had visited include Sri Aman, Balai Ringin, Kapit, Selangau, Tamin, Mukah, Nangka, and Bawang Assan.
“The government should not have neglected these rural folk. To deny them electricity supply is to deny them human rights. They are forced to use gen-sets. The diesel is not only costly.
“These generators have to be turned off at about 9pm. Some longhouse folk told me that their children cannot produce good exam results because their study hours are so short.
“Not only that. Many longhouses I visited do not have water supply. They depend on rain water. In fact, 41% of rural areas do not have water coverage, compared to only 10% in Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.
Natives are the poorest
Citing the Rajang River as an example, he said there were many longhouses along Malaysia’s longest river which do not have piped water supply. “Why is this so?” he asked.
Wong was highlighting the issue of poverty and the lack of basic necessities in the state during the debate on the state’s budget 2012.
Wong recalled that at the last sitting of the House, deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang said that there were 55,975 poor households in Sarawak.
The Ibans comprised 13, 349 (47.8%), Malays 5,601 (20%), Orang Ulu 2,925 (10.5%), Bidayuh 2,757 (9.8%), Melanau 1,974 (7%) and Chinese 674 (2.4%).
“We should view these figures with grave concern. The majority of the hardcore poor are the natives of Sarawak. Have a heart for these people,” Wong said.
He also asked Jabu to detail what he had done to eradicate poverty in Sarawak.
“The Deputy Chief Minister said that he had done a lot for the natives to eradicate poverty. With these figures, can we know what has he done? We don’t want hot air from Jabu,” said Wong.
Basic amenities essential
He said the Penang Pakatan Rakyat government had eradicated poverty within a year by topping up hardcore poor household’s income.
And in Selangor, the Pakatan government had also introduced welfare policies aimed at providing social assistance to the economically marginalised residents of Selangor.
“Where do we stand in Sarawak? We have more natural resources than Penang and Selangor combined. But these resources are controlled by a few political leaders of the BN.
“After 48 years of BN rule, Sarawak is the 4th poorest state in Malaysia,” he said, urging the state BN government to emulate Pakatan’s Alternative Budget.
“Under the model of the Pakatan Alternative Budget, the Poverty Line Income of the people in Sarawak shall be raised to RM1,380 for urban folk, RM1,150 for semi-urban folks and RM920 for rural folk.
“It will be a way to improve the livelihood of the poor households,” he said, pointing out that all of them have a social and moral obligation to see that all ‘anak-anak Sarawak’ are not living in poverty.
He said that to start off poverty eradication, the government must begin with provision of basic amenities like electricity and water.
“I urge the state government to be serious in poverty eradication. Don’t talk only, but walk the talk as well,” said Wong.