Sarawak under-development: Shame on us

Sarawak is not a poor state and it has an income that is similar to Selangor’s. But a short distance away from towns lie settlements where people do not have electricity and piped water and use pit-latrines. Where has all the money gone, wonders SD.

Seratok is a beautiful little town near Sibu. It has four schools and all the amenities that we in Peninsular Malaysia take for granted.

A half hour drive from Seratok took us to a longhouse. The drive itself was an experience because a few minutes off the main road and it becomes gravel or just red earth.

The locals laughed and said that it is one of the usual campaign promises – “vote for us and roads will get done” – for the past 30 years. The approach road to this particular long house was mud (red clay?), full of pot-holes and totally dark.

When we finally arrived, I was relieved to see lights – but in a very short time found out that each unit within the longhouse has its own generator. The Orang Asal buy petrol and spend from RM200 to RM300 a month, depending on the size of the generator. There are electrical cables along the main road but it needs the personal signature of the Adun before it can be connected to the long house. If any of the electrical cable poles stand on oil palm land (taken from NCR land), the people have to pay RM500 for each tree displaced.

As we had dinner, our hosts apologised for the lack of water supply. The pipe from the river had broken and they had been without water all day. This was a fairly common occurrence. Later in the evening, I used the washroom and was pleasantly surprised to see a toilet bowl (though in darkness because there was no light – the ‘line’ had been pulled to the front of that house unit.) But after that I looked for plumbing, using the light from my handphone to search the area. I even went all around the generator that was thudding away next to me. No plumbing! It was the ‘pit-system’.

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Hellooo – this is 2011 and half an hour away from town people do not have electricity, piped water and use ‘pit-latrines’! What have we been doing the past 50 years? Sarawak is not a poor state and it has an income that is similar to Selangor’s. Where has all the money gone?

Shame on us that the Orang Asal have been so bullied … so left behind.

They are Malaysians too.

SD is an Aliran member who recently visited Sarawak

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