Batang Ai: Big hydro-electric dam nearby but folks rarely get power
By STEPHEN THEN
BATANG AI: No public bus transport, not enough telephone lines, poor electricity supply, frequent water-supply interruptions, not enough health and medical facilities, roads in bad shape, poor mail services, no banks, few job opportunities – these are just a small portion of the long list of socio-economic woes of the 18,000 folks in the Batang Ai state constituency. It has been like this for a long time, even though the Batang Ai hydro-electric dam has been running since 25 years ago.
The people of Batang Ai want a solution to their woes and they want them fast.
And they expect the Barisan Nasional and opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat candidates in this by-election to hear their grouses and are likely to vote for the man whom they believe will likely improve facilities and amenities – quickly.
The Star’s survey found a high level of poverty and backwardness in Batang Ai, even in the main commercial centre of Lubok Antu Bazaar.
The Batang Ai constituency measures 1,300 sq kms and has 156 longhouses and villages scattered far and wide apart.
Road-links are few. The river is the main mode of travel and transport from the interior outposts to the towns.
The existing roads are narrow and many still gravel.
However, once the by-election was declared following the death of incumbent Barisan assemblyman Datuk Dublin Unting on Feb 24, JKR had tar-sealed numerous stretches of these roads.
“This is what we want. Action. Not just promises after promises by politicians,” said longhouse elder Dunstan Jelin who hails from Rumah Labi.
Jelin is happy that the feeder road that leads to his longhouse from the main Batang Ai road has been tarred and that more promises of development are rained down on Batang Ai now that politicians are jostling for the hearts and minds of the people.
“As long as they (politicians) deliver, we do not care which party they come from. We are fed up with the lack of basic necessary facilities.
“Many longhouses still do not have electricity – after so many decades. Water supply is also very unpredictable. There are times when we get water from our pipes only two days in a week.
“The remaining days, we have to rely on rain water and water from the Batang Ai lake.
“I hope politicians are not just here for the by-election. Look into the problems we are facing. Come to our kampungs and longhouses and see for yourselves the condition we are living in,” he said.
Catholic priest Reverend Father Martin Wong, who handles the Sri Aman Parish, has travelled extensively in Batang Ai, as well as the its neighbouring constituencies.
He knows the problems faced by the people in the interior.
“It is good to see a sudden big surge in development projects coming into Batang Ai. I hope the pace of improvement will continue even after the by-election.
“Indeed, the people, especially those living in the far reaches, have a lot of problems that needs to be resolved. I know the government is serious about wanting to help them, but there must be greater effort put in to improve the delivery system,” he stressed.
Shopkeeper Chong Kiat Voon joked that there should be more by-elections held on a more regular basis.
Having to wait five years for an election just to get windfalls in the form of financial and project allocations is too long a period, he said.
Barisan leaders had so far announced allocation for development projects and cash incentives amounting to more than RM70mil for Batang Ai.
1. “As long as they (politicians) deliver, we do not care which party they come from. We are fed up with the lack of basic necessary facilities.”
Naive. You don’t care which party? Even when there’s this one party that you voted all this while, neglected the people and basic infrastructures in the area for the past 45 years? Great.
Exactly, with this kind of mentality it is a no wonder how BN can keep these people in perpetual cycle of poverty and still voting for the party. How funny, BN is the culprit, keeping away the promised developments for the past 46 years, and what this guy has to say is ‘we don’t care which party, as long as they deliver’. What happened to all the years where they didn’t deliver?
2. Blind. Can’t they see with their eyes? All of sudden, Santa Claus projects and goodies coming in, where were all this in the past?
It is clear that, BN can do things if they want to, but somehow… they ‘forgotten’ to do so all this while until now. Heck, people of Batang Ai should thank the opposition for this great opportunity to get their basic infrastructures upgraded, new funds allocated etc. (although I believe it’s just mere promises, when this country coffer is already running dry. Federal funds allocated to Sarawak developments is already a meagre sum, these politicians just ‘promise 1st, the action can wait till we have money’).
It is because only when the establishment feels the heat of probable prospect of losing in this by election, (or any by election for that matter) it will buck up and start doing works it conveniently forgotten in the past. If PKR isn’t contesting would they get anything?
3. I have heard this many many times. I have many Iban friends and no offence to them, but when you hear this kind of statement.
“The Ibans are simple – they will vote for you if they see your projects right infront of their eyes.”
In a way, it’s a bit like how many Chinese think “As long as we can ‘cari makan’, we can take all the shits”
Pretty sad don’t you think? They should think “Why there are no projects/developments for this area all this while?” in the 1st place. Can’t they see they are being used in to extend the political mileage for certain a party or individuals with the promise of ‘developments’ all this while?
The best statement to sum up this point is the one uttered by the shopkeeper in the news report above.
“Having to wait five years for an election just to get windfalls in the form of financial and project allocations is too long a period, he said.”
The whole premise of the statement is wrong! People should not wait five years or for election to get financial and project allocations in their area. Because of this mentality, they can be used for a certain party and politicians political expediency. Political expediency is the opposite of democracy and is no excuse for naivete.
Just see how an act of building a simple feeder road connecting a long house to the main trunk road will keep the occupants’ votes with the establishment for many years.
Year 1 – No proper road connecting the longhouse with the main road. So build a simple earth base road, those mud road or “Jalan tanah liat”. Can last for another election.
Year 5 – Upgrade the road, probably a gravel road. Last another election
Year 10 – Tar the road. Last another election
Year 15 – Install road side lightings. Last another election.
Year 20 – We will think of something else. Perhaps internet connection? Build a school? Build a clinic?
That’s how it goes in Sarawak. The Durin bridge near Sibu, Tar college in Bintangor, TV3 channel in Bintulu promises keep the votes with BN for 10-15 years!! And, only before election and after election you could see some construction works going on. This is a form of political bribery, worst when it is laced with lies and false hopes to keep a corrupt, lying government in place.
4. One can’t help but thinking that it must be somehow a ploy that we have mediocre education system, and rigid rules for the students especially when it comes to politics – it is to keep people in a perpetual cycle of idiocy.
Less educated and pathetic level of politcal awareness among the people makes it more convenient and easy to manipulate. To change the political landscape in Malaysia especially in the rural areas, less developed states like Sarawak and Sabah, the misconception among the people that only by choosing a certain party – in this case, Barisan Nasional as the government can bring developments must be addressed first.
A responsible and good government should develop all areas regardless of differing political ideologies, and should never use developments as a stick or carrot to fish for votes. The money for development projects come from the taxpayers – voters, so they deserve their share of developments. Denying them this right to developments is wrong and a doing of lousy, insecure government.
5. Particullar for this by-election in Batang Ai, the people of Batang Ai should realise that with all the Santa Claus projects and goodies given only during this by election, it tells one thing, a chilling fact – BN can change the constituency, bring development projects when it wants to, but somehow they neglected this place for the past 45 years. To the voters of Batang Ai – Beware the BN corrupt bearing gifts!
What a joke, situated next to the hydroelectric dam, some areas still no electricity or having intermitten supply!
ps: Why lah PKR chose Jawah Gerang as its candidate? This guy was the state assemblyman for the area for a freaking 5 terms! 20 over years! And we shall have him to bring ‘change?’ Niamah!
pss: Internet connection for Batang Ai? Fix the electricity problem first, idiot.
psss: Jabu called people like me an instigator. Well, I shall call him, Jabu anak Numpang a liar. Ha! Ha! Ha!
pssss: My prediction – Bukits for PR. Batang for BN. *suddenly the words “Give me all your bases came to mind”* Hmm.. BN – Butoh nadai. LOL!