Hornbill Unleashed

June 19, 2010

10MP neither inclusive nor needs-based


By Keruah Usit

A small primary school near Dalat, Sarawak, sits on the banks of a languid river, and is accessible only by boat. Getting there on the small express from Sibu takes almost two hours.

The school is a low wooden building, with a small walkway down to the jetty. Beside the walkway stands a small shack housing a diesel-driven generator.

The classroom, buzzing with 30 children, is neat and clean, with colourful children’s drawings decorating the walls. The children are charming but shy, as in most similar rural communities in Sarawak.

The teacher has a laptop computer, but the Internet remains alien territory for most of the students. Even the electricity supply is not dependable, leaving the children with no ceiling fan or lights when the generator breaks down.

Teachers, examination papers and school supplies are all delivered by motorboat. The school has a typical mix of teachers, many from Peninsular Malaysia. There are the usual problems with homesick teachers and culture shock. A posting to a remote school, at a location unknown to all except the keenest geography teachers, tests the resolve and professionalism of even the best teachers from the peninsula.

School food is boring and stodgy. Rice plays a starring role, as does canned food and suspect fish. The Education Ministry sends food from towns, so fresh fruit or vegetables are limited to more durable food, like bananas, potatoes and cabbages. Centralised funding means remote rural schools are not allowed to source their own meat, fish and fresh vegetables locally.

Worse still, centralised funding inevitably causes what is referred to, in polite government circles, as “leakages”. The rest of Malaysian society knows this as corruption. Suppliers, administrative officials, boat transport operators, school authorities and even cooks, bear responsibility for the poor quality of food arriving on the plates of the cheerful little boys and girls in blue and white uniforms.

the antidote article sarawak native logging school children 280409 06When the schoolchildren move on to secondary schools, they will be uprooted. Most will travel to Mukah or Sibu to stay in boarding schools. There, they will stay in dormitories, looking forward to their long journeys home on some weekends and during school vacations.

They will be homesick. They will face bullying from teachers and other students, disgusting food as before, vermin, scabies, unreliable toilets and water shortages. They will be force-fed a school curriculum imported from Peninsular Malaysia, with little relevance to their lived experiences or the oral history they learnt from their elders in Melanau village houses or the Iban longhouse ruai.

When they finish secondary school, a few will struggle to obtain bumiputera scholarships to colleges or universities. The federal authorities have made it clear in their administrative rulings that some Malaysians are better qualified as bumiputera than others, or “bumi-er than thou”. The bureaucracy has demonstrated this by the treatment meted out to many Sarawakian students, includingMarina Undau, a bright young girl of Iban and Chinese parentage.

Despair in the jobs market

When these children from Dalat leave school, they will have poor linguistic skills and will be ill-equipped to earn decent wages. Most will gravitate towards Sibu to work as itinerant labourers or coffee-shop waiters. Tertiary education and employment opportunities in Sibu are scant.

The timber business is a twilight industry, thanks to greed and over-exploitation. The bulk of the rich fortunes of a handful of timber tycoons, wrung from the forests, have been invested overseas. Capital flight has ensured that economic stagnation prevails in Sibu and elsewhere in this resource-rich state.

Economic power in Sarawak has been concentrated in the hands of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s family (including his predecessor and uncle, Abdul Rahman Yakub), and his family’s business associates, for four decades. Sarawakians are leaving their homeland in droves to search for jobs in the peninsula and Singapore.

the antidote article sarawak native logging school children 280409 01Those left behind suffer low wages, earning RM12 a day in the towns, or RM8 a day in oil palm plantations. Some young men will end up in the underworld. Gangs and underworld activities always proliferate when the economy is slack.

The 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak in Parliament has promised little to lift the schoolchildren of Dalat out of poverty. Privatisation of national resources will benefit political cronies, but not the families of these poor Melanau and Iban children.

Emphasis on private medicine will further deplete the public hospitals of talent and skills. The families of the Dalat schoolchildren are unable to afford treatment in any of the private hospitals in Sibu, and will be forced to rely on short-staffed local government clinics and hospitals.

1Malaysia clinics, also given a boost in the 10MP, will of course be affordable. But our nation’s healthcare has now grown into a three-tier system: private centres – containing the majority of specialists – government hospitals and 1Malaysia clinics, staffed by poorly equipped paramedics for the poor.

10MP: No way out of poverty

The New Economic Model rhetoric of “inclusiveness”, “competitiveness” and “needs-based”, has been superseded by the pragmatism of the 10MP, by political patronage and the lack of new ideas.

The poor Melanau and Iban students in the school by the river in Dalat clearly qualify for “inclusive, needs-based” economic policies, but remain confronted with desperately bleak education and employment prospects.

TNONEhe inevitable “leakages” show no sign of being plugged, despite official reassurances. There will be “leakages” in the 10MP allocation of RM230 billion, spent on, among other things, weapons, government buildings, mega-dams and oil palm plantations, and on a flying doctor service that recently awarded a contract to a company with no experience and no functioning helicopters.

There will be jobs for the boys, but not the boys from the rural schools.


1 Comment »

  1. We are so used to this plan and that plan. Asked ourselves seriously, since Najib ascended the PM’s position, he had announced alot of reforms, but, have we seen any being implemented, and if yes, have you seen the results?

    Najib is just too weak, presumably because of his alleged baggages? Just when can he implement new reforms without getting the approval of Perkasa and MM? Nothing will work under Najib and UMNO Baru as far as MM is alive. The greatest mistake of Najib was to allow MM back into the limelight. He should have just shut him off like TAAB. The Rakyat will get tired of MM, if he continues to sabotage Najib’s efforts. Just how many fair thinking Malaysians support Mahathir these days? Just how many will listen to him?

    Gertak and Perkasa? Remember, the rally Melayu Bangkit was scheduled for 13th May but was called off because of the Sibu election so they said? In actual fact, it was called off because of lacked of support. Now, even when it was postponed a month later, and with efforts to bring in buses loads of supporters, the numbers they could garner was a dismal 600 and the rows and rows of empty chairs for the rally was a huge slap in the face for Perkasa, Gertak and most of all Mahathir. It was reported he was unhappy with the turnout.

    Now coming to the 10MP, what can Sarawak and Sabah expect? Do not expect anything. The East Malaysians will be what they are five years from now. Why? Can’t you remember that 60% of all allocations to East Malaysians states for developments are diverted? And of the remaining 40% how much more will be diverted by the minor warlord and how much will actually reach the poor folks?

    East Malaysians, wake up, realize that this rotten to the core UMNO Baru/BN will never assist you. Your only hope is to work with fellow Malaysians and vote BN out for good come the next GE. Until and unless, East Malaysia contribute at least 30 Parliamentary seats, all of us will suffer. All the Plans to develop East Malaysia are but, rhetorics. As it is, Idris Jala had mentioned that we will be bankrupt by 2019, just where will the funds come from to support all the plans?

    Let us be realistic, Sarawak’s immense wealth is reportedly now in Ontario, one of the richest states in Malaysia with its wealth of timber and oil, today, Sarawakians are one of the poorest in Malaysia, and so is Sabah. Just when will East Malaysians come to the support of their Western counterpart? Together we can cooperate, unite and work truly towards a Satu Anak Bangsa Malaysia. Sarawak and Sabah should rightfully get back their wealth, and assistance must be given to lift the Ibans, Melanaus, Kadazans, Dayaks.

    Just look at how much the States under PR has improved. Every year Penang and Selangor have always come up tops as the best managed States, and States coffers had increased substantially, where at one time they were at the verge of bankruptcy under the BN. East Malaysians brothers and sisters, please bangkit, and you will get what you deserve. Do it for your future generations. You cannot allow them to go through worse fate than what you have suffered?

    Comment by Osama — June 19, 2010 @ 2:18 AM | Reply

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