100 farmers and traders are protesting against a new inland port at the Sarawak-Indonesia border.
KUCHING: Farmers and traders living near the Tebedu township which borders Kalimantan in Indonesia are frustrated at the state government for failing to keep its word to establish a Free Trade Zone there.
The township, which is some 110 kilometres from here, is the mainland gateway into Sarawak from Indonesia via the Tebedu-Entikong international border checkpoint.
Tebedu, which has a predominantly Bidayuh population, proudly hosts the highest number of tourist arrivals annually and boasts the bulk of Sarawak’s onland export trade.
It has been touted by the local media as having seen ‘massive development’ in the last 40 years.
But the ‘good times’ have hit a snag.
Instead of establishing a Free Trade Zone, the state government has setup an inland port, which has been double-taxing the local business community.
SM Inland Port, managed by Port Klang Management, is squeezing the lives of farmer and traders, unlike other border towns in Malaysia which enjoy Free Trade Zone perks and ‘no extra charges’.
Said a trader, who declined to be named: “The government said it would build a Free Trade Zone. But until now nothing has happened.
“Then suddenly they set up a new port and are asking us to pay extra charges. We cannot afford this double taxing.”
Urging the relevant authorities to look into their predicament, traders, some 100 frustrated farmers, businessmen and villagers held a peaceful protest on Tuesday.
According to another trader, the ‘extra charges’ imposed on them had forced many business to fold-up resulting in unemployment and a rise in crime and social ills.
“Some 500 families in Tebedu are affected. Businesses have closed and now we have high unemployment especially among the youths,” he said.
Explaining the situation further, he said that good road links between Tebedu and Indonesia had encouraged active movement between the state and communities in Kalimantan.
“We had good business because our goods were cheaper than Indonesian goods.
“But now with the double taxes the price of our goods are the same or a more expensive than Indonesian goods.
“We are badly affected by the new rules. We traders now must pay port charges in Kuching and again in SM Inland Port,” he said.
This aside the traders also have to contend with extra payments for loading and unloading fees at two points and customs declaration fees.
“All this is ruining our businesses and discouraging Indonesian tourists from coming here. All these extra charges are a burden on us, not on them (SM Inland Port),” he said.
In the April 16 state election, the community re-elected Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu incumbent and local boy Micheal Manyin.
Tebedu also boast of having an MP in the form of Richard Riot who is Deputy Foreign Minister.