Hornbill Unleashed

November 4, 2012

In deepest reaches of Sarawak, abject POVERTY & POLLUTION greet Baru Bian & PKR

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 7:18 AM
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In deepest reaches of S'wak, abject POVERTY & POLLUTION greet Baru Bian & PKR Vernon Kedit

We just returned from a very tiring campaigning trip up into the deepest reaches of Sarawak, almost near the border with Kalimantan, Indonesia.

We had to travel in four-wheel drive vehicles from the airport to the first point of departure. Yes, the roads are that bad; pot-holes every few metres caused by trucks overloaded either with timber or oil-palm for the mega-companies. A journey that should take less than two hours took us an incredibly bumpy four hours.

We finally arrived our point of departure and you can see one of our four-wheel drives parked right at the water’s edge, dislodging supplies. The men are extracting gasoline from yellow drums to power our boats’ motors.

Sulphuric fumes from a hydro-electric dam contaminate Sarawak’s deepest interiors

Waving at the camera is Baru Bian, our party’s State Chief. He had to take the dangerous option of sitting on a chair (not rigged to the boat!) because his knees cannot take the strain of an eight hour boat ride. Yes, eight hours on a boat!

This is how we travel; crammed into longboats with no shade from the scorching sun like sardines out to dry.

Do not be fooled by the serene looking water and the greenery on the mountain-tips. The first few minutes were horrible. Sulphuric fumes from the foul smelling waters held back by a hydro-electric dam of this man-made lake were choking us.

And these really are mountain tops; the rest of the mountains and the valleys below are now flooded over forever.

Rustic charm or PLAIN POVERTY

After four hours, we arrived at the halfway point; a small floating village of huts built on logs floating on the water. The residents here were told to evacuate to resettlement schemes miles down-river and leave their ancestral lands or suffer inundation. These remnant few chose to stay.

But what a life. Imagine living in huts floating on logs, your former homes submerged miles beneath your feet. Rustic does not even come close to describing the scene which met us.

We stopped here for a simple lunch, prepared by the folks living here. Their hospitality and generosity moved us all. Of course, we insisted on compensating them for their troubles.

Baru Bian then shared with them our political struggle for change; that our struggle includes their struggle, to end deplorable and inhumane situations like the one they face now.

Polluted when it should be pure

The waters are polluted, foul smelling and muddy. Their only source of clean water is from heaven; rain-water collected in plastic tanks fitted with piping to supply the main hut.

What an irony, when you live on top of so much water. I cannot bear to imagine what they must resort to in the dry season.

Nevertheless, the biggest irony of it all is the fact that these folks’ only source of electricity is from generators powered by gasoline they have to buy from the shops at the foot of the dam, when the very reason why they were uprooted from their original homes in the first place was to make way for a hydro-electric dam that generates surplus energy! All in the name of development! But at what cost?

The fishing nets on the wall caught my eye. Fish is plentiful and I am amazed how fish thrive in such waters!

At least these folks’ supply of calcium won’t run out in the foreseeable future. They cultivate what they can on the bits of land left on the mountain tops; land that once used to be theirs is now ‘State Land’ and legally, therefore, they are but squatters.

This is Malaysia? In 2012? What happened to progress?

The ‘kitchen’ is just a corner of the hut. A gas stove on a wooden table, with condiments on shelves attached to the hut’s wall.

And this is how you ease yourself; a hole in the floor of a tiny space made out of zinc at the back of the main hut. This lifestyle would be a hygiene-freak’s worst nightmare. And people actually live like this in Malaysia! In the 21st century!


This is the head of the family of the hut we found shelter in from the midday sun, with his wife and kin. They smile, but only for the camera. Their eyes betray their loss, their pain and their hopelessness. Yet their determination and will to live on what is left of their former homes humbles me.


Despite the betrayal, hurt and anger they must surely feel, they could find momentary joy through laughter and dance.

No way we can shut our eyes and let them down

As I watched through a window by the ‘kitchen’, I thought to myself; there is still hope for these people. The party flag flying proudly through the afternoon breeze symbolised their only hope. We are their only hope. We cannot let them down.

We continued on our journey for a further four hours. But in those four hours, I had plenty of time to ponder. How incredibly fortunate many of us are. I would be returning home to the creature comforts of air-conditioning, hot showers, fine-dining, surfing the internet, watching box sets of DVDs and a comfy bed to retire to.

But seared into my mind are the images I just shared with you. These images and the stark reality they reflect will spur me on to continue the work I have set out to do.

Please share these images with as many of your friends as possible. The world needs to see and know what is happening in Sarawak.


  1. At the highest office in Sarawak, absolute wealth and instant millionaires are roaming free!

    Taib keeps his YBs wealthy
    by FMT Staff, March 7, 2012

    Taib Mahmud’s 30-year tenure as Chief Minister and Sarawak Barisan Nasional chairman has spawned many millionaires within its circle of Ybs, says Sarawak Report.

    KUCHING: Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s secret to staying in power is bribery, at least that’s what the ‘political insiders’ here are saying.

    According to them, Taib has allegedly “bribed” MPs and assemblymen with timber concessions, plantations, contracts and whatnots in return for their absolute loyalty over the past 30 years.

    Taib has been in power since 1981 and whilst he has himself amassed an unexplainable amount of wealth which runs into billions in US dollars, here and abroad, he has also ensured that his ‘immediate’ circle of political allies have also become as wealthy.

    Take for instance his loyal deputy Alfred Jabu Numpang. Jabu has been Layar assemblyman for over 35 years, but the constituency is reportedly in a pitiful state. The man and his family however have reaped millions simply for keeping the native Ibans there convinced that Taib is ‘god-sent’.

    Jabu has allegedly received contracts, concessions and kickbacks each time Taib awarded himself some goodies.

    Jabu’s wealth is now sizzling the internet with disclosures of contracts awarded to him in the last decade.

    Jabu – who may very well be yet another billionaire – and his politically connected cronies have allegedly received over RM500 million in contracts through KACC construction in the last 10 years.

    The company is listed in the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) website.

    The website also offers names of the projects and contract worth. All except two of the contracts awarded to KACC Construction by the Taib government are in Bintulu.

    Shares in KACC Construction are reportedly held, jointly, by Jabu’s family and the families of state secretary Mohd Morshidi Abdul Ghani and Fadillah Yusof.

    Fadillah is the MP for Petra Jaya. She is also the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation.

    KACC’s shareholders are Jabu’s daughter Jennifer and his cousin Robert Lawson Chuat (a PBB assemblymen). Other shareholders are Abdul Ghani’s brother Mohd Taufik and Fadillah’s niece and nephew.

    Millions for Sagan’s loyalty

    These details were part of a series of revelations on Taib’s ‘wealthy YBs’ by online investigative portal Sarawak Report (SR).

    According to the portal, KACC Construction is not the only source of Jabu’s wealth.

    Over the years Jabu and Taib have worked hand-in-glove in persuading natives to release their lands to them and their cronies, Jabu and his family run Herba Aromatics Sdn Bhd.

    The state government had awarded this company lucrative concessions which include rights to oil palm plantation, said the portal.

    Early last year it was widely rumoured that Jabu had ‘scored’ when he allegedly sold these lands to Felcra for RM7 million

    Then there is Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority Malaysia (Salcra). Jabu is the chairman of the controversial Salcra which involved the mass conversion of tens of thousands of hectares of native customary lands into oil palm plantation.

    Salcra was promoted as a way of providing the poor landowners with Sarawak with a living from the profits. But the portal said Jabu and his cronies however have happily reaped the benefits of the palm oil boom.

    Meanwhile other juicy bits on Sarawak Report include how federal minister Jacob Sagan, who is the Baram MP, allegedly sold his allegiance to Taib for hundreds of millions of ringgit in timber concessions and construction contracts.

    Sagan gave his support to Taib’s proposal to construct the monstrous Baram dam which will dislocate thousands of natives and destroy their livelihoods.

    Naroden, another beneficiary

    The Sarawak Report also mentioned Sarawak Entreprenuer Development Assistant Minister Naroden Majais who has made himself richer by allegedly awarding himself RM100 million worth of government contracts, with Taib’s permission.

    Details and value of the contracts were posted on the CIDB website. The contracts were awarded to Embun Pelangi Sdn Bhd, whose board of directors include Naroden’s wife, Massenah Ahmad and son Kamaruzaman.

    Since 2002 Embun Pelangi received no less than RM100 million in contracts from Taib.

    Naroden, who is allegedly ‘very close’ to Taib, is also one of the biggest timber concessionaires in Sarawak. Much of these concessions areas are in the region of the Baram Dam.

    Taib’s son awarded millions in govt contracts
    by Joseph Tawie, FMT, November 7, 2011

    Most of the contracts were awarded without an open tender being called, claims the DAP.

    KUCHING: For the past five years, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s son Abu Bekir has been the main beneficiary of millions of ringgit worth of government contracts awarded by the state government.

    Confirming widely speculated rumours here, the state government recently disclosed in its written answer to a DAP assemblyman that most contracts were awarded without an open tender being called.

    The contracts were awarded to two companies – Titanium Project Management Sdn Bhd and Woodville Construction Sdn Bhd.

    Titanium is linked to Abu Bekir.

    The revelations, according to Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen, were “really shocking”.

    “These details which are contained in the answers to my questions (submitted to the State Legislative Assembly) are really shocking,” he said.

    Chong, who is also state DAP secretary, had put in his questions during the assembly’s June sitting.

    He had written to ask the State Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister for a list of all contractors awarded by the state and federal governments for the construction and completion of bridges in Sarawak in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

    He had also asked for the respective contract sums and actual sums of each bridge.

    Contracts to Titanium

    Chong also wanted to know whether the awards of these contracts were carried out pursuant to an open tender process and, if so, what were the criteria and consideration for appointment of these contractors as the main contractors for these bridges.

    “Basically, there are two companies given the state projects to build bridges in Sarawak without open tender.

    “One was Woodville Construction which is owned by Shin Yang group of companies and the other was Titanium Project Management which is owned by Abu Bekir, son of the chief minister,” he said.

    Woodville Construction was given two projects worth RM217,500,000 while Titanium Project Management was awarded one contract.

    In 2008, the Titanium Project Management was awarded a contract to design, construct and complete bridges and culverts to replace temporary and semi-permanent council bridges and some Public Work Department bridges in Sarawak.

    “Under this contract, a few hundred bridges were given to Titanium Project Management to construct, and the value of the contract is RM1,178,410,000,” he said, pointing out that this was “almost a monopoly” in the construction of bridges.

    “What is shocking is that the state projects were awarded to Abu Bekir and Shin Yang companies not through open tenders unlike the federal projects.

    “This is totally against the principle of fairness and transparency in awarding government contracts.

    “If you remember in 2001, the government contract was given to Titanium Management to construct 384 bridges at the cost of RM500 million.

    “In 2006, the company constructed only 332 bridges or about 80 percent of the bridges, but the government has to pay the company RM948 million,” he said.

    Corrupt practices

    According to Chong, in 2008 the government again awarded another contract to Titanium.

    This time the contract was awarded to Titanium Project Management.

    “Although it is a different name, it is the same company with the word ‘Project’ added to its name with the same constitution and the same shareholders.

    “This is an abuse of power and an unfair government practice that is cutting off other contractors from doing government works.

    “I think the State Infrastructure Development and Communication Minister Michael Manyin has a lot of explanation to make to the people of Sarawak,” said Chong.

    He described the whole process of awarding these contracts by the state government as “smacking of corrupt practices”.

    When asked if the opposition would lodge a report on the issue with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Chong said: “Is there any use?

    “There is no point to lodge a report as MACC has made its position very clear that binoculars that could be purchased for RM5,000 each and were charged at RM50,000 apiece is not corruption.”

    Chong was referring to the Auditor-General’s Report 2010 which disclosed that binoculars purchased by the Marine Department was charged RM50,000 each instead of RM5,000 as it should have been.

    “If that is not corruption, I don’t know what corruption is. But the MACC ruled that it is not corruption,” he said, drawing a comparison between this issue and the Teoh Beng Hock case.

    ‘MACC, a BN political tool’

    Chong said Teoh had allegedly spent RM2,000 to buy and distribute Malaysian flags and the MACC interrogated him throughout the night and forced him to commit suicide.

    “If you compare this case with Teoh’s, you can see a stark difference in the treatment,” he said.

    Chong said that although there was a prima facie corruption case, the MACC did not open any file or investigate.

    “They just brushed off the case.

    “Judging by the way it (MACC) conducts itself, it appears that MACC is a political tool of Barisan Nasional to oppress the opposition, while condoning such acts of abuse of public funds by the BN government,” he said.

    Comment by Teddy Gumbang — November 5, 2012 @ 12:04 PM | Reply

  2. But according to Masing, chasing away the Dayaks is the CORRECT thing to do!

    Masing pleads ‘not guilty’ over indigenous displacement
    Malaysia Kini, 21 March 2009

    Sarawak Land Development Minister James Masing told a tv news channel that he has absolutely no guilt over the displacement of indigenous people caused by the construction of hydro-electric dams in the state.

    “I don’t feel guilty. I feel that is the correct way of doing it. I don’t have any guilt feeling for trying to help my people,” said Masing on the Al-Jazeera’s 101 East programme Thursday night. [Watch 10-min video]
    Host Fauziah Ibrahim had asked Masing if he felt guilty, as a person of indigenous descent, over indigenous people being displaced to make way for economic development.

    During the programme, Masing defended the construction of dams, such as the massive Bakun hydroelectric dam and the proposal to build 12 new ones, because the state government was preparing for the future.

    “Sarawak has enough energy as it is today. But we must look 20 years down the road. By that time we may not have enough energy. You know very well the cost of fuel (is escalating),” he said.

    Masing defends CM

    Masing also defended the involvement of Cahaya Mata Sarawak (CMS), a company owned by family members of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud in the construction of the dams.

    “The dam constructions are done to legal tenders. The lowest tender gets it. It doesn’t matter if CMS or somebody else. It must be done on tender basis.

    “That is very transparent. The international community can take a look at it… it is an open book for everyone to look,” he said.

    When Fuziah pointed out that there are numerous cases in which projects were given to companies linked to Taib without open tenders, Masing said: “I was not aware of it”.

    Fuziah replied by that the Similajau aluminum smelting plant was given to CMS while the construction of several bridges were awarded to Titanium Management Sdn Bhd, which Taib’s eldest son Mahmud Abu Bekir holds substantial interest in.

    ‘Everything was transparent’

    Even with evidence presented before him, Masing maintained that these awards were given fairly and in accordance with the law.

    “We have rules and laws… If there is a decision made by people who have vested interest, there are laws which does not allow it. It is illegal for people in authority to give authority with vested interest.

    “All these things have been done through open tenders. They are transparent,” he said.

    “In the case of the aluminum smelter, there were a few companies that were asked to bid for it. I know. And the best company gets it.

    “Unfortunately, it was given to a company where the authority has some interest. But it is done legally,” he added.

    ‘I’m a friend of the chief minister’

    Meanwhile, Fuziah also scrutinised Masing over his links to Taib. Masing admitted that he was an “ally” to Taib, but gave a less outright answer when asked if he was Taib’s “crony”.

    “I don’t think (so). Crony means friends. I am a friend of the chief minister,” he said.

    On whether there was “crony capitalism” going on in Sarawak, Masing replied in the negative because no one has been brought to book over such matters.

    “I don’t think so. If there is, those who deal in it would be dealt by the law. Until today, there is nothing. One must assume there is no cronyism as such,” he said.

    On who would keep the chief minister and his family accountable, Masing said the electorate would.

    “I believe the voters in Sarawak are a very intelligent group of people,” he added.

    Comment by Teddy Gumbang — November 5, 2012 @ 12:01 PM | Reply

  3. Taib sold us natives out to his chinese and malayan masters the very first day he became CM. And thats how he managed to buy and keep his arse on the cm seat for 30 years. Trees,forest, junggles and lands which once belongs to the natives were given to his chinese masters. These arrogant and manipulative people just bulldozed through natives domains the second they get the green light from taib without any care for the natives except the occassional donations and little assistance given when natives long houses catches fire and burnt to the ground or when natives face shortages of food and water.Thats the only form of assistance they give to the natives. Other then that its cheating,grabbing and stealing of natives lands, junggles and forest with the approval and blessings from taib. When they face resistance, they turned to gangsters to “soften” the natives through threats and thuggeries. Now they are turning these huge track of land into huge oil palm plantations and yet when the natives ask for a few acres of their land back, they are faced with the same threats and thuggeries. Murum damned dam debacle is a real proof of this.Whats happening in Sarawak is a conspiracy to deny Sarawak Natives their democratic rights to rule our their ravaged state. Taib,his party PBB,his chinese masters, malaya and BN all conspire to keep the natives poor,destitute, easy to manage and exploit. They have made the natives very dependant on the handouts they throw at them during elections and spiced with promises which they rarely keep. The ultimate aim of taib, together with his co conspiratorsm, Malaya and his chinese masters,is to have absolute control over resources of sarawak and therefore complete control and subjugation of the entire native tribes of Sarawak and to make them their slaves forever in their own land. Baru need not look far for destitutions among the natives. He just need to visit the dump sites in Sarawaks major towns and he might find natives ” Metal Detactors” who eat and sleep and multiply in these heaps of taib’s politic of development.

    Comment by brian — November 5, 2012 @ 10:19 AM | Reply

  4. Untuk menyelamatkan mereka. . . Untuk membela nasib mereka. . . Kalsu bukan kita siapa lagi? Kalau bukan sekarang bila lagi? Enough is enough!!! CUKUPLAH!!!

    Comment by Joshua — November 5, 2012 @ 9:32 AM | Reply

  5. So what’s New ? The natives are driven away from their land to make way for the Hydro-electric Dam project but then they are not given special consideration for Free Electricity. Same as Sarawak Petroleum which by right we Sarawakian should have enjoy the benefits but all are diverted to develop West Malaysia leaving Sarawak undeveloped and even have to pay DEBTS to the Federal BN Government. Isn’t this BN government ridiculous ???

    Comment by gagojackman — November 4, 2012 @ 1:21 PM | Reply


    Comment by Geronimo Miller — November 4, 2012 @ 11:36 AM | Reply

  7. A special dedication to all my Kadazan friends:

    Comment by Wan Idris — November 4, 2012 @ 9:57 AM | Reply

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