Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The  politics of land, the land of politics

Secara Rawak

The scrapping of the Baram dam project by the Sarawak government on March of 2016 was a smart move by Chief Minister Adenan Satem.

The Baram parliament seat which consists of Marudi, Telang Usan and Mulu, is safely in the hands of Barisan Nasional (BN) and come the Sarawak Election, those seats would have been hotly contested.

And just as expected, the seats of Marudi, Telang Usan and Mulu were retained by BN.

Sway voters

In hindsight, the move to scrap the Baram dam and to officially revoke the gazette extinguishing the native ownership rights for land earmarked for the dam site and its reservoir, and return the land to its rightful indigenous owners was just the pull BN needed to sway voters their way.

Those contesting against BN did not have any issue what-so-ever to use during the campaigning period that could create a dent.

Issue such as GST, higher living cost or even the quest to remove Datuk Seri Najib Razak as prime minister means nothing to the folks living in long-houses without basic necessities such as running water or electricity.

In the region of Baram, there is no greater pressing issue than the one concerning native land.

And the scope of the Baram dam would have flooded 412 square kilometers of rainforests and displace up to 20,000 natives to that region.

Sticky issue

The Baram dam was a sticky issue for BN to handle during the 2013 parliamentary elections and had been the ammunition needed by the likes of Pakatan Rakyat to campaign in the region. BN narrowly won the parliament seat by a mere 194 votes.

The move by Adenan Satem to scrap the plans drastically changed the political landscape for the area. Voters in turn, repaid him in kind by voting in BN for Marudi, Telang Usan and Mulu.

Bitter taste in the mouth

The issue of land grabs in the area is a bitter taste in the mouth of the locals. Walk the grounds of Baram and one cannot but learn of whom the locals hold in disdain for all their land woes.

Land grabs is nothing new to Sarawak, and up till April 2016, DAP have been harping the seemingly ease a chunk of land in Balingian was signed over by the Land & Survey Department, headed by Adenan Satem and seconded by Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.

The land, Lots 6 & 7 of Block 4, Buloh Land District, consisted of no less than 6,766 acres (2,738 hectares) which had been handed for a pittance to a company called Greenpro Farm Sdn Bhd on 9th January 2015 for a mere RM300 per acre, compared to an estimated market value of RM4,000.

In little over six months the land in question was duly ‘flipped’ to new buyers from the Peninsular for an unspecified price.

The same was the case seen by those in the Baram basin. Their lands were to be grab under the guise of a dam or the development of palm oil plantations.

And such animosity towards the government was something not needed by Tan Sri Adenan Satem who desperately needed to win big.

By removing the dam project, Adenan removed any spectre of land grabs and the likes of Awang Tengah from the minds of voters in Marudi, Telang Usan and Mulu.

But the ball is now in BN’s court to make good all the goodies they promised for in the next election, the euphoria of scrapping the dam project is a mere memory and the voting public will judge BN differently. –

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