Monday, September 19, 2011

More rural representatives become heavier burden on the rural folks?(updated)

More representatives for rural areas-more burden?

The assumption of giving more rural representatives to the rural areas and voters is that the bigger number of representatives will allow these representatives to speak out for the rural folks who face under-development in all aspect of their lives. However the reality seems to be the opposite in Sarawak! Far from speaking out for the rural folks who voted them into the legislatures the representatives become more the speaker of the government to the people, and worse, filter out many allocations to the rural areas such that it gives an original meaning to the `trickle down' theory in economics! Let's look at the evidence -which is coming out in a new film on rural Bengoh!

From the start the Assemblyman and Member of Parliament of Bengoh had been selling the Bengoh dam project with scant regards to the people's vehement objections. In a recording stretching from 2005 the Mambong MP Dr James Dawos had been selling the idea that the rural Bengoh had finally seen `development' coming to the area and that the people affected are going to be better off than those who are not affected by it. In the same speech he also said that the people must move away from their ancestral land in order to avoid polluting the reservoir. So what good is there for the people if the development come to the area-but the original people have to move out completely? The `representative' of the people, who also sit in the resettlement committee, hardly spoke for the people-but add pressure to the people to sacrifice for the good of others in the city!

Update:He also propagated a false hope that the Bidayuh folks can rear fish in the Bengoh dam as in Kenyir dam in Penisular-forgetting to tell the audience that the Kenyir dam is a hydroelectric dam which do not have to concern about water pollution so much! But to hook the people on the idea of accepting the dam the MP was willing to go whatever distance it takes to make the dam smell better than it is!

Then the Assemblyman Dr Jerip Susil who had been to the affected villages only once-by helicopter, during his state election campaign period. Wonder if he paid for the expensive air transport-or he abused the government's machinery? Did he report this in his account of campaign expenses? His message was also to pressure the people to leave-by dangling carrots which are not approved by anyone at all. Among his promises is the offer of free housing. However the official offer was just offer of `Housing for the Poor'-which not all may qualify as the standards are very stringent. In anycase the folks are supposed to be compensated for their lose-not for their poverty, as though it is done out of compassion!
Promised resettlement-supposedly complete last year, is still an empty space!

Further than that there have been numerous cases where projects of upgrading are allocated by the Federal or State government to rural areas where the project is passed through a few hands -mainly involving the hands of the `people's representatives', and only a fraction of the allocation would `trickle down' to the targetted areas. Eg an allocation to build a road started off as Rm30mil, but the road was finally built with only half the amount after the project was sub-contracted through 4 hands! So it is common for a designated tar-selaed road to become a gravel road in the end. A notorious example involved a company linked to a West Malaysian royal family and the road remain only a gravel road till today. So `trickle down' theory works-literally. So the more there are rural representatives the more the project fund would be squeezed and the less the fund will actually trickle down!

That is only lucky if that happen-there are also cases where the project is completely diverted to another favourite constituencies of the party bosses eg the notorious Lapok road of Ulu Baram was given repeated allocations -but the money ended up going to another road in Baleh where the boss of the party keep his power base! This is `trickle sideways' rather than down...

Waiting for the development to `trickle down' to your kampong/village?
Given that the development projects takes away land and water from the people-their vital possessions, a case can be made, in view of the inadequate compensation dished out to them, that actually the development is a process where the wealth `trickle upwards' instead. Not coincidentally some well connected developers are getting very rich from the Bengoh dam development project, while the people cannot see a future where they get better.

So how do the politicians deal with this-given that the allocations are targeted to, among others, to buy favour/.votes from the local community? Obviously frustrated by the slow speed of the really trickling down of the projects the Prime Minister Department had started the Minor Rural Projects (MRP) that are given directly from the PM Dept to the rural household eg to `upgrade' a rural house! Since most rural house are rather shaby, the choice of which house to upgrade leave a lot of rooms for the politicians to reward their supporters/future supporters. Thus: if there are less `representatives' in the rural areas the benifit will trickle down more to the people. The more` representatives' the less will trickle down. So the case is proven.

The worse problem from the `rural weightage' in giving more seats and electing more `representatives' from the rural areas is: the struggle for better governance from the urban areas is hampered by the bigger number of rural seats/representatives! It is `normal' to see many less than popular regimes hanging on to power for many decades primarily on account of the rural seats, where the actual people's voice are suppressed (by eg low enfranchisement), or they are kept uninformed of the choices available(no media, no communication networks).Sarawak and Malaysia as a whole are good cases in point-where the less than popular politicians even brand the rural states as their `fixed deposits' states!.
A film to convey the rural people's voice, instead of going through the official `representatives'
So even if there are proportionally more seats for rural voters compared to urban voters, under an unaccountable and corrupt government the bigger number of rural `representatives' actually turned against the rural people themselves. From the under-development shown in the film on Bengoh-come to see it for yourself, it is clear that the people can only speak with their own voice. But since the voice is not heard due to various restrictions eg the lack of interests by the mainstream and side-stream media, this film will act as a conveyor of the unheard voices from Bengoh.Would the urban folks-whose democratic struggles are hampered by the unproportional representation system, lend your ears to these struggling folks, so that the necessary solidarity can be forged to bring positive change for all?

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