“When one with honeyed words but evil mind
Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”
I was both amused and bemused by Baru Bian’s statement in the papers. Amused because Baru Bian’s claims seem absurd and bemused because while making the statement, it was obvious Baru never looked into the mirror to reflect upon his own achievements in Ba’ Kelalan – which is close to zero.
Close to zero is what it is. One of Baru’s recent trips to Ba Kelalan was on the 6th April 2016 which was to SK Ba’ Kelalan in the village of Long Langai to present some books for the schoolchildren. While that is a good gesture, why has Baru, as the incumbent assemblyman there, turned a blind eye to the condition of the school? The hostel where the schoolchildren sleep, teachers’ quarters are all in dilapidated condition. With a limited grant from the State Education department, the school is being kept in operational condition thanks to the hard-working and very dedicated teachers under the leadership of the school’s principal, Puan Bulan Dawat, and the efforts by the parents of the schoolchildren who often provide the manpower to assist the teachers.
In the village of Buduk Nur, the request for chairs for the village’s multi-purpose hall made in 2011 to Baru also fell on deaf ears. “Nanti kita fikirkanlah” (We will think about it later) was what Baru was reported to have said to his voters. From then until recently, villagers would have to move chairs from the neighbouring church into the hall and back whenever there is a village event held inside the hall. In these modern days where many of the young adults have almost all moved out of Ba Kelalan for studies or to work, getting the manpower to clean up the hall let alone move chairs and tables back and forth every time they are needed at the hall is not easy.
That has changed. Inside the multi-purpose hall at Buduk Nur now are two sets of wireless public address systems donated by the current Chief Minister of Sarawak, and chairs and tables bearing the words “Ikhlas dari Pejabat Perdana Menteri” (Sincerely from the Prime Minister’s Office). Looking at these two gifts, I doubt they cost much – a state assemblyman could easily have afforded to buy these PA system, tables and chairs. Or he could have gotten someone to sponsor these items, but no, for five years nothing happened.
I would be absolutely wrong to say that Baru never gave anything to the people of Ba Kelalan. He did some good.
The above are water tanks supplied by the 1M4U project, an initiative founded by the Prime Minister in 2012. Villagers said that Baru claimed to them that it was through his initiative that the villagers had received these poly tanks. You won’t see these poly tanks at every house that is in need, however. They were given only to supporters and houses of single-mothers, earning him the nickname “ADUN Janda” (The Assemblyman for divorced women).
Early this year Baru presented several houses with solar power units that could generate enough power to light two bulbs all night long, or charge up to two mobile telephones simultaneously during the day. This time he made it clear that the gift was from a corporate sponsor.
So what else can be read on Baru Bian’s report card?
To say that the Barisan Nasional has done little to develop Ba Kelalan in the 48 years preceding his tenure is in a way naive bordering reckless of Baru. While it may be true that Ba Kelalan did not get much under the previous Chief Minister’s administration, Ba Kelalan fared relatively well under Barisan Nasional. Going by my layman timeline, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s Universal Services Provision fund helped bridge the digital divide in rural Sarawak in among others Bario and Ba Kelalan. With the introduction of the Internet and telephony to Ba Kelalan, tourism in Ba Kelalan prospered. Between January to May of 2014, Ba Kelalan’s homestays hosted 2,962 visitors earning close to RM656,000. The Ba Kelalan villages of Long Langai, Long Lemutut, Long Ritan, Long Rusu, Buduk Bui, Buduk Aru now has 24-hour electricity supply thank you to the government’s initiative to install micro-hydro systems there. The airport at Buduk Nur was built when Barisan Nasional was representing Ba Kelalan. The Long Luping to Ba Kelalan road was built with the assistance from the Ministry of Defence in 2010. That road is now in bad condition because among others hardly any maintenance is done there. What, in the last five years, has Baru Bian done to make sure the road is in good working condition?
That is five years versus Adenan Satem’s two years in office. Baru should not compare Adenan Satem with his predecessor. If I want to be petty and make comparisons, Adenan has given Buduk Nur two PA systems. What has Baru given Ba Kelalan himself? And Adenan, who hails from the Sarawakian political party called Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) has the support of Najib Razak who is from the Peninsular’s UMNO, the only Prime Minister to have made an average of eight trips to Sarawak per year since assuming office, and given billions of Ringgit back to the people of Sarawak to improve their livelihood. Both are from different parties within the Barisan Nasional coalition.
In contrast, Baru who is from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) which is a Peninsular political party, cannot even get the backing of his leadership in the Peninsular to get the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a chauvinist political party that is the de facto party in command of the Pakatan Harapan (PH), also from the Peninsular, to ask DAP to refrain from contesting in five seats that PKR is contesting in the upcoming Sarawak State Elections. I doubt if Baru could call the shots in Sarawak even without being subjugated and undermined by those in the DAP.
Baru Bian may be Barisan Nasional’s candidate Willie Liau’s uncle. But Baru Bian was born and grew up in Long Semadoh, a village 40km away from Ba Kelalan. Baru lives in Kuching, 1,200km away where he has his law practice and spends most of his time making name for himself taking on giant oil palm corporations such as IOI disguised as protecting native rights.
While Baru Bian should just remain an activist, Willie Liau who is also a lawyer is the right person for Ba Kelalan and he knows that only someone who is with the government can drive things through. Unlike Baru, Willie is from Ba Kelalan’s village of Buduk Bui, like another famous Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) name – Datuk Nelson Balang Rining. Unlike Baru, Willie lives in the district capital of Lawas, a 125km road trip away. As mentioned by Tua Kampung Yudan Meru of Long Muda to BERNAMA recently, “Baru is a good man, but he is standing on the wrong platform. He is our brother but if he wins, it will be the same story… the people will suffer – until when? Willie is strong. I hope he wins big in Ba’Kelalan.”
If you look at the faces above, even DAP’s Emperor Lim Kit Siang, the only dinosaur still alive since 1969, has that grim look on his face. He is confident DAP will lose seven of 12 seats held by DAP in Sarawak. Claiming that Adenan Satem is throwing money around and promising development, which is what the people of Sarawak actually want, DAP has thrown in a challenge:
If you look at the above photo, the red steel bridge costing RM60,000 will soon end up as a bridge to nowhere. Firstly, it does lead to nowhere as the land across the Batang Undup river is empty. Secondly, if you look at the erosion of the riverbank and the curvature of the river, you know that that bridge will sooner or later lead to nowhere as the banks will continue to get eroded by the river flow. Without sheet pile protecting the soil, soon the end of the river would be good as a fishing platform. If there is no anti-rust coating beneath that red paint, it would go much sooner than a wooden bridge or a steel bridge treated with anti-rust.
If the above are the ones who will be calling the shots, Baru Bian is better off as an activist on his own, working with non-governmental organisations, or work hand-in-hand with the state government for the betterment of the indigenous people of Sarawak if he is truly sincere.
As the Lun Bawangs would say, “Aleg ninger buek tang arang gawa’!” (Don’t listen to voices from the sky). Put both feet firmly on terra firma and do good for your people for once. Don’t give them honeyed words like those who have evil mind wanting to subjugate you.