Poor timing for Abu Bekir
The Federal Court today refused to answer a question on whether the seizure of land by the Sarawak government for the Bakun dam was unconstitutional or not.
The decision by Chief Justice Zaki Azmi (belowleft) and the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, both of whom refused to answer the question, was to let other pending cases deal with the issue.
The other Federal Court judge, Justice Md Raus Sharif, answered the question in the negative, and said the seizure was not unconstitutional.
However, all three judges unanimously decided to dispose of lawyer Baru Bians appeal following the land seizure in Bakun by the state government 14 years ago to build the multi-billion ringgit dam and a wood pulp mill.
The question posed before the court was whether section 5(3) and (4) of the Sarawak Land Code relating to the extinguishment of native customary rights are ultra vires of Article 5 (right to life) and Article 13 (right to property) of the federal constitution.
Zaki in his 15-page judgment, which was the last to be read out, said there seems to possibly be other grounds for challenging the unconstitutionality of section 5(3) and (4) of the Code.
Unfortunately, he said as pointed by Justice Malanjum these were not raised or properly canvassed before the court.
A lengthy part of the submission was for the case to be reverted to the High Court for a full trial, which for reasons mentioned I do not find it proper to do so. I will therefore have to decide the question based on the arguments put before us.
Based on those arguments and after having read the grounds of the other two judgments I would associate with the Chief! Judge o f Sabah and Sarawak and find I do not need to answer the question, he said, adding the court unanimously made no orders as to cost here and below.
Following this, Zaki ruled in dismissing the appeal and upholding the orders by the two courts ie the Sarawak High Court and Court of Appeal below.
The Chief Justice, who will be retiring in Monday, noted before the start in delivering the decision that this was one of the most difficult verdicts he had to make in his three years tenure as the top judge in the country.
Normally the Federal Court being the highest court in the land can determine on constitutional interpretation, but it chose not to due to arguments that there is not much before them to decide.
Bring it to arbitration
Zaki noted that while parties are not satisfied with the amount of compensation, the matter should have been brought to arbitration.
In my opinion during that arbitration they could have raised all the issues regarding loss of their farms, burial grounds and other matters affecting their livelihood. There is no need for this case to be sent back for trial.
To me that wold be unnecessary waste of money and time. Bato Bagi has accepted the compensation without referring it to arbitration. How could he now come before us to review the compensation or the extinguishment of the natives rights itself?, the parting Chief justice said in his final judgment.
Justice Malanjum, in his 37-page detailed judgment, wrote he was of the view the court was not fully assisted although the question posed was staring at the parties.
There was no discussion on whether the courts below were correct in their approaches in construing the relevant provisions of the constitution or whether they adopted the right test in considering the constitutionality of the impugned sections.
Not mere existence
The Chief! Judge o f Sabah and Sarawak noted that the expression of life in Article 5 (1) does not refer to mere existence.
It, he said, incorporates all those facets that are an integral part of the life itself and those matters which go to form the quality of life.
Of these are the right to seek and be engaged in lawful and gainful employment and to receive those benefits that our society has to offer to its members. It includes the right to live in a reasonably healthy and pollution free environment.
If indeed extinguishment of their native customary rights has an adverse effect on the livelihood of the natives in the same way as dismissal has on the livelihood of a gainfully employed person then it is only fair in my view that before any extinguishments direction is issued the holders of native customary rights should be given the opportunity to present their case, he said.
Malanjum said this is essential justice and procedural fairness which a public decision-maker should ensure as having been meted out.
Justice Raus in holding sections 5 (3) and (4) of the Sarawak Land Code as constitutional said he was always guided by the principle that when the court is faced with the issue of constitutionality of a provision or statute, the court should be slow in striking down the impugned provision for being unconstitutional.
The approach of the court while examining the challenge to the constitutionality of an enactment, is to start with the presumption of constitutionality. The court should try to sustain its validity to the extent possible. It should strike down the enactment only when it is not possible to sustain, Raus cited former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram.
Background of the suit
Bato Bagi, five longhouse residents of Uma Balui Ukap at Batu Kalo, Uma Lesong at Batu Keling, Uma Bakah at Long Bulan, Rumah Kulit at Long Jawe and Rumah Ukit at Long Ayak on June 23, 1997, claimed native customary rights over lands along Batang Balui and its tributaries in the Belaga Distr! ict of K apit division. Other claimants, Jalang anak Paran and Kamong Anak Amih, had their lands taken for the Borneo Pulp and Paper Sdn Bhd.
They were ordered to vacate the land and surrender their native customary rights for the construction of the dam.
The indigenous people wanted the order to be declared void on the grounds that:
Bato has since passed away.
Disappointment at decision
Counsel for the natives Baru Bian expressed disappointment at the apex court not allowing the appeal but rejoiced that there is an opportunity for the issue to be brought up again in other cases.
There are many similar cases affecting NCR land which had been seized by the Sarawak government without considering the livelihoodof the people. This cases will be coming up and it gives us another bite to challenge the constitutionality of the land grab, Baru (left in photo) said.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia representative Mohideen Abdul Kadeer also expressed disappointment at the court not wanting to interpret the question.
He said the case took 10 years for it to! come to the Federal Court, and it missed a golden opportunity to put such matter at rest and resolve other pending NCR land cases.
Our concern is not only the livelihood of the person affected but also the ecological impact of such projects which would affect climate change, he said.
Before the start of the case Baru led prayers in Bahasa Malaysia for a positive ruling in court but this was not to be.
The Federal Court has dismissed a crucial appeal by five native customary rights landowner, a decision which will adversely affect more than 100 similar cases.
The three-member panel of judges led by outgoing Chief Justice Zaki Azmi made a unanimous decision to dismiss the case, brought by Bato Bagi and five others.
Bato, along with five others, are suing the state government over the loss of their land due to the Bakun dam project. .
The decision by Chief Justice Zaki Azmi (left) and the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum, both of whom refused to answer the question, was to let other pending cases deal with the issue.
The other Federal Court judge, Justice Md Raus Sharif, answered the question in the negative, and said the seizure was not unconstitutional.
All three judges unanimously decided, however, to dispose lawyer Baru Bians appeal following the land seizure in Bakun by the state government 14 years ago to build the multi-billion dam project and pulp wood mill.
Led by native Bato Bagi, five long house residents of Uma Balui Ukap at Batu Kalo, Uma Lesong at Batu Keling, Uma Bakah at Long Bulan, Rumah Kulit at Long Jawe and Rumah Ukit at Long Ayak, claimed on June 23, 1997, to have native customary rights over lands along Batang Balui and its tributaries in the Belaga District Kapit division.
They were ordered to vacate the land and extinguish their native customary rights over the construction of the dam.
The indigenous people wanted the order to be declared void on the grounds that:
- the direction violated the ! plaintif fs fundamental rights under Articles 5(1) of the Federal Constitution, and/or Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and/or Art. 13(2) of the Federal Constitution;
- the direction was in violation of Article 39(1) and (2) of the constitution of the state of Sarawak and/or Article 153 of the Federal Constitution; and
- the direction was made pursuant to section 5(3) and (4) of the Sarawak Land Code, which are void and unconstitutional as being in violation of Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution and/or Article 8 of the Federal Constitution and/or Article 39(1) and (2) of the constitution of the state of Sarawak and/or Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.
Bato has since passed away.
Zaki remarked that this was the most difficult judgment that he had to deal with during his three-year tenure as chief justice.
2Md Raus Sharif
Bato BagiJalang Paran
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A lot is riding on this case referred to as the Bato Bagi case as it will set the precedent for other native customary rights land claims in Sarawak. There over 100 pending claims by natives in the state.
This will also be the last judgment delivered by Chief Justice Zaki Azmi, who will step down on Monday after reaching the retirement age of 66.
He leads a three-member panel that also consists of chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judge Md Raus Sharif.
Bato unfortunately cannot hear the judgment today, for he died two months ago.
On April 26, 2008, the High Court in Sarawak dismissed the natives claim. The Court of Appeal subsequently upheld the High Courts decision last year.
On March 1 this year, the Federal Court granted leave for theappeal to be heard, leading to todays decision.
Bato, along with five others, are suing the state government over the loss of their land due to the Bakun dam project.
Meanwhile, in a separate but related case, another Iban, Jalang Paran, is suing the government and a state-owned company that took over his villages land for a pulp mill project.
They are arguing that the states acquisition of their NCR land as provided for under the Land Code violated their fundamental rights under the federal constitution.
2.15pm:Some of the long house residents arrive at the court.
2.20pm:Lead counsel Sulaiman Abdullah arrives.
2.25pm:Baru Bian arrives and says a prayer in Bahasa Malaysia outside court, wishing for a ruling in favour of his clients because it would benefit other natives in Sarawak.
2.47pm:Justice Zaki says this is ! the most difficult judgment that he has ever written. It is a lengthy judgment.
Now he allows Justice Richard Malanjum to read his judgment first.
3.07pm:Justice Malanjum says he dismisses the appeal although he noted compensation had been paid.
3.08pm:Justice Md Raus says there is no need for a re-trial. He says the land seizure is not unconstitutional.
3.10pm:Now Zaki says that the issues were not properly ventilated before the court.
3.11pm:He associates his decision with Justice Malanjum and he also dismiss the appeal.
He says it is unfair to make a decision without ventilating on the issues. He makes no orders to cost.
3.14pm:Sulaiman applies for no order to costs with the court. However Sarawak legal advisor JC Foong objects.
[More to follow]
From Denison Jayasooria, via e-mail
I write to clarify some of the wild e-mails and even press reviews in recent days on MIBA and my role in the Sept 11 forum on the 13th General Election and the Indian community. Is forum a debate between BN and PKR?
The organisers and I never described it as a debate. It was a media article that presented it so. The forum is a meeting of minds on political issues and how Indians should position themselves as their vote is significant.
Programmes have been organised into six different panels so even political parties are in different panels. Discussion is not just among the political parties. Why an engagement only among Indians? Some have said this forum is dividing the community and the discussion should not be among Indians but should be between Indians and Umno.
Different forums can have different objectives. Here we wanted an engagement among Malaysian Indians from across the political divide, civil society, business community and academic to share their views. Basically we wanted political parties and politicians to state:
- What was promised in the 2008 GE?
- What have they achieved between 2008 to 2011
- What are gaps?
- What do they promise to do if elected for another term?
Different individuals are holding political positions in federal, state and local governments. Within their capabilities, what are they able to share of their achievements and success, struggles and challenges, hopes and dreams.
Therefore, an opportunity is provided to political representatives, civil society as well as business and academic community. It is an engagement among the Indian community to reposition their political views, give stock and also set a tone for the 13th GE.
What do we expect from aspiring candidates? Who should we support from with the Indian community and also from other communities? There is value in discussing with the communi! ty as we ll as value across the community with other communities.
This forum is focused on a discussion from within the community on the matters for the 13th General Election. Thus far no one has organised such a gathering and there is a need to engage among ourselves especially across the political divide on common issues of concern.
Is BN, MIC, Umno behind this forum? This forum was a thought I had after a number of us hosted a discussion among academics on political leadership and the Indian community at UKM on July 21, 2011. I moderated the discussion and the four presenters were non Indians (Ben from Merdeka centre, Dr Ong from UCSI, Prof Mansor and Teo from UKM).
The criticism at that forum was why non Indian academics were working on Indian issues. Arising from that, I raised with Mr Sivakumar of MIBA if his organisation will host a public forum and I will write the framework paper. He agreed and invitations were set out.
There is no higher human hand at work. My friends from the BN feel that this was very anti-MIC/BN due to the proposed line up of speakers. On the other side, individuals seem to have a view that this is Umno created, pro BN-MIC event and what right do these chaps have to organise such a forum.
My feeling is that anyone can organise programmes and it is up to people to decide if there is value in it, worth making a monetary contribution and participating. On the other hand, they have the freedom not to participate too.
However we encourage as many from different view points to engage with one another. We have a good cross section of speakers who have agreed to come some politicians, some from business community, some academic and others from civil society. Hope we can have a very fruitful discussion and the findings will be published and circulated.
It is an open forum and the media have been invited to participate too. Should the forum be focused on engaging Umno? It is a good suggestion and people who feel so could have o! rganised it. If it emerges as one area for follow up from the Sept 11, 2011 forum, we could consider engaging leaders of political parties.
Was YB Dr Ramasamy and others officially invited? We invited leaders from MIC, PPP, Gerakan, DAP, PKR, PSM. Also a number of civil society leaders like Mr Uthyakumar, Mr Kengadharam, Mr Ganabathirau,Datuk Ambiga and Ms Ivy Josiah.
These individuals have written and shared their views on many Indian and national issues. We felt that their views are also important. However they all turned down the invitation for different reasons.
Between Mr Sivakumar and I we divided the responsibility to invite the proposed speakers. Yes Mr Sivakumar contacted Dr Rama.
Yes he had indicated he cant make it. Datuk Palanivel too had not confirmed. The programmd which was circulated had indicated in the case of a number (including Dr Ramasamy and Datuk Palanivel that they were Invited but still waiting for confirmation.
However, the Tamil media had listed them with their photos. In the case of Star write up it was written such as the following are invited.
We acknowledge that the following six moderators have confirmed: Tan Sri R Navaratnam (CPPS-ASLI), Tan Sri Arjit Singh (Former Asean Sec Gen), Mr Ragunath Kesavan (Former Bar Council Chair), Prof CP Ramanchandran (Former UPM), Dr S Sivamoorthy (MIBA) and Prof KS Nathan (UKM).
Ten speakers have confirmed and awaiting confirmation from two more: Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (UKM), Prof Dr NS Rajendran (UPSI), Mr Murugesan (MIC), YB Dr Xavier Jayakumar (PKR), Mr K Arumugam (Suram), Mr S Paspuathi (Tamil Foundation), Mr P Sivakumar (MIBA), Pardip Kumar (Paradise), Mr Kumeresan (Builders Association), Datuk Siva Subramanium (Proham/Former Suhakam), YB Michael Jeyakumar (PSM), YB Sivarasa (PKR) and Prof Dr Terence Gomez (UM).
Why charge RM100?
Basically this is to cover the cost. Instead of asking a government sponsor or private sponsor, MIBA decided that every one parti! cipating could contribute to cover the 2 teas and I lunch and contribute towards the rental of the meeting room. Menara PKNS (15 floor) is charging RM75.00 per person (for meals and use of facilities). The addition RM25 is to cover other overhead cost.
It is really sad that many have made a big issue of this. MIBA will give a break down of registration fees and expenses and make this public to avoid further doubt of this matter.
Why should MIBA or Denison organise this programme? This is a democratic country all have the freedom to organise forums and discussions. Others could have but none did. We had the thought of brining Indian political leaders and others for an engagement. We have extended invitations to a cross section of people. Those who are unhappy also had a right not to participate.
It is unfortunate that so many wild accusations are being made on MIBA, Sivakumar and myself without seeking clarification or proper understanding. Anyway this part of challenges we face in public life but lets try and move on.
Would anything come out of Sept 11 PJ Forum? We are really hoping it would and arising out of the discussions we can follow through some of the specific concerns especially those pertaining to 13th General Election.
The writer is Principal Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnic Studies UKM
The term investigative journalism is relatively new and one of the most recurring images of investigative journalists at work comes from the Watergate expos and later the movie All the Presidents Men.
These images have left a lasting image of investigative reporting brave reporters, alerted by tip-offs bringing down powerful and corrupt figures.
Journalism in Malaysia has been around for more than a century and as to investigative journalism, it is still in an infant stage.
In some countries this type of journalism is equated with a push for liberal democratisation process.
Here, many want the press to take a leading role in bringing about reforms. But unfortunately the media barons have their own agenda.
An investigative journalist has not only to put up with his blinkered owner but there is a slew of laws to stop him in his tracks.
Malaysian journalists tread on murky waters of repressive laws, hence they find it extremely difficult investigating those in authority, a local university lecturer Samuel Ihediwa wrote in an academic paper 2005 presentation entitled, Investigative Journalism in Malaysia.
Ihediwas research findings also cited numerous obstacles working against the practice of investigative reporting in the country.
A host of draconian and restrictive laws governing the media industry act as prohibitive catalysts against investigative reporting.
These include the infamous Internal Security Act (1960), the Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984), the Sedition Act (1948), and the Official Secrets Act (1972) .
And for good measure add in self-censorship from fawning editors o! ut to pl ease their masters.
Those in power hate investigating reports as it shows them up, warts and all. So the next best thing to do is to cripple the journalists with draconian laws and create a docile media industry.
And in Malaysia the powers-that-be have achieved what they wanted no reports on accountability and good governance at least in the mainstream media.
Jan Shaffer of the Pew Centre for Civic Journalism (US) described our local media and reporters performing the following roles.
The majority of our print media plays the lapdog role. They are controlled by publishers or directors who have an eye on profits and advertising revenue rather than news gathering.
Then you have the role of the attack dog pushing to discredit or destroy the image of politicians or their credibility within the political divide.
The watchdog role being the eyes, ears and voice of concerned public on their interest and welfare, is considered the most vulnerable to political pressures, police reports and civil lawsuits.
Lastly, the guide dogs role giving people not only informative news but providing tips and useful information to the public on how and what to think on critical government policies affecting them.
While it is true that investigative journalism cannot flourish or be conducted creditably in an environment where freedom of the press and that of expression is placed under severe restriction, what are the options available to nurture an informed citizenry?
Silvio Waisbord, Associate Professor at George Washington University (School of Media and Public Affairs) and a veteran on the subject of Watchdog Journalism had this to say on ethical and investigative journalism.
On ethics of investigative journalism, Waisbord said: Ethics instead deals with how to distinguish between right and wrong, with philosophical principles used to justify a particular course of action.
What journalists and editors need to dete! rmine is who will benefit as a result of the reporting.
Waisbord sees investigative reporting as more than playing the role of providing checks and balances in democratic systems. He emphasised that when government institutions fail to conduct further inquiries or investigations are plagued with problems and suspicions, investigative journalism can contribute to accountability by monitoring the functions of these institutions.
The new media
With such a negative picture , what is the future of investigative journalism in Malaysia?
The future is bright when compared with media barons losing their grip on influencing their readers and dwindling circulation figures.
With the advent of blogs, Facebook, twitters and on-line news portals, investigative reports are becoming more common and finally the public has another unbiased source to turn to.
In Malaysia , it would be a mistake to think the government is the sole culprit. Investigative journalism can also be discouraged by business corporations through a menu of options or benefits available to media players.
Publishers, editors and reporters could benefit from a range of goodies ranging from news scoops, free travels and monetary rewards as if they were candies for well behaved journalists, according to Waisbords field research on the matter.
But, there is a note of optimism . The future of investigative journalists is on the side of the Net-savvy, empowered people.
And to what extent can an investigative journalist go to do an expos? Can television reporters use hidden cameras to get a story? Can journalists use false identities to gain access to information?
One person seems to have answered this predicament. Marvin Kalb who had spent 30 years as an award-winning diplomatic correspondent with US television networks, once urged journalists not to be swayed by public opinions, only by the pursuit of Truth, as close as he or she can get.
Stankey Koh is a veteran poli! tical ob server and a FMT columnist.
From Black Arrow, via e-mail
For many days in July and August this year and until this very day, the many shenanigans of Umno and the Federal government together with the dubious exploits of the Election Commission (EC) have come under intense scrutiny by the public and the respective task force set-up by PAS, DAP and PKR to monitor the electoral rolls.
One after another, mysterious, suspicious and downright doubtful names and identities in the EC have been highlighted by online news portals. By all accounts and purposes, these fake names and false identities in the voter rolls are found out to have been sourced from the National Registration Department (NRD) and this situation certainly vindicates the need for Bersih 2.0.
So far, Umno and BN together with the EC have had to bear the brunt of the Opposition and the publics outcry over the dirty voter rolls. Even the church raid issue was a diversion from the voter rolls issue. But suddenly out of the blue, or green as PAS flag is green in colour, the most unlikely hero has emerged for Umno. He is none other than Mat Sabu, the PAS deputy president.
Mat Sabus ceramah in Tasik Gelugor, Penang in regards to the historic event at Bukit Kepong has been seized upon and spun out of context by those in the BN camp and they have continued to whip up the fervour pertaining to this matter. It is a no-brainer that Umno will whip up this issue to the maximum to gain political mileage. They have grabbed Mat Sabus ceramah as a lifeline to gain political momentum which so far has eluded them, notwithstanding their recent wins in the last few by-elections.
Umno is now using maximum coverage of the Mat Sabu issue or should it be the Mat Indera issue as a smokescreen to cover-up the suspicious goings-on at the EC. Pakatan Rakyats component parties have been busy bringing up the errors in the voter rolls but all these important issues have been blacked out or given small! column by the mainstream media.
It is obvious now that Umno intends to bring down PAS before the general election, starting with Mat Sabu. This means that inadvertently it is Mat Sabu who has managed to furnish Umno with an issue to harp on as the Federal government has failed to address the many problems besetting the nation such as the failure of the various economic programmes, rising inflation and skyrocketting prices.
Certainly Mat Sabu will continue to dominate the mainstream media headlines. It is now clear that Umno intends to use Mat Sabu to claw back support from the Malays. But will Mat Sabu succeed in rescuing Umno?
Utusan Malaysias suggested description of PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu or Mat Sabu as an Islamic communist will add a new twist to Umnos political lexicon one can be godless and Muslim at the same time.
Only Utusan and Umno are capable of doing that and it does not matter how imbecilic and mundane it sounds.
Umnos godsend issue now is the communism of Mat Sabu. But where is the political premium for Umno in debating this issue?
There is no mileage in Umno escalating the issue of Mat Sabu extolling communism.
If pursued further, in the end, Umno will be exposed for what it truly is a racist non-inclusive Malay political party.
Umno leaders must stop this madness. Dont sacrifice potential long-term gains for the allure of short-term gains.
The short-term gain is winning the argument against Mat Sabu. The long-term gain is to ensure Umno retains its image as a voice of moderation and reasonableness.
Isolating Mat Sabu
And how do we do this? The strategy is to isolate Mat Sabu.
What Mat Sabu said has nothing to do with communism. The godless creed remains Islams eternal enemy.
Umno foot soldiers will find it increasingly difficult to defend its fictional creation.
PAS leadership will stand behind Mat Sabu, insisting that what he meant was historical injustice done to one Mat Indera.
Umno can simply demolish this allegation of historical injustice. The Umno-led Johor government had in fact honoured Mat Indera by listing him as one of the influential Johoreans who had contributed to the state.
The Johor government has done substantially more to the memory of Mat Indera than Mat Sabus rhetorical stunt in his speech.
And the issue should have stopped at just that. Nail Mat Sabu! for his stupid stunt.
But we will let Umno drown in its stupidity if it chooses to escalate Mat Sabus communism to a racial issue.
It will be an exercise in futility and counterproductive to the reinvention of Umnos image as a party of moderation and reasonableness.
Umno did not fight a war
What this furore has done is to heighten awareness of who Mat Indera was and what he did.
The danger however is this the reassessment of Mat Inderas position in the history of Malaya.
This will force people to also reassess Umnos own legitimacy in determining history and their historical appreciation of politics in the country as well as the role that Umno played.
Umno didnt take up arms to secure independence. Other people laid down their lives for independence.
What Umno did was run the final fourth lap, whereas the previous three freedom fighters were executed by others.
What the hawkish and right-wing elements in Umno have done is to claim absolute credit. Umnos credit doesnt rest on running the last lap.
Its credit rests on its image as the voice of moderation and reasonableness, both of which have enabled Umno to become the unifying force for all races in Malaysia.
This excerpt is from the writers blog sakmongkolak47. The writer is a FMT columnist.
My schedule for yesterday was changed several times as things did not go exactly as planned. So there I was at the KLCC car park swearing what the heck I am doing going round and round looking for a parking space. After more than an hour I found one. At the lift I was sweating like I just got off from the shower. Still cursing and swearing I make a wrong choice of attending the IGEM 2011 today instead of tomorrow.
At the counter, I was told that my name is not registered. Again I am swearing what the heck was wrong today. So I had to fill up the form and wait at a queue. Then a man approached me to step away from the red carpet to allow their visitors through. To my surprise it was Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir - the Sultan of Negeri Sembilan. When Tuanku gave me a big smile, I just had to say hello. The minute Tuanku acknowledge it, my spirit did a somersault and here I am writing about it. That smile was genuine without a tint of hypocrisy unlike some Sultans.
That was the best medicine I had for a very long, long time. And boy do I need one after certain unpleasant event.
My meetings with Ah Longs are never intentional. Most times I am not aware who they are until I am told much later or when it happens by chance I see weapons or face with a situation when a fight is about to begin.
Ah Longs are also known as thugs or gangsters sometimes they do kill if the price is right. The Ah Longs (thugs or gangsters) I know long ago are gentlemen. But the ones I encountered for the past two years are different stock.
Poor people ne! ed Ah Lo ngs to put food on the table. Rich people especially the ones with titles are using Ah Longs (thugs or gangsters) to con, steal and threaten others.
Mahathir used Yeoh Tiong Lay to blackmail people, Isa used murderers to get votes, Daim used Ah Long to cheat, steal and grab whatever they want, and Husein used Ah Long to threaten others.
So here I am thinking during the last week of Ramadan, do I or do I not call up old friends.
An old saying kept my faith. If you cheat others, others will cheat you back. If you use money to kill others, money will kill you. And if you use Ah Long (thugs or gangsters) to satisfy your ego and greed then you will die in the hands of the Ah Long (thugs or gangsters.)
This Raya was rather unusual. Every Ramadan I put up the sign Selamat Hari Raya at the shop. This year certain alphabets keep falling down. A, L, Y and H. I told my children something ugly is about to happen to us in the shop. And true enough it happened. My landlord Husein send A, L and Y.
So what is the connection between Tuanku and myself. We were both bullied in similar manner. Yesterday when I saw Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir, I knew that things will be okay.
Special thanks to Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir.
The beautiful Baram region in northeastern Sarawak is one of the poorest regions in the country.
Now, thanks to the Baram Dam, one of 12 gigantic hydro-electric dams spread across the state, 20,000 inhabitants face the prospect of being resettled, without participating in the decision that will change their life and that of their descendants.
The state and federal governments have approved these12 dams, ostensibly to produce power to feed potential industries in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy. The cost is estimated at RM36 billion but budget over-runs, such as those that have afflicted the recently commissioned Bakun dam, are a safe bet.
The government has announced that the dams will generate power 600 percent above the states current requirements. Critics argue these dams are merely an enormous money-spinning exercise a dam scam benefiting well-connected construction companies.
Lucrative contracts have already gone to CMS and Naim Cendera Sdn Bhd, run by family members of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, including his son Mahmud Bekir in CMS and Taibs cousin Hamed Sepawi in Naim.
The Sarawak government made it clear from the start that it is welcoming the worlds worst polluting industrialists, when the plan to build the 12 dams was revealed, said See Chee How, PKR assemblyperson for Batu Lintang, and a prominent land rights lawyer.
Two aluminium smelters and a ferro-alloy smelter already have one foot in the state, with CMS purchasing stakes in those companies. Hence the people who will derive the giant share of benefits are transnational industrialists who could not gain a foothold in other continents, and the BN elites working in cohort with these polluting industrialists.
Building dams in Sarawak, he argued forcefu! lly, has become an excuse to remove and resettle indigenous communities, while the government takes over vast tracts of native customary rights (NCR) land for logging, plantation and other economic activities which benefit only a handful.
Local activists estimate that 90 percent of the land due to be flooded for the Baram dam are claimed as NCR land.
The state government, and its logging and oil palm or forest plantation partners, have lost numerous high-profile NCR court cases to indigenous communities in recent years. Resettlement of the claimants would certainly remove a tricky legal obstacle to loggers hungry for more timber.
The state government claims that natives must sacrifice for the greater good of development. See said acerbically that, in Baram, the indigenous inhabitants have been promised time and again that they will enjoy progress and development. Yet, they remain among the most deprived people in Malaysia, lacking basic infrastructure, including a paved road to the coastal city of Miri.
See recalled that, during a campaign visit to Baram in the run-up to Aprils state election, premier Najib Abdul Razak had promised the construction of a Lapok Road linking the isolated local communities to Miri.
But the road seems to have been forgotten, according to See: The villagers are themselves being forced to give way for progress and development which is not for them.
A dark secret
The proposed Baram dam will inundate an area half the size of Singapore. Opponents, such as chairperson of the Orang Ulu National Association, say the proposed resettlement will destroy the natives way of life.
Kenyah, Kayan, Penan and other ethnic groups contr! ibute to the rich cultural and linguistic heritage of Baram.
The dam construction, although it will affect a lot of people, at the moment is onedark secretkept away from those living in Baram, he said.
Representatives of seven indigenous peoples organisations warned in a jointpress statementthat the Malaysian government is failing to honour international obligations it has signed up to, under the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for free, prior and informed consent before any development of natives traditional homes and land.
The seven native NGOs poured scorn on recent informal briefing sessions by the state government for a few selected community leaders and individuals from the communities affected by the Murum dam(left)in central Sarawak, already under construction, and the planned Baram dam.
They point out the briefings cannot constitute, by any stretch of the imagination, free, prior and informed consent, as those invited were no more than individuals who had not been authorised by the residents of their respective longhouses to speak or decide for them.
They also slated the state governments recent announcement of the approval of plans for the resettlement of Baram locals as a fait accompli, even though the feasibility studies, including the Environment Impact Assessment and the Social Impact Assessment, are still nowhere to be seen.
Misery at resettlement schemes
The NGOs say T! aibs gov ernment is repeating the inhumanity of the huge Bakun dam and Batang Ai dam resettlement projects in central and western Sarawak respectively. Communities there lost their customary land, and are mired in debt, unemployment and ramshackle facilities at their resettlement schemes.
The Baram dam will be no different from (those in) Bakun and Batang Aithe fact that the Baram dam is only capable of generating 1,200MW power, half of that of Bakun(right), but has to displace 20,000 indigenous people, double that of Bakun, speaks of human disaster, See noted.
See predicted the Baram dam would not even generate 1,200MW as the state government had projected, because the statistics and basis of the projections were the results of studies conducted in the 1970s.
He pointed to a series of embarrassing, persistent power failures over the past few weeks in Sarawak as a reflection of mismanagement and wastage of hydro-electric potential. He said proponents of Bakun had boasted of a maximum generation capacity of 2,400MW power, but now only one turbine is running, able to produce no more than 300MW at full capacity.
This indirectly tells all Sarawakians that Bakun is a costly failure, that it will never generate 2,400MW power (as projected), not even 1,800MW, according to independent studies, he said.
It is sad that the affected indigenous communities have no say over the project. No information was given to them. The state government will dish out promises, but again, as Batang Ai and Bakun have shown, a disastrous outcome awaits, following the implementation of the resettlement.
See remarked that the Iban in Batang Ai remain among the hardcore poor, while Kayan, Kenyah, Penan and other villagers have lost their NCR land to logging and forest plantations in the vicinity of Bakun dam.
There will be no pr! ogress a nd development in the (Baram) area, as Batang Ai and Bakun are bearing witness.
KERUAH USIT is a human rights activist -anak Sarawak, bangsa Malaysia. This weekly column is an effort to provide a voice for marginalised Malaysians. Keruah Usit can be contacted at email@example.com