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April 13, 2010

From DEB to NEM,what has Bumiputra Sabah&Sarawak benefits from it?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Pengayau @ 8:33 pm

Taken from Malaysian Mirror

Will Dayaks benefit from NEM?

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s New Economic Model (NEM) receives all-round support from leaders of the state Barisan Nasional when he introduced it last month, but the majority of the Dayaks and Dayak leaders have shown little interest.

Whether there is such a thing as NEM or not, they do not feel it. Nor are they excited about it. They think that it is something alien meant only for West Malaysians.

Secondly, they know that past economic policies such as New Economic Policy 1970-1990, National Development Policy 1990-2000, National Vision Policy and VISION 2020 have not been very helpful to them towards improving their livelihood; instead they have remained as there were, and in some cases their living conditions have worsened.

Not helpful

Studies conducted by Prof Jayum Jawan, Associate Professor Madeline Berma, Prof Dimbab Ngidang and others, showed that the Ibans had not benefited from those economic polices.

Dr Richard Leete of the UN Development programme in his paper, “The Paradox of Poverty Studies” presented at a seminar organised by the Sarawak Graduates Association said that studies showed that the Iban community was the poorest in the state with a poverty rate hovering at 10.5%.

According to him, the average poverty rate in Sarawak was 5.8%, while it was 5.2% for the Malays, It was 6.8% for the Orang Ulu who included the Kayans, Kenyahs, Kelabit and Lun Bawang. The rate for the Chinese stood at 1%.

While the rural areas have received unfair distribution of development projects resulting in them remaining below the poverty level (the poverty level has been defined as RM720 earning per month), Dayak businessmen in cities and towns have been struggling to make a living; many have been declared bankrupt for lack of business opportunities.  

The lack of opportunities was the focus of the Bumiputra Minorities Congress jointly organised by the Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Kadazandusun Chamber of Commerce and Industry in February 2005 in Kuala Lumpur.

Left behind

In her paper entitled “Bumiputra Minorities Participation in Commerce and Industry: Progress, Opportunities and Challenges” presented at the seminar, Associate Prof Burma said that at present the participation of the minorities in the economic sector in Sabah and Sarawak was less than 1% based on the stock equity in the corporate sector.

“Even though the minority bumiputras are part of this country, their participation in the economic sector is far behind and could even be said to be 30 years behind that of the majority bumiputras, who are mostly from the Malay community,” she said.

She pointed out that the government had prepared a complete policy for the economic growth, but the problem now was that it was not seriously implemented and monitored.

In a Dayak symposium held in Sibu on Jan 31 last year, it was noted that the government had not done much to develop rural areas.

The so-called “development” targeted were actually exploitation of natural resources on Dayak land such as timber concessions and native customary rights lands for the planting of oil palm.

Call a spade a spade

“These developments are not development at all because they are only exploitations of resources while the economic well-being of the Dayaks is ignored.  Those who truly benefit from such exploitation are the cronies and rich businessmen. The natives who are the real land owners are only bystanders who stood by helplessly as they watch how their resources are being taken right from under their noses,” the symposium was told.

Even the nine Five-Year Malaysia Plans have contributed little to the economic-well being of the natives as most of the funds were spent on mega projects in cities and towns.

And for the past 45 years, rural natives are only given minor rural development projects in the form of attap zinc, community halls, generator sets, vegetable seeds and fish fry. All these minor rural projects do not generate substantial income.

The introduction of Rubber Planting Schemes A in Triboh, Melugu, Skrang, Meradong, Peninjau and Lubai Tengah in 1966 to raise the economic  clout of the natives seemed to go well initially.

Under this scheme, NCR land owners were encouraged to plant rubber trees on their land with special clones provided free by the government. The government had also handed out subsidies, tools and fertilisers. Agricultural officers were also assigned to help the farmers.

Plight ignored

But with the collapse of rubber prices, their gardens were neglected and abandoned. Their plight was ignored. Some farmers cleared their land for the planting of other cash crops like pepper and cocoa.

Again another government effort introduced to stimulate economic activities and incomes through rural growth centres in Sarawak also failed to live up to expectation.

The setting up of so-called ministry of modernisation of agriculture has not done anything to transform the rural areas into agricultural-based zones. The natives are still practising primitive and subsistence methods of farming.

What development is there is to turn NCR land into huge oil palm plantations?

Many land owners after 10 years in the joint venture business have not received dividends, and for those who did, the amount was so meagre that some of them refused to accept the payment.

Believe me, some received only RM100 per year.

So with the introduction of the NEM, what makes it so special from past policies such as NEP, NDP, NVP, and VISION 2020. After years of disillusionment, the Dayaks do not believe it will improve their lot.

Poor people, rich state

It is not true to say that Sarawak is the third poorest state in Malaysia.

It cannot be said to be poor when it has abundant gas and oil, timber resources, coal and vast state land.

When people talk of Sarawak as being one of the poorest, it means the people there, especially the natives, are the poorest.

And if the RM720 poverty line is taken as a barometer, more than 500,000 rural natives are hardcore poor and many are living from hand to mouth.

Today, there are about 80% to 90% of longhouses that do not enjoy 24-hour supplies of electricity and clean water. Even longhouses and villages close to hydro-electric dams and towns do not have electricity and clean water supply. Basic infrastructure such as roads are also absent.

When one looks at the NEM strategies, reform initiatives and new economic growth areas, nothing is mentioned about helping the rural people. NEM only talks about resource-based oil palm industries.

Cause to be fearful

And to the Dayaks, it means outsiders are set to exploit them even more. This causes high anxiety as much of their land have been leased to companies without their consent.

Here and there in Sarawak, we have heard natives complaining about their land being forcibly taken away from them.

Even under the new concept of NCR land development, the land owners are also worried. On paper, the concept looks good, but in practice it is going to deprive the Dayaks of their NCR land especially if they participate in a joint venture business with Pelita (Land Custody Development Authority).

Under this concept, the land are subject to 60-year agreement and they are worried about what will happen to the land upon the expiry of the agreement. The land owners by then may have passed away and their children’s children may not know the exact location of the land of their forefathers. This could result in Dayaks becoming landless in future.

What the land owners have been asking is for Pelita to survey their land, not only to carry out a perimeter survey, but to survey individual land and issue titles to such land as well. Then there will be a clear boundary and delineation of land and the owners identified. Upon the expiry of the agreement, the land owners and their children will be able to locate their land. But their requests have been rejected.

Thus the Dayaks perceive that the NEM’s approach to resource-based industries in oil palm as a “threat” to their land especially when the government has promised to develop one million hectares by the end of this year or next, the bulk of which are land under native customary rights.

Can you blame the Dayaks for their lack of enthusiasm and indifference to NEM?

The way to help

But if the government is really sincere in helping the natives to raise their level of incomes, then it should introduce an oil palm scheme similar to the rubber planting scheme introduced in the 1960s to the rural areas.

The government did the same to those who planted pepper.

In this way, their land are not at risk of being snatched away, but at the same time they generate income for their owners and the nation.

Then and only then will the NEM be relevant to the Dayaks who will gain from its implementation

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