The Bidayuh voters are not happy with the Bengoh dam-so the impoundment of the dam which will submerge 15000 residents’ home has been postponed till the poll is over. But will the voters allow that to happen after the poll? They can also choose to throw out the incumbent to avoid such a calamity to their home. This is the right of the voters there to vote according to their best interests.
By Joseph Tawie(Freemalaysiatoday)
KUCHING: The recent decision to delay the impoundment of the Bengoh Dam, which sits in the heartland of the Bidayuh community, until well after the state election is telling, says a former Bengoh legislator.
“The real reason for the postponement is the elections. The Barisan Nasional is worried. There are 1,500 villagers and voters here who have refused to move out of their century-old settlement. These votes are crucial to SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party) and BN,” said the assemblyman who declined to be named.
According to him, the dam is an “explosive” conversation issue these days.
“People here are angry at BN. Their relatives from nearby villages have also expressed sympathy for them and may want to vent out their anger against the BN candidate for not being able to do something to stop the dam construction.
“The dam is the hottest issue in the Bengoh constituency and is being exploited by the opposition leaders,” he said.
Early this month, Sarawak Minister of Planning and Resource Management, Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, had announced that the impoundment of the Bengoh Dam would be postponed.
Already there are worrying trends that the opposition could wrest the seat in the coming state polls. The constituency has over 20,000 voters, 66% of whom are Bidayuhs. The incumbent SUPP is Jerip Susil.
In fact, there are five other Bidayuh-centric seats which are also facing a major threat from the opposition.
Influential Bidayuh leader Michael Manyin had recently warned the Sarawak BN leadership that aside from Bengoh, the coalition could face its stiffest ever challenge from the opposition in Opar, Tarat, Kedup, Tebedu and Tasik Biru.
Work on the Bengoh dam began in late 2008. The RM310-million dam is about an hour’s drive from Kuching and is expected to provide water for the Batu Kitang water plant which is supplying water to Kuching-Kota Samarahan areas.
But its construction came at the expense of 1,500 people from four villages of Rejoi, Pain Bojong, Taba Sait and Semban. The dam when impounded will submerge an area of 127 sq km, including the four villages.
The affected people have refused to move out to Semadang-Bau area which is some 16km away and have filed their case in the Kuching High Court.
Fodder for the opposition, PKR leaders from the Bidayuh community have been actively campaigning in the Bengoh constituency accusing the dam contractor, Nain Holdings Bhd, of neglecting the interest of the villagers.
Nain Holdings is owned by Hamid Sepawi, who is Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s cousin.
According to a PKR leader, who is involved in the community, Nain Holdings is “more interested in reaping the profits amounting to hundreds of millions of ringgit”.
He said that the company had also been awarded the construction of access road leading to the new settlement and the construction of 200 houses for the settlers.
The total value is about RM268.8 million, consisting of RM168.8 million for the access road and RM100 million for the construction of the houses.
He, along with other PKR leaders, have also alleged that Hamid Sepawi has been a proxy for Taib since the day he left the forestry department as a junior officer. Hamid is now ranked the 38th richest man in Malaysia by Forbes.
The Bengoh Dam, they said, allegedly earns Nain Holdings almost RM650 million.
The PKR leaders are also urging the community’s 8,000-odd graduates to inform and educate their parents and relatives on the government’s abuses and excesses.
“What are the Bidayuh community and their educated folk doing about Taib’s politics of development which has affected their own kind and robbing them of their ancestral lands?
“Where are our Dayak graduates numbering about 8,000? Can’t this group of intellectual people stop this BN government from trampling all over the Dayaks and taking away their lands at will?
“They should return to their villages and help to educate their parents and relatives on the dam,” they said.
They warned that if such “government blunders” were not rectified, it would be repeated in at least 12 more dams which are in the pipeline.
The PKR leaders also called on all Dayak non-governmental organisations and associations to join forces with Pakatan to stop these multi-billion-ringgit blunders.
“As long as BN wins every state and parliamentary elections, nothing will stop this government from plundering and looting our state.”