Sarawak state elections will make news not just from the `players’/parties, but also from the `referees’/EC: The EC was promised Rm30mil by the EC Putrajaya chief just weeks ago-but suddenly the budget shot up 50% to Rm45mil! What will the EC Sarawak use the extra budget for-just like what did the EC Putrajaya used the 100% hike in their `fee’ in administer by-elections from Hulu Selangor onwards? Previously EC administer a by-election at about half a mil each-and the fee went up to Rm1mil from Hulu Selangor. But the question on how they spent the money was never explained. Will the current budget for Sarawak state election make any difference?
What could possibly justify a RM15 million increase in allocations for the 10th Sarawak election? And where would the additional RM15 million, which incidentally wasn’t there six months ago, be channelled?
Would it go towards “helicopter charges” as indicated by the Sarawak Election Commission’s latest disclosure that it had allocated RM45 million for the 10th state polls? Or will it translate into a government’s “gift” to ease the burden of the people?
Those in the “know” are already doing their mathematics.
Sarawak has some 6,000 longhouses and despite the state’s immense oil and gas resources it is, unfortunately, the fourth poorest state in the country.
The bulk of these precarious-looking longhouses have no clean water or electricity and children walk hours at a stretch to get to their abysmal-looking schools. If they are lucky, they’ll have two square meals.
The federal government’s latest round of withdrawal of subsidies and oil hikes has upped the price of kerosene (an essential item in every longhouse) to over RM4.50 a litre and likewise the cost of basic necessities such as sugar, flour and rice.
In fact, the additional burden had been the recent incessant rain which led to Sarawak’s worst seen floods in recent years.
The prices of basic necessities are not only high, they have skyrocketed. At a time like this, money, any amount, will be literally godsent!
These interesting posers have put a different spin on state EC director Takun Sunggah’s revelations about the RM45 million allocation for the Sarawak polls.
Sunggah had said the allocations “were justified” because Sarawak was a vast state with many areas only accessible by air “especially by helicopters”.
Didn’t the EC know this six months ago when their KL boss, chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof declared, here, that it was “ready to conduct the 10th Sarawak state election and has set aside RM30 million for the purpose”?
Incidentally, the infrastructure situation in Sarawak has not seen any major changes since August last year when Aziz announced the EC’s preparedness.
The vast expanse of Sarawak’s interior is still only accessible by dirt roads or logging tracts, boats or by air. And the natives, urban and rural, are still battling Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s regime for their land rights, among others.
‘Most exciting polls ever’
In 2006, the EC had allocated RM31 million for the state polls, the bulk of which Aziz had said was also for “helicopter charges”.
Can anyone tell FMT how much it really costs and are not army helicopters part of the “machinery” at the government’s disposal?
Sarawak with its 71 state constituencies is seeing for the first time ever a consolidated battle between parties for political power.
In the ring are ruling Sarawak Barisan Nasional team comprising Taib’s Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).
Opposing them is the Pakatan Rakyat coalition of PAS, DAP and PKR, Sarawak National Pary (SNAP), Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) and other minor players and independents.
Taib’s team currently holds 62 of the 71 seats contested in the 2006 state polls.
His PBB won all its 35 seats, including in 27 Malay-majority seats, while SUPP won 11 seats and PRS and SPDP took eight each.
The rest is held by DAP and independents.
In the upcoming state polls, an empowered opposition is expected to unleash its full might on Taib’s team.
Already DAP has declared that it has 15 seats in the bag, while SNAP has said it will contest in 28 Dayak-majority areas. PAS is reportedly eyeing PBB’s 27 Malay-majority seats.
Since BN’s unprecedented defeat in the Sibu parliamentary by-election last year, there has been a mood-swing leaning towards the opposition.
The increased presence and access of alternative media – online news portals, blogsites, online radio, TV and print (opposition party vernacular newsletters) – spilling the “truth” about Taib’s extensive wealth, locally and abroad, and his family’s opulent lifestyle are fodder for kitchen and coffeeshop banter.
The corporate corridors are also rumbling over lack of business opportunities and the arbitrary awards of contracts to Taib’s family members and cronies.
There is also the increasing pile of lawsuits against the Taib regime for land grabs and illegal loggings.
According to a civil servant, the coming Sarawak polls will be the “most exciting ever”.
“Winning and losing are secondary to the information download here. People are now more aware of what is happening in Sarawak.
“Even in the rural areas, people are talking,” he said.