Does BN care about the constituents of Batang Ai?

Posted on March 22, 2009




The photos below were taken from the jetty in the photograph above.



Most idyllic setting for a romantic weekend, no?

This is the artificial lake that was created with the flooding of a a huge area of land with the construction of the Batang Ai hydro-electric dam in 1982.

Don’t know about this?

Read more about this HERE.

What you need to know is that arising from the creation of this man-made lake, 21 Iban longhouse communities  involving about 3,000 people were displaced from the area.

Blogger CKChew reported :

“…A study conducted by the Sarawak Museum in 1978-79 revealed that 52.3% of the people interviewed were unwilling to move and another 14.7% were uncertain. Of those who were prepared to move, one-third felt that they had no other option since the project is already decided and half felt that their leaders were probably acting in their best interest.

…The affected communities were involuntarily resettled in two phases in 1982 and 1984. Each family was compensated with RM8000 for their original home while they were required to pay another RM27,000 by monthly installment of RM120 for 25 years for the new house. This would total up to RM44,000 per unit. The new houses were constructed by the Sarawak Housing Development Corporation with design similar to the traditional longhouse. However, they are apparently smaller in size (half of their former house) and with poorer materials. The communities had since refused to pay the installments.

When their first moved to the new area the houses were not completed. They were forced to built temporary huts or squat underneath the still constructing longhouse. During a visit of NGO in 1983 many felt that they had been tricked:

“The government promised us free longhouses. But now we are charged RM27,000 per pintu (door) and have been asked to pay RM127 per month. Where are we to go for the money?”

“We were told we would get free electricity. Now they have put up meters in every door and they are charging us monthly.”

The submerged farmlands were compensated with RM600 per acre and those not submerged RM300 per acre. The people consider the amounts unfair. They also consider tree crop compensation insufficient, such as RM18 for rubber, RM25 for pepper, and RM77 for durian per plant”.

In 1985, NGO’s study found that the allocation is far insufficient for a decent living of a longhouse family. Further the cocoa crop had failed due to pest problem. Many of them went back to their old farm above the reservoir where they could farm as well as hunt and fish as they did before.

The women interviewed in 1989 express their deep fear about their future.

There is no land for our children, unlike the old place where land can be shared equally. Here, all the land belongs to the government except for the small piece of dusun which is not even enough for our own survival” (Utusan Konsumer Mid-Feb 1989)

NGO’s follow up visit in 1993 found that the farm land allocated for the families were yet given titles. The people were merely working for wages 15 days in a month for Salcra scheme. The people express harder live that members of the families were forced to look for job as far as Bintulu, Brunei, Johor Baru and Singapore, while other are compelled to fell new state land for paddy farming”.

Chew’s full report can be read HERE.

Malaysiakini, on 17th March, 2009, reported PKR prospective candidate for the forthcoming Batang Ai by-election, Nichloas Bawin, as urging the state government to honour its promise and to immediately issue land titles to 400 households from 20 longhouses that were resettled as a result of the construction of the Batang Ai hydro-electric dam in 1982.

“It seems that after so many years the people of these resettlements continue to remain neglected. Most of these promises were never implemented satisfactorily, if at all. I therefore urge the authorities to institute the issuing of land titles to their lots forthwith, give them more land, alleviate poverty and build more medical facilities,”, Bawin is reported to have said.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to ride with the other PKR possible candidate for this all-important by-election, Jawah Gerang from Sri Aman all the way to his longhouse .


We chatted at length about why he appeared to be making a comeback, and what he hoped to achieve for the people of Sarawak if he was nominated by the party and subsequently elected by the people of Batang Ai.

We exchanged thoughts on a subject close to my heart : anak Bangsa Malaysia.

He shared with me his concerns about the state of politics today.

He gave me some insight into the history of the Dayak community and their history.

I do not propose to narrate all of our discussion in this post as it would be somewhat premature, given that the party leadership has not as yet officially announced the name of the chosen candidate for the by-election.

When we reached his longhouse, I was rather taken aback as I was expecting to see the wooden structures that I have become accustomed to see in past pictorials.

Jawah explained that more and more longhouses are now made of brick and mortar to avoid a disaster if a fire should break out in the longhouse, as has happened in the past.


Jawah told me that there were 156 longhouses within the constituency of Batang Ai.

I asked what was the average monthly family income of those who lived within his longhouse.

“RM2,000 per year”, he replied.

I was stunned.

“That’s a little more than RM150 a month”, I responded, quite shocked.

Jawah just stared back at me.

“What about the other 155 longhouses?”

“More or less the same”, he replied.

On my drive back to Kuching with the rest of the team, I pondered on the question whether the BN government that has ruled this state since independence truly has the well-being of its people.

I found the answer to this poser in a Malaysiakini report yesterday of the house in Ottawa owned by the present Chief Minister’s daughter’s and her husband, which is worth in excess of RM28 million.

courtesy of M'kini

courtesy of M'kini

Posted in: Batang Ai