Who is King of Sarawak's Rainforest? An Insight to Sarawak's Land Corruption Led by its Chief Minister and His Family

By Tisha Raj
Earth Common Journal
2013, Vol. 3 No. 1 | pg. 4/4 |

The Significance of a Power Shift in the 13th General Elections

When Global Witness exposed the controversial documentary of the shady dealings of land grabs in Sarawak, Sta Maria (2013, para. 5) reported the video had sparked protests among 300 Bidayuhs, Ibans and Malays as they were outraged by Taib's cousins' degrading remarks. See Chee How, Pakatan Rakyat's state election operation director agreed it made a strong impact on Sarawakians however he told Sta Maria he was still unsure if it was enough to end BN's rule in the state (2013, para. 7).

In the same interview by Sta Maria, Professor Jayum anak Jawan, warned the opposition to be not overly dependent on Global Witness for a win (2013, para. 8). A native of Sarawak and Deputy Dean of University Putra Malaysia's Faculty of Human Ecology explained the video will only impact the urbanites (2013, para. 9). Sta Maria reported (2013, para. 9) Jayum further asserted that these urbanites have already made up their minds on who to vote for and the video merely reaffirms their choice. He also emphasized the diverse political patterns that exist between urban and rural voters, "Rural voters are dependent on small handouts and are removed from national issues" (Sta Maria, 2013, para. 10).

Many of the indigenous communities live right in the heart of the rainforest of Sarawak therefore do not have access to the modern forms of media or technology or access is limited. Da Silva's research in the remote regions of Ecuador proved that "A separation in technology eventually leads to a separation in community as individuals go unheard, and unnoticed" (2012, p. 9).

As noted, Sarawak remains to be one Malaysia's poorest states and suffer from a high social inequality. How then are Sarawakians going to come together to fight on sustaining their rainforest, human rights, social and economic issues? Definitely not while Taib and his elitist family members and friends stay in power. The situation that is happening in Sarawak leads to Wilkinson's (2010, p. 134) theory proving that social inequality leads to negative social and health outcomes. "Because people are less out for themselves in more equal societies, the higher levels of trust and involvement in community life suggest they are more public spirited. So, greater equality is likely to make an important contribution to sustainability" (Wilkinson, 2010, p. 134).

Jayum commented that Sarawakians were more invested in state elections than the federal elections. "State elections are about the configuration of state power and leadership" (Sta Maria, 2013, para. 22). He told Sta Maria (2013, para. 23) they are more interested in who controls Sarawak at the end of the day than who represents them at the Federal level. Sta Maria (2013, para. 24) reported that Jayum described the election in Sarawak is an "awakening" that will bring hope to rural voters by showing them that they have alternative when choosing parliamentary representatives. His personal wish was to see a winning coalition with a less than two-third majority saying, "Two thirds would be too powerful and will make them forget that they are working for the people" (Sta Maria, 2013, para. 27).

Election Outcomes

On May 6, 2013 Malaysia's long governing coalition Barison Nasional won the 13th General Elections. CBC News (2013, para. 3) reported the elections had exposed "the entrenched racial divide in the country but also a new schism-between the rural poor who preferred the status quo and the urban middle-class who wanted change."

CBC News reported that despite having lost its popularity vote, nevertheless it seems BN had done well by winning 133 seats in the 222 member parliament-down to a fraction from the 135 it won in 2008 (2013, para 5). BN had banked heavily on three states with large rural populations to which Sarawak was one of them. "...many people from indigenous groups and ethnic Malay majority are beholden to the government for handouts traditionally given to them" (CBC News, 2013, para. 7).

It was no secret that BN benefited from gerrymandering of constituencies. In Sarawak, nearly all six constituencies won by opposition had between 26,000 and 40,000 voters each as reported by CBC News (2013, para. 13). "In contrast, only two of the National Front's 20 parliamentary seats in Sarawak had that many people vote on Sunday" (CBC News, 2013, para. 13).

Welsh affirmed, "What we are seeing here is a regime that has used the trappings of power to stay in power" (CBC News, 2013, para. 13). What does this mean for the future of Sarawak's rainforest and its people? As long as Taib and his family remain in power the words of Welsh seem to hold true of Sarawak's future "…that the deforestation will continue, as "the elite in Malaysia are concerned with making money" (Mullany, 2013, para. 20).

It will take the brave activists such as Rewcastle Brown, her colleagues along with other environmentalists, human rights and political advocates to stop the rape of Sarawak's rainforest and its indigenous people of suffering from a 'silent death.'


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