17 January 2011
SUNGAI ASAP: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s weekend visit to Sarawak may have saved Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s political hide, which has come under “tremendous pressure” since the Sibu by-election in May 2010.
Literally taking the bull by the horn, Najib led off his government transformation programme by resolving a gnawing pain in Sarawak’s neck – the Bakun Dam resettlement issue.
On Saturday, more than 1,500 families at the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme heaved a huge sigh relief at the federal government’s decision to write off their remaining RM41 million housing loan.
The move will ease the burden of some 10,000 people who were affected by the resettlement programme following the construction of the Bakun Hydro Dam in 1996.
The settlers have long since been battling with the state government over earlier promises made to the settlers with regard to housing, and inadequate land allotment and utilities.
Sarawak, which is heading for its 10th state election, is very much dependent on its rural vote-bank. But an empowered opposition armed with a seemingly endless list of Taib’s corrupt adminstration and personal abuse is threatening to derail rural support for Barisan Nasional.
Last week in a much hyped series of meet-the-MPs, Najib had a session with three Sarawak MPs. What transpired is really anyone guess.
But over the weekend, Najib announced a slew of rural development projects starting with the discontentment of the Sungai Asap community.
Said Najib: “In principle, we agree to cancel the housing loan.
“The details and mechanism of how it will be done will be discussed with Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, the developer of Bakun Dam.
“We are doing this because we understand your plight and hardship.
“We are connecting electricity supply to Sungai Asap. We will be spending RM22 million to connect Sungai Asap to the main grid,” he told the delighted group of people at Rumah Belor, Sungai Asap.
Consolidating BN’s vote bank
Najib also addressed the community’s unhappiness over the size of land allocated to each family as part of the resettlement package pledged by the Taib administration.
The state governemnt had allocated only three acres per family which the resettlers said was insufficient to generate an income.
“We will find the best ways to allocate more land to each family to ensure the people have a better income,” he said.
Earlier in Belaga, he announced an allocation of RM62 million for the much-awaited 35km road project from Belaga town to Bakun Dam.
“The army will build it under the ‘Jiwa Murni’ programme to reduce the cost… if the Public Works Department were to build the road, it will cost RM350 million,” he said, adding that the government was aware of how vital the road was for the community.
The Belaga district communities were dependent on the Rajang River but the impoundment of the Bakin Dam had left certain stretches shallow.
“Construction of the road will begin next month. The federal government will allocate RM62 million for the project,” he said, adding that since November last year moves to bring treated water supply to Kapit town and the neighbouring communities were already underway.
The RM35 million water supply project is expected to be ready by October 2012.
Najib also said the Belaga district with its 28,000 population would see more infrastructure development to the tune of RM100 million .
Among them is a prefabricated steel bridge across the Linau River in Lusong Laku and a kindergarden for the local Penan community.
Najib said that the governemnt would also build nine resthouses for Penan pupils at Sungai Urun.
“Our desire is to see that no single race – no matter how small or isolated – will be left behind by the present government,” he said.
Source: Free Malaysia Today