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Friday, May 30, 2014

‘Why ‘Tunship' for Taib when under MACC probe?’


Sarawakians are wondering why the former Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, tainted by allegations of corruption with numerous MACC reports lodged against him, has been awarded a Tunship by Yang Dipertuan Agong, said Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian.

Taib, described as one of South-East Asia’s richest men, bowed out of office  on February 28, 2014 after helming the state  for about 33 years.

Baru (right) who is Ba'Kelalan Assemblyperson said: "Questions arise as to the results of the investigations carried out by the MACC and as to why the award was seemingly kept under wraps until it was a fait accompli.

"Could it be to avoid the embarrassment of protests against the award to a man whose immense wealth is believed to be at the expense of the people of the state?" he said in his Gawai Dayak message.

The Dayaks, comprising over  70% of Sarawak's 2.6 million-population are celebrating their annual ‘Hari Gawai Dayak' (Dayak Festival Day) on June 1.

Baru said: "Our celebration of Gawai would be more meaningful if we had courageous and righteous leaders who are not afraid to right the wrongs and injustices that continue to be committed daily, to give us the hope of better days ahead.

"This Gawai, I wish to call for a new resolve by all Sarawakians and our leaders to be courageous in the face of the many challenges faced by our communities and to speak up for our rights in one voice," he said in obvious reference to a number of issues and incidences that are threatening the nation's religious freedom and unity.

Need for moral courage emphasised

He added that they are witnessing challenges to the racial harmony and religious freedom that that have been enjoyed for many decades.

“The political scenario is such that the majority of local leaders do not have the moral courage to make clear stands on issues and incidences which threaten the cohesiveness of our multiracial and multi-cultural society”, he said.

Referring to incidences like the storming of the Penang State Assembly and the anti-Christian seminar at UiTM, he described them as the latest in a series of events of serious concern to all   Sarawakians  anxious to prevent similar incidences from happening in the state.

"Indeed, we have been told of an incident in Balai Ringin which was alleged to have been an attempt at Islamisation of schoolchildren by a religious NGO.

“Added to that, the decision in the Herald case is beginning to affect us, contrary to the assurances given by those such as (Human Resources Minister) Richard Riot and (Minister in the Prime Minister Department) Joseph Kurup that it would not.

"My fears have been justified as seen in the recent High Court case where the judge applied the ruling in the Herald case to the SIB Church. This debacle is the result of political bias and inconsistency, where leaders are more concerned about their political survival than about speaking up for the rights of the minority groups," Baru said.

Expressing his concern, he declared that many are weary that Malaysia is no longer the safe, secure and harmonious nation it once was, where children could be brought up with peace of mind and confidence that they would be given equal rights and protection by the government of the day.

Sweat of the brow dismissed

"The descendants of those immigrants who toiled hard to contribute to the development of this nation are being labeled ‘pendatang' and rudely told to leave the country, he said.

Baru added that many are  wondering what the future holds for their children here,, pointing out that he firmly believed that "our Sarawakian communities still enjoy a special harmonious relationship with each other, each respecting the other's cultural and religious rights. Our ties and our spirit remain strong".

On the Gawai celebration, he said that in the past the Dayaks celebrated the festival in order to thank the gods for a successful harvesting season.

"I have just returned from a victory Gawai celebration in Suai, where the villagers held a thanksgiving ceremony for the successful claim of their native customary rights.

"In this Gawai, let us not forget our roots and our ties to the land. Like all indigenous communities in the world, we value our relationship to the land and the sea and the resources they provide.

"I wish to quote from an Alaskan Native, Antoinette Helmer who said ‘The land we hold in trust is our wealth. It is the only wealth we could possibly pass on to our children… Without our homelands, we become true paupers.'

"Therefore, as we offer thanksgiving for our harvests, let us also continue to protect our rights, be they rights to our land, or to religious freedom, or to coexist in peace and harmony. Let us continue to speak up for our brothers and sisters who find themselves in need of our support, as we in Sarawak have been known to do," he said.

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