Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We Breathe, We Fight

Opposition billboard with their battle cry ( in the Iban language) : Agi Idup, Agi Ngelaban ( We Breathe, We Fight)

Today ( 7 April) we took the highway to Kuching. We started the journey at 9.00 am from Bintulu. As usual our two cats Daisy and Inul joined us on their separate mission to create a new Malaysian record for the most travelled cats in Malaysia. However along the way we were caught by the election fever at Lubok Antu, which is about three quarters of our journey to Kuching. An half an hour diversion from the Pan- Borneo Highway brought us to the little town of Lubok Antu. Today it was bustling with cars, buses, 4x4 wheels vehicles, trucks on the roads and longboats and speed boats on the river. The Lubok Antu town was in a fiesta mood with make- shift stalls selling goodies, souvenirs, foods and drinks to thousands of people who congregate to cast their votes and later to witness the counting of ballot papers. We arrived at the town around 4.30 pm just half an hour before the casting of votes was over. I guess by the time we arrived Kuching in the evening the the results of voting would have been aired.
Opposition election banner in the river screams - 'Eliminate Our Land Robbers' ( In Malay - Hapuskan Perompak Tanah Kami)
What amazes me on this detour was the prevalence of poster war around the town. Two political parties are vying for the vacant state seat as a result of the death of its former representative. The Barisan Nasional (BN) - a coalition of ethnic or race-based political parties is challenged by the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) - a multi-racial party that accept common membership from the state's diverse races.
Walking around the town I noticed there seemed to be a even fight judging from the posters and people who wear T-shirts and uniforms displaying their political identities. The majority of the electorate here consisted of the Ibans (90%) and the balance a sprinkle of Malay, Chinese and other minority registered voters.
The main political issue raised by the opposition party is the up scaling of land grab by the government on the traditional lands of the Ibans which they claimed rights since generations ago but are frustratingly unrecognised by the government of the day. Increasingly huge tracts of Iban lands which they cleared manually for shifting agriculture are being taken from their hands for conversion into oil palm estates reserved for corporate bodies or outside companies. Their dire struggle against the State land laws becomes the main thrust of opposition agenda in Sarawak currently. The above inset of the rattan baskets sold abundantly along the town's 5-foot way epitomises the principal form of livelihood of the Ibans here. The rattan carrying baskets are used to carry ripe paddy stalks, jungle produce items and are borne by the men as well as women folks here. It is indeed a practical aid for rural farmers.
Police presence was everywhere and gave much confidence for the people to come to town. Inset shows a video filmer in action.
Location: Just outside the vote casting centre.
Addendum: We arrived Kuching at around 8.30 pm and by 9.00 pm the by-election results has been announced over the national TV ( RTM1). In the by-election, Malcolm Mussem of Barisan Nasional (BN) ( an Iban engineer) won with a majority of 1,854 votes after polling 3,907 votes, against the opposition candidate Jawah Gerang 's poll of 2,053 votes. Best man win. And democracy is alive and kicking.

1 comment:

Protege said...

I hope you are happy with the election outcome.;)) Can you tell me what the voting participation is in % on average at elections? In Denmark at elections, the participation is always almost 90%.

I love that your cats are traveling with you always.;) I wish I could take Batcat with me on my trips.;))But the borders between countries here still have strict rules about bring animals along.