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2h2: Sarawak


Preamble

The total land area of Sarawak is 12.4 million ha., out of which 6 million ha.

(48%) are reserved for permanent forests and only 1 million ha. (8%) are Totally

Protected Areas (TPAs). But even the TPAs are not safe from illegal logging,

which contributes to environmental degradation.

In terms of social and economic development, there is a huge growth gap

between Sarawak and the peninsular region of Malaysia, which houses the centre

of federal power. Compared with developed heartlands in the peninsula, some

settlements in the Sarawak interiors have yet to be provided basic facilities such

as roads, electricity and clean water supply. Roughly 8–9% of Sarawakians

(250,000 out of a total population of close to three million), reside outside of the

state, in West Malaysia. Their reasons for migrating are mostly tied to education

and employment opportunities, and the majority only return home on special

family occasions due to expensive airfares. However, residing outside the state

has made it difficult for these Sarawakians to exercise their fundamental voting

rights, since the current voting system does not allow them to cast their ballots

without being physically present in the state. Overall voter turnout in Sarawak

during the 2018 general election was 73%, one of the lowest rates in the country.

The need for alternative voting mechanisms to ensure that thousands of

Sarawakians are not disenfranchised is all the more greater in this age of the

COVID-19 pandemic, with various travel restrictions and quarantine orders.

Another issue that needs to be highlighted concerns the estimated 40,000 persons

with disabilities (PWDs) in Sarawak who, like their fellow disabled community

members elsewhere in the country, are often poorly represented or portrayed

negatively and excluded from society. Many PWDs in Sarawak do not have a

fixed income, and their precarious situation has been worsened by the pandemic

and related restrictions. The prevalence of disability is expected to grow as

Malaysia’s population ages and chronic health problems increase. According to

Department of Statistics data, the elderly (over the age of 60) population in

Sarawak is expected to increase to between 15% and 20% of the total population

by 2031.


I: Disrupted Lives, Property Losses from Illegal Logging

Illegal logging in the north of Sarawak is believed to have caused unprecedented

floods that have wrecked damage on local communities and the surrounding

environment, on top of having serious repercussions on climate change, which is

a real threat in our backyard. Malaysia needs to do something before it is too late.

(Rining Peter, Keep Green Movement, Proposal 2H2-1)

1. Ensure sustainable forestry and devise green policies.

i. Enforce strictly related laws, such as the Forests Ordinance 2015, against

illegal logging, with the maximum penalty imposed on violators of the

laws.

ii. Establish a central coordinating committee with representation from all

stakeholders to address issues faced by all and to coordinate social

assistance programmes for the communities.

iii. The authorities should initiate a tree-planting programme.

iv. Instead of filling up cities with concrete jungles, introduce green lungs to

improve the environment.

(Rining Peter, Keep Green Movement, Proposal 2H2-1)


II: Non-resident Sarawakians’ Voting Rights


Voting during elections should be made accessible for the people of Sarawak

who live outside the state. With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating travel

difficulties, many will face an even greater challenge returning home to cast their

vote, as seen during the recent state elections.

2. Introduce postal voting/absentee voting.

i. Set up Election Commission booths in major towns to conduct postal or

absentee polling for the Sarawak state and federal elections.

ii. Institute postal voting for the people of Sarawak who are living overseas,

starting with the ASEAN region.

(Ann Teo, Persatuan Pemangkin Daya Masyarakat (ROSE), Proposal 2H2-2)


III: Marginalisation of PWDs


The national and state agendas have either shifted or dialled down the focus on

the rights of PWDs over the years. Most nation-building programmes appear to

be devoid of PWD-friendly content. As a collective group, PWDs are not seeking

special treatment; all they are asking for is to be treated fairly and equitably in line

with the principle enshrined in the Rukun Negara, of “creating a just society

where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and

equitable manner”, so that PWDs are able to flourish and contribute more

effectively to the wider society and the country’s future generations.

(Rapelson Richard Hamit, PERAIS, Proposal 2H2-3)

A new national policy framework should be established to ensure the basic rights,

dignity and well-being of PWDs.

3. Improve the lives of PWDs through better representation, public

accessibility and access to education and employment.

i. Set aside a 1% quota for representation of PWDs, in both government

and private sectors, and establish at least one PWD officer in every local

government body.

ii. There must be at least one PWD senator for Sarawak and one PWD

ADUN in the Sarawak State Assembly.

iii. Give PWDs half-rate discounts for purchases of utilities and goods such

as the national car, a house, internet, water, electricity, public transport

and flights to support their daily life and in the community.

iv. Provide more PWD-friendly public zones, facilities, shops, washrooms,

etc.

v. Both the private sector and the government must adhere to and fully

comply with the Persons With Disabilities Act 2008 in all matters,

especially on development and social issues, charity and access to work.

vi. Provide free education for all PWDs, from kindergarten to university

level.

vii. Devise state and federal incentives to encourage employers to hire PWD

staff.

(Rapelson Richard Hamit, PERAIS, Proposal 2H2-3)
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