Joseph Tawie | September 12, 2011
Free Malaysia Today
The five-term incumbent MP Richard Riot is having sleepless nights because of the opposition party’s attack on his constituency.
KUCHING: The centre set up by Sarawak DAP in Serian has not only set in motion its determination to wrest the parliamentary seat from the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) in the coming general election but also caused ripples among the Bidayuh community as well as in the Barisan Nasional camp.
Weekly education programmes are organised by the party to instil political awareness among the Bidayuh community, so that they know their rights as voters as well as their rights and privileges to development, scholarships, business opportunities and so on.
With all these activities going on, Michael Manyin, the state assemblyman for Tebedu and state minister as well as Martin Ben, state assemblyman for Kedup, have expressed concern.
The two constituencies (Tebedu and Kedup) form the Serian parliamentary constituency.
Peter Minos, who is deputy information chief of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), accused DAP of being too “ambitious and greedy” in eyeing Bidayuh parliamentary seats.
“The urbanites may love DAP but not the Bidayuhs who still need many basic things like treated water, electricity and roads from the BN government,” he said.
Besides the Serian seat, DAP is also interested in contestesting other Bidayuh majority seats of Mambong and Mas Gading.
Riot feeling the heat
Five-term Serian MP Richard Riot, who is deputy minister of foreign affairs, is also feeling the heat coming from DAP that he has never missed any weekend to be with his constituents.
He has to counter and contain not only the increasing influence of DAP but also appease the growing discontentment of the community against his leadership.
His victory in the last election was mainly due to the strong support given by the Bidayuh community which comprises 23,540 voters. But now the community appears to be split, and this is his main concern.
And as far as the 3,200 Chinese voters in the constituency are concerned, their votes will go for DAP.
Many Bidayuhs question Riot’s effectiveness as a MP as there has been no significant development in the Serian constituency over the past 21 years under his leadership and SUPP.
Some even suggest that the seat should be contested by PBB, arguing that the state seats of Tebedu and Kedup are now held by PBB representatives.
And there are Bidayuhs like Ik Pahon Joyik, president of the influential Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA), who want Riot to step down and give way to a much younger person.
They also want other Bidayuh MPs, James Dawos (Mambong) and Tiki Lafe (Mas Gading), to do the same.
“We want younger, effective, robust and vibrant MPs,” Ik said.
‘Don’t blame him’
According to Riot, Prime Minster Najib Tun Razak knows how serious the problems affecting the community are, so he wants the former to defend the seat for a sixth term.
As in any Dayak area, native customary rights (NCR) land is a major issue.
Five hundred villagers from 10 villages in Riot’s constituency took matters into their hands by burning seven heavy machinery, four lorries and five logging camps after their elected reps and the authorities did not help them.
When timber companies continued to encroach into their NCR land and communal forest, the villagers protested and lodged police reports and complaints to Riot and Manyin (state assemblyman for Tebedu).
The politicians however accused the villagers of being “anti-development” and claimed that they were instigated by the opposition.
The other hot issue is the ongoing perimeter survey which is not making the Bidayuhs happy as only the land surrounding their villages and temuda (farm land) are surveyed. The rest of the land becomes state land.
There are other problems as well such lack of good roads, treated water, electricity and medical care facilities.
But Riot’s supporters argued that the MP should not be blamed.
As a MP from SUPP, Riot knows how much he can do to help his people; in fact some of the requests he made appeared to fall on deaf ears.
Angry and unhappy for being sidelined over the years, Riot was one of the five MPs identified to have agreed to join Anwar Ibrahim’s coup bid on Sept 16, 2009.
The coming election may see Riot facing one of his schoolmates, Edward Andrew Luak, a senior employee of Sarawak Shell.
As chairman of the Serian DAP branch, Edward and his key men have been conducting nightly visits to all the villages in the constituency to explain DAP’s policy of “ubah” (change).
“Although the response from the villagers is good, we still need to work harder,” he said