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THERE are 82 state assembly seats at stake in the Sarawak polls. Whichever party (or group of parties) secures 41 seats or more will govern the state for the next five years. 

Intense political campaigning is ongoing with politicians on both sides bringing up all sorts of issues to influence their voters. 

Clean water supply, electricity in rural areas and lack of internet access are the common and longstanding topics.

The lack of rural air services and connectivity such as roads, bridges and river transport have become key issues too.

Current issues

As the rising prices of goods become the number one issue, the divide between the haves and the have-nots and the rich urbanites and the rural poor have never been more obvious.

The power to rule has for a long time been vested in the richer urban groups and the state is a classic example of how the economic pyramid is controlled by the small triangle of people at the top.

In fact, Sarawak has been a shining example of how wealth has remained in the hands of a few. The chances of the money trickling down to the rural pool are fairly remote, as remote as the locations of the many longhouses in the interior forests.

Speaking of forests, the trees have been the source of the wealth of the elite few. In fact, those in charge are closely linked to the sector, which has long been the hallmark of Sarawak political power.

Measure of wealth

It has been noted that Sarawak continues to log its forests and is now the only state left in Malaysia that allowed the wood to be exported. 

As the coastal areas have been fully logged and depleted, attention has now shifted to the interior part of the state, where most of the native customary lands are located.

When wealth is measured along ethnic lines, it is pretty obvious that the wealth of the majority of rural Sarawakians, who consist of mainly natives, (Ibans, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Kenyah, Kayan, Penan, etc.) are nowhere near the level of the urban powerbase.      

In the state elections, the conflicts between the urban rich (the minority) and the rural poor (the majority) are building to a peak.

The fact that 80% of the seats are located in the rural areas gives a real chance for the rural poor to unite and turn the tide against those who have been in power for far too long.

The rural majority now have able leaders. They are capable of ruling and correcting the wrongdoings manifested via one-sided state policies. There is a chance that they could shape the economy of Sarawak and tilt it to favour the majority rural population. 

They could enhance the secular political and social policies, set aside better allocations for education and put efforts into redistributing the state’s wealth in a more equitable manner and address the economic imbalance among the various ethnic groups. 


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