MIRI: A community-based organisation has pointed out the irony of Sarawak being the richest state in natural resources yet having a large number of poor families.
Michael Jok (pic), who is the secretary-general of the Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips), said they had carried out analyses over the years in Sarawak concerning poverty and human rights issues.
“State government leaders and political leaders often say that Sarawak is the richest state in the country.
“But the fact on the ground is that the ordinary folk in Sarawak are among the poorest in the nation, ” he said in an interview.
He said Scrips had outlined three factors leading to the impoverished state of the people.
“Firstly, there are bad policies that deny the interest of the majority in Sarawak in favour of a powerful few and their cronies, ” he claimed.
He attributed politics as the second reason, saying that certain politicians used poverty as a divide-and-rule tactic.
“Thirdly, there are many social woes like lack of education and poor discipline among the communities that engulf them in the cycle of poverty, ” said Jok.He was commenting on a statement by United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Prof Philip Alston that 20% of Malaysian households had a monthly income of less than RM3,000, that 8.8% must scrape by on less than RM2,000 and that the situation was more dire in certain areas.
Prof Alston also said there was a “disproportionate number of low-income households, with 16.1% of households in Sabah and 15.5% in Sarawak, having an income of less than RM2,000”.
(Several Malaysian leaders have debunked Prof Alston’s report, saying that Malaysia’s poverty figure was derived from globally accepted measures.)
But Jok called on Sarawak state leaders to take the report seriously.
“There must be good governance at both the federal and state levels in terms of policies and laws.
“They must engage the NGOs and community organisations, ” he said, adding that the people’s mindset should also be changed through education.
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