Sg Siput MP appears, BN delivers ?!

PSM CALLS THE SHOTS IN SUNGAI SIPUT


In recent days, all manner of goodies are coming the way of the people of Sg Siput, just more than 2 years after the PSM wrested the parliamentary seat from Samy Vellu of the Barisan Nasional in the 12th General Elections. Housing lots, flood relief measures, development money, welfare aid, cash money, just to name a few, have come seeking out the constituents of Sg Siput, like they have never done before.

The MP of Sg Siput seems to have acquired a magic wand. All he has to do is to appear in a community having a recent or a decades-long unresolved issue, meet and discuss with the community leaders, and together draw up a list of demands, and hey presto! That very week itself the Perak BN is scrambling into the area, taking feverish measures to resolve the demands.

Thus communities organized by the PSM before and since winning the seat – urban poor, hawkers, farmers, traditional Malay villagers, smallholders, youth, orang Asli etc – have begun to get what they have been deprived of and denied for decades. Here are some examples:

· The people of Kg Shing Chung Belakang, and Kg Belakang Sg Buloh, just to name two urban pioneer villages, are getting housing lot offers after having been neglected and denied their rights to the land they pioneered more than 30 years ago.

· The endemic flooding of the Sg Pelus has now ceased after extensive river dredging was carried out following the signature campaign organized by the PSM in seven affected areas.

· In the PPMS (a land scheme for poor families - whose poverty government policy helped exacerbate!), after the PSM began providing bus transport for 30 secondary students forced to stay away from school, the Perak government took over the transport, and has now provided hostel accommodation. PSM’s continuous involvement and agitation resulted in the government arranging welfare aid for 30 families, and 20 cubic meters of water free for all the 85 families in PPMS each month.

· Youth groups, such as the one in Sg Krudda Estate, preparing to meet the MP to list their demands have been quickly intercepted with cash!

In a situation where opposition MPs in a BN-ruled state are illegally denied a single sen of the RM1 million development allocation for the constituency, the PSM can’t do better. There are many festering problems in this typical former BN stronghold and the BN and its component parties have neither the political will and commitment nor the imagination to address and resolve them. The well-known style of the BN is to appease and oil the hands of individual chieftains thereby buying their loyalty and that of their followers.

But since the PSM’s election victory and its manifesto promise of people-centred development and the furtherance of a people’s needs-based agenda, it has everywhere engaged with whole communities, developing consciousness of their rights and translating those into demands.

The following is an example of such a demand. The standard requirement of the land office, once the state government offers housing lots in a traditional urban pioneer village, is for the squatters to demolish their homes, and then rebuild new houses on the restructured and redrawn land. While this may sound neat, the reality is that building a new house is beyond the means of the average low-income resident family. So the PSM together with the people drew up an atypical demand, to wherever possible, draw the plan of the new village according to the existing squatter village, thereby accommodating as many homes as possible within the new parameters, and thereby enable as many families as possible to retain their homes. Now the Perak BN looks set to accommodate this demand!

It is clear that the BN wants to win back Sg Siput and is prepared to put in money and resources, even pulling out elected representatives of other constituencies to carry out programmes unheard of in their own constituencies. But there are other reasons, and chief among these is how the work of the Sg Siput MP and his team continue to erode and undermine the efforts of the Perak BN in enhancing its credibility after its infamous power grab in Perak.

The Perak MB has been vocal in his public announcements about development for the people but there is little seen on the ground. He may be approachable (who isn’t after 8 March 2008?), his officers may seem less bureaucratic, the state may be less aggressive towards the marginalized, but there is great delay in meeting people’s demands, and little commitment in translating policy or words into action.

Since the PSM won the Sg Siput parliamentary seat, there have been many mass actions that have no doubt caused a great deal of unease and embarrassment to the Perak state government.

Among these was the Kg KTM series of mass actions which included a march to the land office, culminating in a demonstration there and a mass police report. These were undertaken after the villagers whose resettlement process had been in the final lap, had their offer withdrawn after the BN power grab in Perak, and were threatened with forced eviction within 2 weeks.

There was also the PPMS demo which saw 30 hardcore Malay families protesting outside the MB’s office demanding water and development of the land that had been promised earlier.

There were the vegetable farmers from 5 different localities in and around Sg Siput who went to Suhakam after the land tilled by them for decades was being given to developers.

Just last week, 10 Perlop 1 Felda Scheme settlers, in danger of having their land auctioned off after being cheated by the RISDA cooperative, were accompanied by the PSM team to seek help at Putrajaya. (This issue was earlier highlighted when the Sg Siput MP in summing up the predicament of the Malay poor in the last session of Parliament spoke on the conflict of interest between the corporate Malays and the Malay Marhein).

Sg Siput – a jewel lost from the BN crown - is not just a seat the BN would like to take back. It is becoming a liability to the Perak BN and hurting whatever image it is trying to create or redeem, as the PSM team moves among the communities neglected by development, mobilizing them to press for long overdue demands.

The PSM is happy that the victors are the people of Sg Siput.