Sunday, June 14, 2009
UMNO's Image at the Village Level.
While UMNO's leadership is trying hard to renew the party's and Barisan's image at the National and State levels, I sincerely believe that much work to clean up and revamp the party's image at the village level must be carried out. The voters come from the villages and towns ( urban villages!). If the leadership at this grassroots level is unsavory or repugnant, the efforts of national, state and even divisional leaders might become futile.
The headman in the village (or even in the urban community) is the closest to the villagers ( or townfolks). While in the urban areas the headman is under the constant scrutiny of the national and state leaders, the headman in a remote village is like a king. Whatever he says goes and complaints against him are automatically construed as coming from the opposition, even if the complainant is a party member but quiet and unknown - one of the silent majority. Such villagers can really become victims of unfair practice and treatment, of discrimination and marginalization.
Yesterday, I had the experience of visiting a 6 acre piece of land planted with rubber and some precious balau and chengal trees being illegally logged. The right to tap rubber on the land was given to someone who paid the two lady joint owners, a fixed amount of money every two month. Suddenly the rentor reported that some of the trees had been cut down, including a few of the 70 year old balau and chengal. If more of the logging continues there would be no rubber trees left.
My wife, a daughter of one of the owners, asked me to accompany her to visit the holding where the logging was being undertaken, purportedly as an effort to clear up the fringe of the smallholding along which an estate road was to be constructed. She immediately realized that an illegal logging was being cariied out on her mother's and autie's property and
called the police to investigate. A huge tractor and piles of logs were still there on the land. The rentor of the holding had already contacted the husband of one the landwners about the logging and was infomed that permission had been given to the village headman to clear up the fringe of the holding. But no cutting down of trees must be done until he could come down to visit the site with his wife. When both husband and wife came to see what had happened they were shocked beyond belief. Their huge and precious 70 year old balau and chengal landmarks had been logged together with some 60 rubbers trees. No wonder that morning the headman had come to see him about the clearing work done, and offerred some money for compensation, which he refused to accept since he had not agreed to any logging work.
It would appear that the headman had on his own granted permission to the contactor who was clearing the ground for the estate road to cut down the trees including the giant balau and chengal. The police on conducting an on-the-spot investigation ( see pics) found this to be true and agrees that a criminal charge for trespasiing be instituted.The contractor claimed that he had paid the headman for permission to do the logging, The amount was not disclosed though the headman had tried to pay the husband of the landowner RM800 for compensation.
How could the headman do such a thing? He should have been protecting the rights of the landowners instead of trying to make some money from the illegal logging of their landholding. Earlier, another portion of the land contiguous to another owner had also been cleared after the permisson of the two ladies had been obtained, so that some money from replanting could be requested from RISDA. It was found out that the clearing was done before permisson was given and the two ladies were never given any portion of proceed from the replanting grant. They remained the silent victims of cheating which the village headman ( of another village) should have prevented.
Shouldn't village headmen who rebuilt and aggrandized their homes, built good roads and concrete ditches around their properties, bought cars and motorcycles for their unemployed kids, listened to and helped only their relatives and supporters while many villagers are enraged and disheartened, leave children's playground and community centres to be overgrown with lalang and weeds, and couldn't care less for the voctims of injustices in the village be allowed to remain in power under the flagship of UMNO?
Unless UMNO's top leadership looked into these matters and rectify the abuses of power going on at the village level, we need not be surprised if the 'pembaharuan program' being undertaken is looked upon by the rakyat as just another campaign. The party must clear the ground and remove the deadwood at the bottom of the pyramid, and not just at the top.