Millions more for ‘helicopter charges’

A RM15 million increase in the Sarawak Election Commission’s poll’s budget has raised speculations over where it will go.

(Free Malaysia Today) – KUCHING: What could possibly justify a RM15 million increase in allocations for the 10th Sarawak election? And where would the additional RM15 million, which incidentally wasn’t there six months ago, be channelled?

Would it go towards “helicopter charges” as indicated by the Sarawak Election Commission’s latest disclosure that it had allocated RM45 million for the 10th state polls? Or will it translate into a government’s “gift” to ease the burden of the people?

Those in the “know” are already doing their mathematics.

Sarawak has some 6,000 longhouses and despite the state’s immense oil and gas resources it is, unfortunately, the fourth poorest state in the country.

The bulk of these precarious-looking longhouses have no clean water or electricity and children walk hours at a stretch to get to their abysmal-looking schools. If they are lucky, they’ll have two square meals.

The federal government’s latest round of withdrawal of subsidies and oil hikes has upped the price of kerosene (an essential item in every longhouse) to over RM4.50 a litre and likewise the cost of basic necessities such as sugar, flour and rice.

In fact, the additional burden had been the recent incessant rain which led to Sarawak’s worst seen floods in recent years.

The prices of basic necessities are not only high, they have skyrocketed. At a time like this, money, any amount, will be literally godsent!

These interesting posers have put a different spin on state EC director Takun Sunggah’s revelations about the RM45 million allocation for the Sarawak polls.

Sunggah had said the allocations “were justified” because Sarawak was a vast state with many areas only accessible by air “especially by helicopters”.

Didn’t the EC know this six months ago when their KL boss, chairman Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof declared, here, that it was “ready to conduct the 10th Sarawak state election and has set aside RM30 million for the purpose”?

Incidentally, the infrastructure situation in Sarawak has not seen any major changes since August last year when Aziz announced the EC’s preparedness.

The vast expanse of Sarawak’s interior is still only accessible by dirt roads or logging tracts, boats or by air. And the natives, urban and rural, are still battling Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s regime for their land rights, among others.

‘Most exciting polls ever’

In 2006, the EC had allocated RM31 million for the state polls, the bulk of which Aziz had said was also for “helicopter charges”.

Can anyone tell FMT how much it really costs and are not army helicopters part of the “machinery” at the government’s disposal?

Sarawak with its 71 state constituencies is seeing for the first time ever a consolidated battle between parties for political power.

In the ring are ruling Sarawak Barisan Nasional team comprising Taib’s Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).

Opposing them is the Pakatan Rakyat coalition of PAS, DAP and PKR, Sarawak National Pary (SNAP), Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) and other minor players and independents.

Taib’s team currently holds 62 of the 71 seats contested in the 2006 state polls.

His PBB won all its 35 seats, including in 27 Malay-majority seats, while SUPP won 11 seats and PRS and SPDP took eight each.

The rest is held by DAP and independents.