Ali Baba contractors ‘killing-off’ Dayak business

‘Ali Baba’ contractors are squeezing Dayak contractors out of busienss in Pakan, Sarikei, Bintagor, Selangau, Kanowit and Sri Aman constituencies. 

Joseph Tawie, FMT

SARIKEI: Discontent Dayak contractors in Pakan may cost Julau MP Joseph Salang to lose substantial votes in the coming general election.

Salang, who is also Deputy Minister of Information, Communications and Culture, seems to be unable to help his genuine Dayak contractors.

According to the contractors, they are shabbily treated and are victims of the famed ‘Ali Baba contractors’ disease which surfaced during the era of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

According to a local contractor Joseph Allen, in Pakan the Ali Baba contractor has been active for the past three years.

“This contractor is aligned to certain government officers. He ‘sapu’ (clean-sweeps) all big projects with high profit prospects meant for Pakan because of his connection with certain government officers,” said Allen.

The ‘Ali Baba’ system in Pakan works through three bumiputera companies which are under the control of a non-bumiputera contractor. The practice has been going on for three years.

These projects which include village road projects, public infrastructure and basic infrastructure projects were passed through the Public Works Department (JKR) to this Ali-Baba contractor.

Last week several frustrated bumiputera contractors met with the Resident of Sarikei division to voice their complaints only to be told that there was nothing he could do to help them.

Dissatisfied with the answer, the group led by Hereward Gramong approached Salang last Saturday in Sibu because most of the federal-funded projects in Julau were channeled through Salang.

Salang instead advised them to discuss with the officers handling the projects or tenders.

But instead of meeting the officers handling the projects, the Pakan district Bumiputera Contractors Association met on Sunday to discuss their next move.

Malpractices and abuse of power

They agreed to write a petition letter to Salang with copies extended to the Pakan assemblyman and Minister of Social Development William Mawan Ikom, Meluan assemblyman Wong Judat, Sarikei Division Resident, Divisional Engineer and Pakan and Julau district officers.

In the letter, they demanded that the authorities concerned bar the three Ali-Baba contractors who they identified, from vying for tenders offered through Pakan District Office.

They demanded that officers sitting in the tender board be changed as they suspected there were some elements of malpractices and abuse of power.

The bumiputera contractors also suggested that in order to ensure fair distribution of projects among the genuine bumiputra contractors, there should be a casting of lots (cabut undi) or on rotation system especially for projects though JKR for Class F, Class EX and Class E contractors rather than by open tender.