MCO: Rural Sarawakians need more govt assistance, says NGO

Peter John Jaban

KUCHING, March 27: Rural Sarawakians are in need of more government assistance to cope with the Covid-19 outbreak amid the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Human rights activist Peter John Jaban believed the situation in the rural areas could be much worse than the general perception.

“The rural communities, although they can continue farming and living in low density areas (reduced Covid-19 risk), they are facing their own problem such as poor access to healthcare.

“For those who are stateless, the impact will be even greater, as they are not be eligible for any aid, despite the fact that they are genuine natives of Sarawak,” he opined.

Peter said the damage could be immense if Covid-19 makes it way to the rural communities that do not have proper access to medical treatment.

The report that 20 workers in an oil palm plantation in Sri Aman that were suspected to be infected with Covid-19 only worsened the situation, he added.

“How could they not be subjecting their workers to proper health checks at a time like this? This kind of cavalier attitude on the part of these plantation companies could cost countless lives.

“Therefore, Solidarity Anak Sarawak (SAS) demand that the lockdown apply equally to all industries in Sarawak, especially those in the rural areas, which risk infecting people with no healthcare coverage,” he said.

Touching on the importance of food security, Peter said the rural agriculture smallholders should be supported to become the backbone in food production.

On another note, SAS commended the initiative taken by the Sarawak government through its Sarawakku Sayang Special Assistance package.

Peter, who is also SAS spokesperson, deemed the package as the most extensive and people-focused stimulus package from any of the Malaysian states, recognising the work of frontline staff during the crisis and providing some respite for the lowest income groups.

“Solidariti Anak Sarawak applauds the state government for this first package, worth RM1.15 billion.

“Sarawakian are facing this crisis better off in many ways than the rest of Malaysia, and the state’s stimulus package is significantly larger than its neighbouring Borneo State of Sabah, despite having a smaller population,” he said. — DayakDaily