KUCHING: As a gateway into the country through Bandar Mutiara at the Tebedu-Entikong international border checkpoint, the state constituency of Tebedu has seen massive development, especially over the last 40 years.
This predominantly Bidayuh area has certainly earned a certain degree of fame as the main land crossing between Malaysia and Indonesia with the highest number of tourist arrivals recorded annually through Tebedu, which also saw the bulk of Sarawak’s export trade.
Expected to be one of the “safe” seats in the April 16 state election, Tebedu, under the Serian parliamentary constituency, is one of the six Bidayuh state seats with the community accounting for 91 per cent of its 12,497 registered voters.
By and large, the village folk are satisfied with the performance of their incumbent Dato Sri Michael Manyin, from the Barisan Nasional (BN), said Peter Sibon, 47, from Kampung Krusen.
As far as the constituents are concerned, Manyin, who is also Infrastructure Development and Communication Minister, had not been resting on his laurels, having done much to ensure that their native customary rights (NCR) land were properly surveyed and given titles.
Peter, a former pastor-turned-journalist, said compared to even 10 years ago, about 95 per cent of the Bidayuh villages, many of which are located close to the border, were now easily accessible by road.
“These days longboats, such as the ones I used to ride as a young boy travelling upriver along the Sungei Kayan/Sadong from my village to reach Serian town, are lying decayed by the river bank,” he said.
In contrast to poor conditions back in the 1960s when many areas and villages in the constituency were very backward, he was happy that development had reached Tebedu, in terms of educational and medical facilities besides roads, electricity and clean water supply.
Progress for him and his rural-based community was also reflected in the 100-odd college and university graduates who hailed from his village alone, said Peter.
But it is obvious that Tebedu’s success story partly lies in Manyin’s ability to complement member of parliament Datuk Richard Riot, who is also Deputy Foreign Minister, in the implementation of government policies in the area.
Even though on the surface the two Bidayuh leaders seemed to be at odds with each other, being from two different BN component parties – Manyin represents the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and Riot, the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) – they are committed to improving the lot of their 200,000-strong community.
Both Manyin and Riot hail from Kampung Pichin.
This model village in Tebedu enjoyed the rare distinction of being visited by both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his late father, Tun Razak Hussein, the nation’s second prime minister.
At the presentation of NCR land grants to 462 Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) participants at the Kedup II oil palm estate, about 20 km from Serian recently, both Manyin and Riot were present not only to boost the morale of the people but also to show solidarity in facing the coming state polls.
Riot said the SUPP Serian branch election machinery was ready to help in the Tebedu campaign trail after nomination day on April 6.
Popularly regarded as the current Bidayuh paramount chief, Manyin, a former educationist, said it was crucial for his community to continue supporting BN to ensure all the predominantly Bidayuh seats were retained in order to uplift their socio-economic status further.
However, he was also not spared from accusations by the opposition, especially on the NCR land issue.
“Some people think I want to build a road because I want to grab the land but people want to see tangible benefits like roads to improve their livelihood,” he said. – Bernama