Tuesday 23 October 2012

Battling it out over the Sarawak airwaves

Most evenings before 6pm housewife Indai Limau makes sure that dinner is cooked and laid on the table for her husband and their two children. The less urgent chores will have to wait.  

Precisely at 6pm and after her bath, she retires to her favourite settee in the family living room, reaches out for her China-made transistor radio and tunes in to 15420 KHz channel on the Short Wave band.

She is not tuning in to any entertainment programme from her very interior longhouse. Like many other rural folks, she wants to keep up with the latest that the no-holds-barred Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) has to offer each evening.

NONEThe RFS is a clandestine radio station. Nobody is certain where it is broadcast from. It is the brainchild of a social activist/journalist and Sarawak-born Clare Rewcastle Brown (left), a sister-in-law of former British prime minister Gordon Brown.

It first broadcast on Nov 16, 2010 and is a thorn in the flesh of local Barisan Nasional leaders especially those from the Dayak community with its unrelenting attacks and accusations against them and the government.

Listeners from the Iban, Orang Ulu, even Melanau, Penan and Malay communities statewide will call in to give their opinions and dissatisfaction on a wide variety of issues.

The favourite seems to be issues related to the Native Customary Rights (NCR) land where they dismiss its perimeter survey as a scheme to grab such land. Others are the alleged non-delivery of promises by their BN representatives, their so-called ineffectiveness, the Murum and Bakun dam projects, alleged corruption and nepotism in the present government and so forth.

And ultimately, they call on the people to vote for a change in the government in the coming election.

The callers and its announcers are doing all these with great audacity and impunity. They are not subjected to any censorship.

Masing: They’re not telling the whole truth

Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Dr James Masing believes the authorities concerned should step in to “stop RFS from spreading lies to the people in rural areas as this is a very unhealthy culture”.

“I don’t think it is doing an honest job. The callers and the announcers are not telling the whole truth.

“They are confusing and poisoning the mind of the rural folk with such libellous accusations and allegations. Unfortunately, the rural folk have no other access to information apart from the radio,” he told Bernama when contacted.

“It is always so easy to criticise and accuse because you are not being responsible and accountable. The callers... they are speaking behind the curtains and are anonymous.

“I am not worried they accuse me of many things... but it is not nice to tell lies about others,” he said.

james masingMasing (right), who is also the state land development minister, said the perimeter survey being carried out on NCR land was soley aimed at separating land holding between state and NCR land.

“Once you have done it, the security on such land is established. The government is doing what is best for NCR landowners in the country.

“At a later stage, the individual survey for the purpose of  creating individual land titles can be looked into. But first, it is very important for security through ownership to be established over NCR land,” he said.

On the Murum dam project in Belaga, being made complicated with the Penans blocking access road in their attempt to halt its construction over compensation disputes, Masing said the problem could be solved by people with intelligence and sincerety acting as mediators.

“Belaga state assemblyperson Liwan Lagang has been doing a fine job as the mediator. He understands the thinking of the Penans. He has the heart and soul of the Penans and I am sure he can help,” he said.   

He said the Baram project was a whole lot trickier as the area had always been the hotbed of the non-governmental environmentalist groups, their hornets’ nest.

Meanwhile, a PKR potential candidate who declined to be named said the RFS was almost a godsent aid to help in his campaigns against the BN’s massive artilleries of RTM, TV3 and now Astro NJOY.

“If the BN has been distributing the free Astro NJOY decorder and television sets, the 1Malaysia netbooks, it’s our turn to do good by giving the China-made transistor radios for folks to tune in to RFS,” he said.

Not all listeners happy with RFS

But not all the folk are happy with the RFS addictive broadcast. A longhouse chief, Mok anak Gelut of Lasi in Pakan, said some of the callers had resorted to extreme exaggerations and accusations.

“We are actually aware of the happenings on the ground. Not all things are as bad as portrayed. Some of us followed the broadcast but I am not one of them.

NONE“If indeed the government is wicked, it is strange those who are regular callers have not given any idea on their preferred alternative government, how it will function, its leaders and the guarantee that they will be efficient and will not destroy the country,” he said.

Deputy Information, Communications and Culture Minister Joseph Salang (left), at a function at Rh Minggan, Sungai Sayong in Julau recently said RFS was both good and bad.

“It is an alternative channel to disseminate information. But when false information are disseminated without any censorship, it is bad, very bad.

“If people keep on spreading lies and accusations against the others, it will not go down very well with all the listeners all the time. People will eventually be able to judge the truth from the lies and accusations,” he said.

- Bernama

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