Sarawak is conducting a census among people in the Batang Ai resettlement area to resolve the long-standing issue of issuance of land titles after they were displaced by the construction of the Batang Ai hydro-electric dam in 1982.

Sarawak Land Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Masing said the state Land and Survey Department had been tasked with conducting the census to identify the new and extended families that had grown in the last 25 years.

“The census is in the first phase. Once it is completed, we will know how best to assist these families. The state government can look for the land and also provide various amenities for them.

“The government will not only cater for those displaced 25 years ago but also the extended and new families living in the resettlement area,” he told reporters after a meeting with senior Dayak Barisan Nasional (BN) component party leaders here Wednesday (25 March).

Dr Masing said the state Land and Survey Department had sent letters to all longhouse chiefs earlier this month requesting them to update and verify the people in the longhouses.

On Monday (23 March), PKR director of operations for the Batang Ai by-election, Nicholas Bawin, called on the state government to immediately issue land titles to 400 households from 20 longhouses who were resettled as a result of the construction of the dam.

To ensure a clean by-election, Dr Masing, who is also BN director of operations in the by-election, said BN would post two to three observers in every longhouse in Batang Ai to monitor PKR activities.

“The observers are to ensure there is no money politics at political rallies. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wants to have a clean by-election. So does BN,” he said.

Barisan Nasional (BN) has named engineer Malcolm Mussen Lamoh, 49, as its candidate for the by-election on 7 April, while PKR will field five-term former Lubok Antu member of parliament Jawah Gerang, 55.

Batang Ai, with 8,006 registered voters, nearly 95% of them Iban, is one of two state seats in the Lubok Antu parliamentary constituency. The other is Engkilili.

On the PKR candidate, Dr Masing said: “Jawah has been there for five terms. I don’t have to explain to the people who Jawah is. It’s easier for them to decide. What he can and cannot do is an open book for the people. His record will speak for itself.”