Thursday, May 3, 2012

What I Learned Today: Buy a Radio to Free Sarawak

Radio Free Sarawak started as little more than a determined idea with three pairs of hands on board back in late 2010 – all of us volunteers. But, when something is needed and of urgency, it soon takes on a life of its own and our little team was immediately buoyed by a surge of wonderful help and support.

Great people agreed to give their time to be interviewed and wonderful professionals came and bolstered the team to transform us into something that thousands of people are interested to listen to each day. Now we are a thriving, if still tiny, operation, providing two hours of news and information each day, specially for the longhouse communities of Sarawak and mainly in Iban and Bahasa Malaysia.

For years these people have had no access to alternate news – the real news – except for the “lecturing” on Government radio stations, justifying the plunder of their lands and abuse of their human rights for the benefit of others. They have been denied information about what has been happening to their lands, their neighbours, their forests and their rivers. Left in unbelievable poverty after being stripped of the wealth of their lands, these people have been told to be patient for some future “development” and to be wary of taking a stand for their rights, lest they be punished by further deprivation.

Radio Free Sarawak has provided a different perspective and allowed the new generation of politicians to have a platform to speak to the people. We have challenged the greed and selfishness of the present governing clique in Sarawak and exposed their unbelievable corruption. We have opposed the destruction of Sarawak’s unique environment for the obscene enrichment of just a few families.

Radio Free Sarawak has at last been able to explain the truth of what has happened over the past few decades to the people of Sarawak – how they have been the victims of criminal looting and destruction of their lands by their supposedly trusted wakil rakyat. They deserve to know these things and they are tuning in eagerly each day and contacting us with new information and stories from their communities and villages.

Over the past few months our listeners have grown hugely in numbers. We cannot be sure exactly how many people are tuning in in the longhouses, but the stories abound of whole communities gathering between 6pm and 8pm to listen to our radios.

However, we need more of these shortwave radios, so that more people can get the chance to listen to our programme. Each radio can reach large groups of people, given their communal lifestyle, so even one radio can transform the understanding of a whole longhouse community.

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