Ten years ago Daro was just one sleepy hamlet, smack right in the middle of the state of Sarawak, which is also the largest state in the federation of Malaysia.
Daro’s population was then about ten thousand. They were engaged in agriculture and some were estuary fishermen. Of course a few were engaged in the public sector. They were teachers, clerks, policemen and soldiers.
Then, some rich tycoon started planting oil palm. Others came too, of course. Now, eighty percent of the secondary forest which covered this district was replaced with oil palm estates.
As usual, with the estates came the workers. They were not locals. It was said that locals were not willing to take up jobs that offered them low wages. One may argue the contention as above. However, the practices were widespread.
Such practices were not readily noticed in and around big towns. However, in a small town like Daro, there are times when the scenario is really shocking. There are now more than ten big oil palm estates here. Imagine each of them employing a thousand manual workers. They usually originated from the neighboring countries.
In Malaysia, workers are paid monthly wages. The same thing goes for these estate workers. So, at the end of every month, there are thousands of foreign workers flooding the little town of Daro.
Immediately, the question of security and safety is gaining prominence. What, if the foreigners were to run amok and started to cause trouble?
The other aspect of the issue is that the workers contributed greatly to the local retail business. It is this mass that we need to sustain the local economy.
This is now our local dilemma.