SARAWAK PKR have slammed the “undignified” treatment of 150 Barisan Nasional grassroots leaders, who flew to Kuala Lumpur to meet Prime Minister Najib Razak and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, via military transport.

The BN grassroots leaders from the Kapit and Hulu Rajang parliamentary constituencies were flown to Subang RMAF base from Sibu yesterday morning in two of the air force’s newest transport planes, the Airbus 400M.

Kapit member of parliament Alexander Nanta Linggi, from Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), is also deputy rural and regional development minister while Hulu Rajang MP is Wilson Ugak Kumbong from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).

PBB and PRS are the lead parties in the Sarawak BN coalition.

“The prime minister has every right to meet the different community leaders but it has to be done properly and, to a certain extent, in a dignified manner, out of respect for the different community leaders,” DAP said, as one social media user described the flights as “cattle flights”.

Photographs posted on social media showed the leaders seated in rows along the sides of the plane facing each other.

“The use of military planes, however, sends two wrong messages to the Sarawak people,” said DAP Sarawak spokesman Kelvin Yii.

“It gives the perception that their treatment in less dignified even though they are strong supporters of the government.”

PKR state chief Baru Bian slammed the use of the planes as “an abuse of power”.

“Najib is desperate and he doesn’t have the moral compass to lead this nation anymore,” said Baru, who is also Ba’Kelalan assemblyman.

Former Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) secretary-general Henrynus Amin lamented the pitiful conditions of the leaders’ travel arrangements.

In a WhatsApp posting in a political chat group, he wrote “it looks as if (the) Dayak leaders are being transported or herded to the slaughter house”.

“To be put in a big military plane for two hours is the most undignified way of transporting Dayak grassroots leaders to meet PM.

“Is this a military operation or some kind of emergency to justify use of military assets?”

Amin said the trip also reminded him of Sabah and Sarawak grassroots leaders being brought to Kuala Lumpur prior to the formation of Malaysia.

“I am told they were brought for sightseeing and told Sabah and Sarawak would enjoy the same level of development (roads, shop houses, tall buildings, possibly night clubs as well) if the two states were to join Malaysia. They were also given a Parker fountain pen each.

“They all returned to their respective states very happy, not knowing they had just been tricked into believing the myth of development promises.

“Yes, Sabah and Sarawak today are more developed than they were 54 years ago. But they are nowhere near the level of physical development in Malayan states.

“If this is the way Dayak grassroots leaders are being treated for their loyalty to Malaysia, obviously the last vestiges of colonial policies or patronising attitude towards Dayak leaders still exist.”

A Sabah political activist, S.M. Muthu, writing in the same chat group, said the trip “reflects abuse of power and of a regime crying for a show of gratitude”.

“A decent government would not use military assets other than for military or emergency humanitarian purposes,” he said.

In their meeting with the prime minister, the group were reportedly briefed on the controversial jiwa murni roads built by the army to allay any fears or misgivings.

In Baram, these roads have been destroyed by logging trucks, palm oil tankers and vehicles transporting palm oil fresh fruit bunches.

Reports had also surfaced that a group of people in Ba’Kelalan, led by a PBB Youth chief, staged demonstrations demanding the damaged jiwa murni road in their area be repaired.

The demonstrators had insisted both federal and state ministers go to the ground and see the condition of the road.