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Located less than one kilometer or just across from Batang Igan, the situation in the Bawang Assan State Assembly (DUN) area looks different from its ‘neighbours’ namely Nangka State Constituency and Dudong State Constituency.
The situation in Bawang Assan is more backward although basically the area is so close to Sibu town and can be reached by water or land.
What has gone wrong that areas are so close to the city become so lagging behind in terms of basic infrastructure development?
In fact, some areas still depend on rainwater and river water as a source of water for daily needs and generators as a source of electricity supply.
Noticing the needs, the Chairman of the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Bawang Assan Branch, Senator Robert Lau is working to bridge the development gap for the people in the area.
In the early stages, his efforts had been focussing on providing treated and clean water as well as electricity supply to longhouse areas that still rely on rainwater for water and generators to generate electricity.
Slow development for the past 30 years
“I always compare Bawang Assan with Sibu Jaya which is under the Dudong state constituency in terms of development in that area.
“Some 30 years ago, Sibu Jaya was a thick forest area, now Sibu Jaya has 6,000 houses and 400 shop premises in the city itself.
“However, Bawang Assan, which has a history of more than 100 years, until now does not have any housing estate or any commercial centre development,” he said.
The situation, Lau said, clearly gave the impression that much more needed to be done to bring development to the Bawang Assan area.
He said, the main issue faced by the residents in Bawang Assan is the lack of proper road access which makes it difficult to implement development in the area.
“For more than 30 years, why has no road been built there, no bridge has been built to connect the area with Sibu town?
“So we need to open and build more roads so that residents in the longhouse area, including areas with Chinese residents, can connect directly with other residents in this area,” he explained.
Developing Bawang Assan to be on par with neighbouring areas
Lau said if all basic infrastructure development can be provided at least in the next five to ten years, the potential of Bawang Assan as one of the food producers for Sarawak can be implemented and achieved.
This will indirectly provide returns and strengthen the socio-economic status of the people in the area.
“Try to imagine one hectare we can generate an income of RM100, try to imagine if we have 10,000 hectares of cultivated land. It definitely gives a lucrative return to Bawang Assan itself, ” he said.
Lau said development plans for Bawang Assan would not come true without investment in terms of development of basic infrastructure facilities such as roads, water and electricity supply, flood mooring projects as well as proper drainage and drainage projects.
When all the facilities were provided, it would be able to attract the private sector to invest and open their business operations in Bawang Assan.
Ali Jampi: We need to be well-connected by roads
Tuai Rumah Ali Jampi from Nanga Tutus, Igan felt that much more needed to be done to help the people in the Bawang Assan area, especially in Dayak areas .
He said for the Nanga Tutus area, the most notable problem was the lack of clean and treated water supply for daily use of the residents in his longhouse.
“In the past, during the dry season, we had to ask for a supply of mineral water for cooking and drinking.
“Now it is a bit relieved considering the rainy season and we can retain the rainwater for daily use,” he said.
Ali said, although the Nanga Tutus area has 24 hours of electricity supply, in terms of connecting roads within the area, it was still lagging behind where the residents still depend on the oil palm plantation road to get to their homes, apart from using water transport along Batang Igan.
“This road is still an old road and will become potholed and muddy when the rainy season. In fact, sometimes it is submerged under water, making it impassable for vehicles, ”he said.
From a greater picture, Ali said the residents of Nanga Tutus have been able to heath a sigh of relief with the construction of a 38-kilometer road connecting the area with Sibu town and directly to Mukah.
“When this road is completed, the residents of Nanga Tutus will be connected with the outside world and at the same time, it will be easier for us to sell our agricultural products which are the source of income for the residents here,” he said.
Sauh Marong: Costly to depend on generators for electricity
Meanwhile, the former Counselor Sauh Marong also lamented that there are still issues of 24-hour electricity and lack of road access in Rasau area.
He said, the people in Rasau are still completely depend on generators for electricity supply which resulted in high cost of operation.
“Due to Covid-19 pandemic, schools have been closed and with my grandchildren returning to longhouses, the cost of running the generators has been increasing.
“Then, there is also the issue of keeping refrigerators running. If the generators are switched off, it means our food will go bad,” said Sauh.
In terms of road network within the area, he said that for more than 30 years, residents in the area relied on oil palm plantation roads as an alternative to the river route to reach Rasau.
“We like to go marketing especially during the festive season such as Gawai or Christmas. Due to the lack of roads, we have to use express boat service. By the time we reach Rasau, the food has gone bad.
“Even if you use the road, it can only be passable using a four-wheel drive vehicle because it is a plantation road. Land route connecting the area was only available when a private company opened an oil palm plantation in the area,” he said, pointing out that this is the same issue faced by Nanga Tutus residents.
Sauh added that the lack of basic infrastructure facilities has left the Rasau area behind in terms of economic development of its residents even though the area can be used as a food producing area for Bawang Assan.
He said the residents of Rasau have been waiting for more than 30 years to get a perfect road so that the opening of new agricultural areas can be done as well as provide benefits in upgrading the socio-economic level of the residents in the area.
Daniel Bujal: Make the right choice to ensure development
Meanwhile, the Political Secretary to the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, Daniel Bujal said much more efforts need to be carried out to make Bawang Assan as developed as its neighbours Dudong State Constituency and Nangka State Constituency.
He said as a person in charge of looking after the Bawang Assan area, the first thing that needs to be done is to provide a perfect road connect to the area, 24-hour electricity supply and a supply of treated and clean water for the daily use of the residents.
“The lack of all these facilities occurred because the elected representative who represented Bawang Assan, when he was with the government, did not focus on the provision of these facilities because he at that time busy with other activities,” he said.
Citing the example of the provision of roads that connect the areas of Sungai Bidut, Kampung Sebedil, Kampung Bungan Kecil and Kampung Tutus, he said the residents have been applying for the road projects to be built for more than 30 years.
“The road only started to be built when the late Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing became the Infrastructure and Port Development Minister, who was part of the leadership of the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) which wants to improve the economic status of the rural population,” said Daniel.
He held that the provision of good road network, treated water and electricity will definitely give a new lease of life to the Bawang Assan area and make it possible to be on par with the surrounding areas.
“Therefore, I always advise the residents of Bawang Assan to be with the GPS-led government so that they do not continue to be left behind in terms of development.
“Follow the government that can help us in terms of development. And during the time of the election, we must find a leader who not only can help us but bring our voice either to the Sarawak Legislative Assembly or the Dewan Rakyat.
“We should not choose people like before because for more than 30 years this area has not felt the development it deserves,” he said. – DayakDaily