Concerted effort needed to prevent rural settlements from becoming deserted — Rep

Dennis (holding shovel) performing the ground-breaking ceremony. Jok Emang is eigth from left (front row).

MIRI, Sept 12: Rural areas like Telang Usan and Baram in general need a proper and long-term village development plan to address the “serious” problem of rural-urban migration.

Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau said having such a plan could help keep these rural settlements alive and stem the flow of villagers to the bright lights of urban centres.

Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for Long Tebangan’s new village extension site on Sunday (Sept 9), he also suggested that community leaders make an effort to encourage youths in their respective villages to consider setting up permanent homes in their villages.

“To make it attractive, efforts must be made by longhouse leaders to prepare sites for them to build their houses. Even if they do not stay at the longhouse most of the time, we hope that by having a place they can call ‘home’, it will encourage them to return to the village regularly,” he opined.

Dennis also appealed to the young and educated sons and daughters of Telang Usan to step forward to share and contribute ideas on how their respective villages should be developed in tandem with current trends.

“Everyone wants to have an ideal place to live, and this can only happen when everybody pools their strength and resources together to realise the dream,” he reckoned.

To ensure developments in settlements remained orderly, Dennis proposed the setting up of a ‘village building approval committee’.

“I have noticed that almost all longhouse folk in my constituency now show keen interest to open up areas around their villages for new houses.

“But some village’s leaders and committees are facing problems in opening up new sites due to land disputes. I hope we can go back to what our forefathers practiced before. Back then, it was advised that no one should claim land within a longhouse site boundary or those planted with permanent crops as it is shared land and the land will be needed for village extension or for the building of schools, churches, etc,” he said.

Long Tebangan is a 60-door Kayan longhouse with more than 600 people. It is located along the Akah River and can only be reached using 4WD vehicles through logging tracks from Miri City. The journey takes about seven hours.
Meanwhile, the proposed new site at Long Tebangan can accommodate more than two rows of 20-door longhouses. Also present at the ground-breaking ceremony was Long Tebangan headman Jok Emang. — DayakDaily