WHEN it comes to uplifting the rural economy, the Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) has the potential to become a game-changer in community empowerment
This makes it vital to equip this grassroots institution with the tools and capability to change the lives of the rural people.
Tuai Rumah Ruekeith Jampong of Langkang Ili, Engkilili, said at the grassroots level, the success and effectiveness of a community leader is measured by their charges in two dimensions. One is the amount of money the leader can bring into their JKKK account and the other is the physical project they can secure for their village.
As both factors are closely linked to the above, an experienced and educated community leader cannot be effective on their own strength, he said on the measure of success of a community leader and the JKKK.
When Sarawak chief minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announced the RM100 million allocation under state Budget 2020 to fund programmes and activities organised by the JKKKs, as well as allowances for committee members, he believed the gesture was timely and much needed.
“Many JKKKs could not carry out their activities due to the lack of fund. In order for the committee to better plan their activities, it would be helpful if the government can provide direct yearly grant for the JKKK, as at present, the funds are at the mercy of the elected representative of the area.
“Direct access to the grant that is consistent annually would strengthen efficiency in implementing programmes and delivery of service,” he said.
Ruekeith added that the fund would help enable the village to carry out minor repairs to the longhouses, assist the poor, plan projects for clean water or alternative energy for areas not connected to the power grid.
The fund could also kickstart the local community to be involved in modern farming and encouraged entrepreneurship among the youths.
In the past, Ruekeith had worked with a non-governmental organisation to set up a solar system for his longhouse. In September 2019, he engaged Japanese university students to carry out a study on the basic infrastructure and landscape at Langkang Ili to identify the type of economic activities that could be carried out in the area.
The group also carried out studies on the health condition of the longhouse folks especially pertaining to the quality of drinking water.
Facilitating JKKK in serving the people
Meanwhile, the RM100 million funding for operational expenses of the JKKKs was part of the 81 initiatives introduced under Abang Johari’s administration.
The chief minister also announced that the state would fully pay the RM900 allowance of the village chief and JKKK chairperson, after the previous Pakatan Harapan-led federal government announced that it would no longer allocate RM500 to top up the monthly allowance of community leaders beginning 2020.
Sarawak government would also pay a monthly allowance of RM300 to the JKKK secretary beginning February this year, as it looked to empower the village consultative committee with more community development tasks such as implementation of rural transformation projects.
Ruekeith, 63, expressed support for the initiative. He believed that the payment of such allowances was a form of recognition of their services, which in due course, would help motivate the committee members to work harder.
“A very good gesture from the government to appreciate the contribution of the secretary of the JKKK. Better still if all committee members are paid too, as this would erase any sense of unfairness among the committees.
“It would also motivate the team to work harder to ensure the development policies of the government are carried out smoothly,” he said.
He appreciated the government’s efforts in engaging the grassroots with frequent seminars and briefings to update them on the policies and development programmes, and added that the good policies and development programmes could be more effectively implemented with increased engagement and consultation between the government and community leaders.
He reminded that a good number of the current community leaders were educated, with many of them former school teachers, managerial levels at local and international corporations, whose expertise and experience would be engaged fully through bilateral dialogue sessions.
Tuai Rumah Billy Spencer Aling of Kampung Abit, Serian, fully concurred on the need to empower the JKKK with sufficient funding to improve the well being of the rural community.
He also suggested that JKKK treasurer and other committee members deserved to be considered for allowances as well.
“The primary concern of the JKKK should focus on the sustainable community lifestyle, while upholding cultural integrity.
“The JKKK must be empowered to be more effective in discharging duties, disseminating information and carrying out government programmes on economic and infrastructure development especially, on poverty eradication,” he said.
He added that JKKK can play their roles as the ‘eyes and the ears’ for the government to ensure the local community are not missing out on assistance and participation in economic empowering programmes.
Billy said that often the longhouse dwellers, especially those in the remote areas, would missed out on courses and programmes to improve livelihood and socioeconomy that are usually held in the urban areas.
With sufficient funding, the JKKKs are more mobilised to look out for these courses and encourage interested villagers, especially those with matching skill set, to participate. The committee can also help arrange for transportation and accommodation. —DayakDaily