Forum seeks state govt support to relocate longhouses threatened by floods

From left: Gerawat and Abang Johari visiting the exhibition area at the event.

By Karen Bong

MIRI, Dec 15: Many Orang Ulu longhouses near rivers are affected by floods caused by overflowing riverbanks several times annually and thus need to be relocated to higher ground.

The Federation of Orang Ulu Associations Sarawak Malaysia (Forum) advisor Datuk Gerawat Gala emphasised that the Orang Ulu community hopes that the state government can help them in building new longhouses.

“Traditionally, our longhouses were built near the rivers in the past for convenience especially for river transportation.

“But a lot of (sic) longhouses are now affected by floods, sometimes up to five or six times a year. So we need to look for higher ground and we hope the government can help find solutions to rebuild the longhouses,” he highlighted during the earth-breaking ceremony for the construction of Forum’s new headquarters by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg here today.

The Orang Ulu community, Gerawat added, also urges the government to expedite the development of infrastructure and basic utilities including roads, water and electricity supply, as well as digital connectivity in rural and remote areas through increasing the allocation for Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA), Highland Development Agency (HDA) and Upper Rajang Development Agency (URDA).

“We are thankful for the increased allocations but because of the vast areas in this region, there are still many logging roads not upgraded yet. So we hope to see more allocations to speed up the development,” he explained.

Gerawat, who is also the Mulu assemblyman, also urged for the development of the border security road which is currently undergoing planning but yet to be approved, to be expedited.

“This road will provide improved and much needed connectivity for many interior settlements and will open up huge areas of land and create new economic opportunities in the Orang Ulu heartland in Ulu Trusan, Ulu Limbang, Ulu Baram, Ulu Kemena, Ulu Rejang and so on,” he added.

Meanwhile, the state government has allocated a five-acre piece of land at a strategic location here for the Forum headquarters with an approved grant of RM25 million.

Expected to be completed in 18 months, the design of the building will incorporate cultural values and arts of the Orang Ulu community.

The Forum building is expected to become an iconic landmark in Miri division with facilities and spaces for indoor and outdoor activities, exhibitions, sales, gallery, a multipurpose hall, a resource centre, general office and offices for Forum’s nine member associations, in the first phase of development.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Assistant Minister of Women and Early Childhood Development Datuk Rosey Yunus, Lambir assemblyman Ripin Lamat, Forum president Kennedy Chukpai Ugon, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau and Batu Danau assemblyman Paulus Palu Gumbang were among those present. — DayakDaily