Gawai Dayak exodus begins

A passenger filling up her details in the manifest before proceeding towards the passengers departure area.

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SIBU: The Dayak community here is rushing back to their villages even before school holidays.

Betty Ajak, 45 from Rumah Kendawang, Batang Rajang Kapit said travelling back from Johor with 14 others family members is an expensive event.

“We can’t afford coming back that often, but for Gawai Dayak, it’s a must for all of us and it takes a lot of financial discipline to get us here,” said Betty when met by at the express boat terminal.

Tickets between May 26 and 30 are fully booked, and operators have begun preparing themselves with the exodus by increasing boat frequency to destinations like Song and Kapit.

All travelling tickets are sold at RM5 increase for all seating class during this time, but that does not deter from the Gawai Dayak crowd heading back to their respective villages.

“I am really looking forward for the completion of the Kanowit-Kapit road. That would surely ease our financial burden in spending for water transport,” said Mejar (Rtd) Moses Ripai.

The Sarawak Rivers’ Board have begun their enforcement operations to ensure travellers safety by focusing on load limit, boat operations permit, no ticket, no entry policy, safety jackets and controlled and following strictly on the approved fare.

Its director Dr Murni Suhaili expects 8,000 people a day going thorough Sibu Express Boat Terminal to get to Song, Kapit and Belaga.

He said, based on the numbers last year, 4,000 will disembark in Song and Kapit while 2,000 more will disembark in Belaga.

“Due to this Gawai Dayak exodus, we have approved for additional trips to address the influx of passengers. Not only they will be heading back for the Gawai Dayak celebration, the same week is also the school holidays,” said Dr Murni. –