Govt to fork out RM100,000 to subsidise additional express boat trips from Sibu-Kapit

Express boats are still very much the main mode of transport for communities along the Rajang River. - File pic

KUCHING, May 28: It will cost the state government an estimated RM100,000 to subsidise the 93 extra express boat trips from Sibu to Kapit so that users may safely travel back to their longhouses along the Rajang River for Gawai Dayak.

Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing said Sarawak Rivers Board estimated that there will 93 extra trips needed during the peak time from May 25 to 31.

“We need to increase the number of trips so that there will be no overcrowding which is dangerous for the passengers,” Masing, who is also Deputy Chief Minister told DayakDaily.

“It will cost the state government about RM100,000 to subsidise about 93 trips and we hope by increasing the number of trips, more Dayaks may go back to ‘kampung’ and will reach their longhouse safely,” he said.

On a normal day, the express boat trip from Sibu to Kapit costs RM25. However, during peak times such as Gawai Dayak, extra trips will cost RM35.

Meanwhile, Sarawak 3rd, 6th and 7th Divisions Express Boats Association deputy chairman Ting Chuo Won when contacted said the express boat owners did not try to take advantage of the situation by raising the fare.

He explained that they have been operating based on subsidised diesel provided by the government.

“There is a limit to the amount of subsidised diesel which we are entitled to. Once it exceeds the limit, we cannot get subsidised diesel anymore but have to pay the normal rate.

“Increasing trips mean additional cost. Without the diesel subsidy, we are paying about RM0.60 more for each litre presently.

“This will increase our operation cost, so we charge RM10 more per passenger, from RM25 to RM35. And this is only applicable to additional trips,” said Ting.

Ting pointed out that for peak seasons like Gawai or Christmas, there can be easily more than 4,000 passengers per day and even more when getting nearer to the festive seasons.

“This year, we expect less passengers because the Sibu-Kapit Road is now accessible, though quite some parts are still gravel road,” said Ting. — DayakDaily