Kampung Selampit, the neglected ‘kingmaker’

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KAMPUNG Selampit, a Bidayuh village of about 1,000 people, lies about 100km from Kuching. To get there, drive to Kampung Bitokan and then take a small ferry to cross the crocodile-infested Batang Kayan. The village sits on a small hill slope, and motorcycles are the preferred mode of transport; understandable, because the ferry can only take this form of vehicle.

Although Kampung Selampit is quite a distance from urban centres, notably Kuching, the village surprisingly has 4G connectivity, meaning it boasts good Internet connection. It has electricity too, thanks to an underwater cable from Kampung Bitokan.

Land around the area is fertile, so crops such as oil palm are a feature here. The residents are hardworking and they plant vegetables, among other things, on an ad hoc basis for extra income.

Kampung Selampit is actually a very liveable place, except for the lack of a bridge to link to Kampung Bitokan and from there to the Bau-Lundu Road. Oh yes, there is also no treated water.

Friendly the villagers here may be, but there is a general feeling of discontentment against the state government. The villagers are politically quite conscious, so it was not surprising that 33-year-old Mordi Bimol, a Bidayuh and a DAP leader, was able to encash on the anti-government sentiment to beat Datuk Anthony Nogeh Gumbek of the Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 14th general election (GE14) with a 3,024-vote majority.

The long-promised bridge — Selampit Bridge or sometimes called Batang Kayan Bridge — is attributed to be main reason that led to the downfall of BN in the Mas Gading constituency.

The facial expression of village chief Giton Jenai was unmistakably one of frustration when the subject turned to the bridge. To outsiders, especially urbanites, a ferry ride is a rare experience, but to the people here, the river represents a major obstacle that impedes their progress and ease of travel. If there were a bridge over Batang Kayan, the locals would be able to bring their produce to the nearest market in a jiffy, among others.

Kampung Selampit is definitely a place worthy of greater attention for either Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) or Pakatan Harapan (PH) for a number of reasons. Firstly, the people here are hardworking and have no qualms to sweat it out to create agricultural activities, such as planting oil palm. There is a willingness to strive for a better tomorrow.

Secondly, the village has capable leaders like Giton, JKKK treasurer Nicholas Nopin Watt and DAP strongman Jimon Mina; they dare to voice out the needs of their people.

Thirdly, the village has good access to the online world. This enables the villagers to touch base with whatever is happening around the world, making them a member of the global village.

Everything is in place for this semi-rural community to step up to be a thriving rural growth node, but the lack of a bridge and treated water are holding them back. And it is the duty of the government to provide them with this basic amenity and infrastructure.

The proposed bridge costs only about RM30 million, but because the BN could only give the promise but not the money to build it, Mas Gading went to the DAP on May 9. If only the BN had been more sensitive to the needs of the people, this may not have happened.

With Nogeh voted out and Mordi voted in, it is now the duty of Mordi to deliver what the BN failed to do — build the bridge.

What needs to be taken note of is that there are more than 5,000 villages scattered across the state. Their needs are not easy to address due to the vast size of the state, but it would be wise for the federal government and the state government to pinpoint which villages should be given priority attention.

With the rise of political awareness following the dramatic fall of the BN in GE14, leaders from both sides of the political fence need to go to the ground often, feel the pulse of the people and take action. Failure to grasp the needs of the constituents and failure to fulfil all promises made would have grave consequences, as shown by the polls results on May 9.

PH may be in power now, but they should not be too happy, just yet. Five years down the road, they will have to face the same constituents who voted them in. If their promises are not kept, they will lose control of power.

Mordi won because Nogeh failed to deliver the bridge. Five years down the road, the same benchmark will be used to measure Mordi. This is the cruelty of democracy. — DayakDaily