Kg Chawan: Tackling urban poverty a complex issue, says Bandar Kuching rep

Kampung Chawan came to be when people moved to Kuching city from rural areas in search of work and better livelihoods.

By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Aug 1: Urban poverty is a complex issue and must be seen from different angles to better understand the situation, says MP Bandar Kuching Dr Kelvin Yii.

Responding to the DayakDaily article ‘Living and dead share the same space at Kampung Chawan’, he said the right steps need to be taken to address the matter holistically.

“One of the core issues of urban poverty is jobs and quality jobs that pay enough for them to sustain (coping) with the relative higher cost of living in the cities compared to living in the rural villages,” Dr Yii told DayakDaily.

“When they migrate to urban (areas) or cities, they need to find jobs but end up the other way round. So one core issue we need to look into is the availability of jobs for them, and possibly efforts to upskill or train them to get jobs in the city,” he added.

Lack of access to basic infrastructure such as water and electricity supply has made life even more difficult for Kampung Chawan residents.

Dr Yii had contacted Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) Sarawak commissioner Associate Prof Dr Madeline Berma, who recently cited Kampung Chawan as an example of urban poverty and how the villagers are literally ‘living with the dead’.

“I spoke to Madeline and we’ve agreed to discuss on different ways and sustainable plans to help this group of people,” he said, adding that they will visit Kampung Chawan soon to gain a better understanding of the situation.

The living and the deceased exist side by side at Kampung Chawan.

DayakDaily also spoke to Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) president Sidi Munan about urban poverty.

Sidi dwelled on the hardships faced by urban squatters who had migrated from rural areas in search of better prospects in the cities and big towns.

“Back in their original home village, these folks can work their land, grow vegetables and rear animals to sustain the family, but such environment is very limited in a town setting.

“Except for farming, these folks may have limited skills. Many end up unemployed when they move to the cities or take up very low paying daily jobs. Because of that, they end up squatting illegally on government land, private property or like in Kampung Chawan’s case, they live next to the dead, because they cannot afford to rent nor buy a decent house. They are enduring a hard city life,” he said.

The option of moving back to where they came from or their ancestral land is not there anymore, Sidi added, because most of them have lost their native customary rights land, either to the government for development, plantation companies or the land was sold off just to move to the city. — DayakDaily