Let’s brainstorm to build safer longhouses, Masing urges Dayak leaders

A file photo of Rh Usek Sumpit, Batu Niah, which was damaged by fire on Nov 24, 2018.

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By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Nov 24: Politics aside, Dayak leaders must come together to address the urgent need to design safer and modern longhouses to prevent a complete loss of properties in case of fire.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing said it was most disheartening to hear of Dayak longhouses getting burned down every now and then.

“I believe it’s about time for Dayak leaders to sit down and address the issue seriously and to find the best approach to building safer longhouses in future,” Masing told DayakDaily today.

Tan Sri Dr James Masing

He was commenting on two fire incidents that affected 30 families in Uma Bakong near Sg Asap Resettlement Scheme recently and the one at Rumah Usek Sumpit in Batu Niah today.

For starters, Masing proposed that new longhouses should not exceed 10 doors as a preventive measure.

“I would like to suggest that each longhouse be not more than 10 doors so that the ruai (veranda) would be enough for social gatherings. On top of that, every unit should have a fire break in between, which is similar to terrace houses, as this will minimise a complete loss to the whole longhouse,” he opined.

Masing also suggested that the private sector, especially insurance companies, collaborate with the government to offer insurance coverage for longhouses, and the premiums could be borne by the government.

“Under a group insurance like Tafakul, the premium will not be too expensive, and we can help to pay,” said Masing, who is also Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation.

He also suggested that all Dayak lawmakers give special attention to fire prevention methods to their constituents.

“It is our responsibility to educate our charges on fire prevention, such proper wiring system and not overloading one or two power points to prevent short circuits. On top of that, longhouse folks must also be taught proper guidelines on the use of gas cylinders. If these could be done, fire cases could be reduced,” he said.

Masing also suggested that government agencies such as the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) continue to provide fire prevention and safety courses for all longhouses regularly.

“And it is also crucial that every longhouse have fire extinguishers,” added Masing, who is also the president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).

Kennedy Chukpai Ugon

Meanwhile, Murum assemblyman Kennedy Chukpai Ugon said the affected Kenyah families in Uma Bakong were now staying with their relatives and friends as well as in their church.

“As their YB (elected representative), I hope that the State’s Disaster and Relief Committee will come to their assistance as soon as possible and not to wait for the official report,” he said, adding that he had disbursed RM10,000 to the affected families and gave RM1,000 to each family.

He also requested the government to build a fire station in Sg Asap township to cater for the needs of the local community.

“There have been so many fire cases in Sg Asap Resettlement Scheme. On my part, I have requested for the setting up of Bomba station in Sg Asap township so many times to the government. But I always receive a negative response,” he lamented, adding that the nearest fire station was in Bintulu, which is about 125km away. — DayakDaily