Mong and the special ‘Rambutan Anak Sekolah’ of Bukit Begunan

Mong Dagang

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Located between Serian and Simanggang, the Bukit Begunan constituency is widely regarded by many travellers as a destination for a pit-stop.

One of the famous towns in Bukit Begunan constituency is the quaint town of Lachau, which in Iban refers to a name of a species of lizard.

Although Bukit Begunan has been relatively unknown to many, it boasts its own unique flair and attractions.

Mong (fourth right) shaking hands with a local while attending a peoples’ get-together event in Bukit Begunan constituency.

Have you tasted Rambutan Anak Sekolah?

One of the local delicacies in Bukit Begunan is a type of rambutan called ‘Rambutan Anak Sekolah’.

While the origin of the name is unknown, the fruit has received overwhelming demand overseas.

Bukit Begunan assemblyman Datuk Mong Dagang revealed that in 2019, approximately 88 metric tonnes of the fruit had been exported to Europe; mostly to Dubai.

“The fruit is crispy and less sweet than normal rambutans, so it has gained popularity even among the locals.

Rambutan Anak Sekolah is available during the middle of the year and they are harvested from two farms, namely Empelanjau and Nyelam, which has a combined area of 39 hectares,” he told DayakDaily in an interview.

Bukit Begunan, a food basket in the making

Other local delicacies which are popular in Bukit Begunan are dabai, durian, sour eggplant (terung asam) which are also being sold at the five-foot walkways of shophouses in Lachau town at affordable prices.

There are also mangosteen, petai, midin, gingers, turmerics, pumpkins, mangoes being sold at the marketplace widely known as tamu by the locals.

During weekends, the tamu in Lachau is usually packed with people looking to buy fresh vegetables and fruits. Many of them are travellers who happen to pass by but a lot more are those from nearby settlements and even Kuching city, who have driven two hours to have a day out at Lachau.

Blessed with hilly terrain, Bukit Begunan is one of the areas which has been earmarked by the Sarawak government for agriculture development.

Mong (second right) checking on the progress on the infrastructure projects in one of the areas in Bukit Begunan with contractors.

A RM5 million collection, processing and packaging centre (CPPC) for farm and jungle produce will be built by the Sarawak government next year on a three-acre site near Lachau town.

The centre, expected to be completed within two years, will provide an avenue for local farmers to send their farm produce to be processed and transported for sale.

There is also 5,000 hectares of land in Tanjung Bijat located within Bukit Begunan, earmarked for paddy plantation.

That aside, infrastructure development such as roads, treated water supply and electricity will be expanded to reach more residents there.

Education is close to Mong’s heart

While there are many plans to develop Bukit Begunan in the next five years, Mong feels that education remains close to his heart, and wants the children in his constituency to have a conducive environment for their studies. He foresees education to be a major factor lifting the future generations in Bukit Begunan from poverty and improve their standard of living.

The aspiring candidate from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) is going all out to ensure that the dilapidated schools in his constituency are upgraded and repaired as soon as possible.

“My wish for Bukit Begunan is for the dilapidated schools there to be upgraded. There are cracks which can been seen at some of the teachers’ quarters and even the main building block, and it is also lacking in terms of basic amenities.

“Most of the schools there are boarding schools, and there are also some schools which do not enjoy 100 per cent electricity supply. I will continue to work with the relevant authorities to ensure that the government will connect electricity supply from the main grid as well as to provide all the schools with Internet connectivity.

“It is important for students, especially those in rural areas, to have Internet connection nowadays. It will help them in their studies especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic, which is very much focused on online learning.”

One of the multi-purpose halls built in a school at Bukit Begunan through the Rural Transformation Project (RTP) fund allocated to Mong.

Currently, there are 12 primary schools and one secondary schools located in the Bukit Begunan constituency.

The 12 primary schools consists of St Martin Lachau, SJK Chung Hua Bangkong, SK Selanjang Sebemban, SK Munggu Bringin, SK Selepong, SK Melugu, SK St Paul Banting, SK Engkranji, SK Tanjung Bijat, SK Bakong, SK Kempakit and SK Kem Temudok.

The sole secondary school there is SMK Melugu, which has about 700 students.

Mending what is broken

On another note, Mong, who regularly visits his constituency and attends the people’s gathering there, said the RM5 million Rural Transformation Programme (RTP) fund which is allocated for development has been disbursed for the repair of longhouses in Bukit Begunan.

“The fund has been utilised to repair longhouses which are in bad condition. Some of the funds have also been used to repair school buildings and the community hall,” he said.

Mong who is an adventurous person at times will explore one of the national parks located in his constituency.

The sacred Gunung Lesung 

He has termed Gunung Lesung National Park, which is located within Bukit Begunan, as a hidden gem, sporting spectacular natural views and a varied array of flora and fauna.  Those who love nature and are eager for some jungle trekking will be interested to learn that it is a destination worth visiting.

“The national park is seen as a sacred mountain for the Iban community living there to seek blessings, such as good health.  From time to time, some of them also visit to perform ceremonial events.”

There are various species of flora and fauna, as well as the occassional orang-utan to be seen at Gunun Lesung National Park.

The Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) is collaborating with University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) to promote Gunung Lesung National Park as an eco-tourism destination, as it has a rich history which spans over 160 years.

SFC is working with the locals, training them to become tour guides for foreign tourists who visit the national park.

On tourism development within his constituency, Mong hinted that a tourism complex which on the cards, is expected to be constructed in Bukit Begunan under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), though he did not disclose much details.

One of the village roads which has been surfaced with concrete.

The five-term assemblyman for Bukit Begunan was eager to point out that there was much more to be done to develop the area.

There are approximately 198 longhouses in Bukit Begunan and the constituency has a population of more than 10,000 people, mostly consisting of the Iban followed by the Melanau, the Chinese and other races.

Mong, who will be defending the Bukit Begunan seat in the upcoming 12th State Election is confident that many programmes and projects planned in the constituency will be implemented.

A familiar face among the villagers and locals, Mong aims to transform Bukit Begunan into a vibrant town in the next five years.

Voices of the rakyat

Tuai Rumah Selimin Kring giving a talk to villagers during an event at the community hall.

Village headman Tuai Rumah Selimin Kring, who has known Mong since before he was an elected representative, said Mong is a people-centric assemblyman.

He said Mong visited his constituency almost every week before the Covid-19 pandemic, and is very close to the people in Bukit Begunan constituency.

“He has fought for a lot of projects to be implemented here.

“Projects such as a community hall, school, chapels are being constructed through the MRP fund that he provides.

“He serves the people here regardless of race and the people here want him to continue to serve for continued development,” Kring said.

Tuai Rumah Riji Gua

Meanwhile, Tuai Rumah Riji Gua opined that Mong is committed to ensure Bukit Begunan will continue to enjoy development going forward.

“He works hard to ensure development projects such as drainage and irrigation, road upgrading and electricity supply are available to villagers.

“Besides, he distributes the RTP funds that he gets equitably for the community regardless of race and religion for instance to build churches, mosques or temples here,” he said.

Gua who has known Mong since 1998, said the latter is a caring and friendly leader who is always concerned with the welfare of the people of Bukit Begunan.

He believes Mong will transform Bukit Begunan from a relatively quiet and unknown place into a modern town that attracts tourists and locals.

Mong has been the representative for Bukit Begunan for five consecutive terms since 1996 when he first elected.

In the 2016 Sarawak Election, he won with a majority of 4,695 after polling 5,550 votes against Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PRK) Jubri Atak who managed to garner 855 votes. — DayakDaily

Tuai Rumah Selimin Kring attends a gathering with community leaders at a longhouse. Also seen is Mong (third right).