By Karen Bong
KUCHING, July 27: Special efforts are needed to give a big push to and bring the Orang Ulu minority community into Sarawak’s mainstream development so that they too can enjoy the ‘low-hanging fruits’ and economic prosperity resulting from the State government’s inclusive development agenda.
Orang Ulu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OUCCI) president Datuk Mutang Tagal pointed out that the Orang Ulu community still lags far behind with minimal participation in terms of State administration, socio-economy, education and business development.
“In other words, like in golf lingo, we need a massive handicap to be able to compete with the rest who are more advanced and developed.
“Having said that, we are not naïve, for we know that in business, competition is the name of the game,” he said when speaking at the launching of OUCCI by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at a hotel here today.
Even though the Chamber now serves as a platform for the community to catch up with the rest, Mutang however acknowledged that there is still a long way to go and more efforts are needed especially to de-isolate the Orang Ulu community through infrastructure development that will help facilitate better movement of people and goods to integrate them with the core of society.
Noting the various strategic initiatives to speed up infrastructure and utility development that will soon link remote highland and hinterland areas to towns and cities in the State, he opined that the fledgling Orang Ulu can only be successful, given their deprived backgrounds, with some or maybe more assistance from the State government.
OUCCI thus urged the State government to consider and, if fit, appoint qualified and experienced Orang Ulu professionals to sit on the boards of the State Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) and their subsidiaries.
“We also hope the government can consider setting aside and allocating 30 per cent or more of the RM1.5 billion sum given to each of the three state development agencies—Upper Rajang Development Agency (URDA), Highland Development Agency (HDA), and Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA)—to the Orang Ulu contactors, consultants and business community through the Chamber.
“Some of the Chamber’s contractors bid and tendered for contracts issued out by Recoda (Regional Corridor Development Authority) within the last few years, but unfortunately none of them succeeded in these open tenders.
“They are yet to taste the ‘low-hanging fruits’ resulting from these transformational initiatives,” he said.
Mutang also urged the Sarawak civil service to employ more Orang Ulu professionals and support staff, to be more inclusive in the State administration.
Apart from this, he also highlighted the need to upgrade telecommunication infrastructure, and Wi-Fi and Internet connectivity in rural areas to accelerate and intensify online business and education learning which are fundamental to equipping rural communities so that they may prosper and compete globally in a digital economy.
“We look forward to the day when the Penans in the jungles of Murum or Mulu succeed in selling their intricately woven mats and bags directly on the Internet through e-commerce to some buyers in Europe,” he added.
The State Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker, who is also the OUCCI advisor, Dato Gerawat Gala, Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, Minister for Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, Assistant Minister of Rural Electricity Datuk Liwan Lagang, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, and Murum assemblyman Kennedy Chukpai Ugon were among those present. — DayakDaily