By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, May 23: Following the constant occurrence of logging roads being disconnected due to heavy rain, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau (GPS-PBB) proposed a JKR Luar Bandar unit be set up or funds be set aside for the emergency repair of logging roads in Baram.
According to his calculations, there are approximately 1,000km of logging roads connecting 88 longhouses and settlements in the Telang Usan constituency, covering 9,625 square kilometres (sq km).
He said all this while logging companies had been responsible for repairing these logging tracks should there be any damage.
But with the recent introduction of the Forest Management Unit (FMU), where new guidelines for logging activities were introduced, logging companies are now downsizing their operations, causing their operation centres to shut down and leaving logging roads unattended.
“Even as I am speaking at this point of time, my folk of Long Bangan and Long Win are struggling to repair log bridges, which were badly damaged by heavy rain, along the road connecting them to the outside world.
“And this happened throughout the year and at several parts of the over 1,000km of active and ex-logging roads all over Telang Usan. In areas with no logging operations nearby, the village folk have no choice but to ‘pakai tangan sendiri” (use their own hands) to do the repairing.
“Of late, raining seems to occur frequently. This gives me sleepless nights, worrying whether another landslide might occur or another log bridge could be swept away,” said Dennis while debating on the Governor’s Address at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) today.
He expressed understanding of the government’s initiatives and plans to build more roads connecting the interiors of Baram. However, when there is an urgent case, he has nowhere to ask for funds for immediate repair, and the people suffer when they are physically disconnected from the outside world.
“This is where I am helpless to address my constituents’ urgent needs. Up in the ulu (rural areas), the rakyat (people) are counting the minutes when help from the government will arrive.
“When we try to get help from government agencies to do repair works, wakil rakyat (elected representatives) are expected to hear ‘No funds available to help you, YB’,” lamented Dennis.
He said that even if there are funds, the process of applying for it can be so long-winded and tedious that urgent needs cannot be met, and the “poor rakyat become the victims of our own created system”.
He thus suggested that the Sarawak government create the JKR Luar Bandar unit, equipped with basic equipment such as tractors, excavators, trucks, and other facilities.
This unit, which provides instant help to repair roads and bridges along the logging roads, can also be called the ‘Emergency Response Team’.
For Baram, he hoped a unit might be stationed at Long Lama, Beluru town, and Long Banga of Ulu Baram, respectively.
If the idea is too hard to be implemented, he suggested that the Sarawak government allocate a fund of RM3 million this year to the Telang Usan, Beluru, and Bario district offices.
“The funds will be used to engage local companies to do immediate repair work as and when there is a need and on the request from the wakil rakyat.
“I see there is an urgent need to look at rural roads which can also be used by the Health Department, Public Works Department (JKR), Welfare Department, National Registration Department, Resident Office and the District Office staff members, and others to serve our people.
“And also, please do not look at ‘the investment return’ in spending money on the rural community’s needs,” said Dennis.
He said the Sarawak Budget 2022 allocated RM7.509 billion for development expenditure, of which RM1.18 billion is earmarked for transport, including roads, bridges, riverine infrastructure and ports, navigational safety, and various infrastructure projects under Project Rakyat.
“I am only asking for a very small portion from these billions for the sole purpose of helping our underprivileged rural folk who have given their support to GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) as shown in the recent PRN12 (12th Sarawak Election,” said Dennis. — DayakDaily