Time for Betong to diversify its economy, make its crocodiles ‘pay’ — Uggah

Uggah (fourth from left) and Robert beating a drum to celebrate the occasion.

BETONG, Feb 24: Crocodiles are feared by man, and the general advice is to stay clear of them, but for Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, those armour-plated creatures lurking in Sungai Layar and Sungai Paku are actually “golden geese”.

“Crocodile-watching packages can be done for Sungai Layar and Sungai Paku, which are now teeming with the creature,” he said when promoting the idea that the time has come for Betong to tap its huge ecotourism and modern agriculture potential.

Speaking at a Chinese New Year gathering organised by the Betong Buddha Association here last night, Uggah told those present that Betong had quite a number of places that would interest tourists and visitors alike.

“We have places like the historical Bukit Sadok, which can be developed for adventure and nature-loving tourists.”

The deputy chief minister believed that with the coming of the coastal trunk road passing through Betong, more people from outside would visit the town.

He added that it was time for the local economy to diversify as all these years, it had hinged on oil palm and rubber plantations.

“The time has come for us to move forward by diversifying our growth base. Let us tap into tourism and modern agriculture on the huge tracts of land that we have in our hinterland here, in Spaoh and in Debak, as well.”

Uggah suggested fruit and vegetable farming and livestock rearing.

“But we need to do this the modern way for better quantity and quality of our products. Then we can reduce our dependence on oil palm (where about 20,000 hectares had been cultivated) and on rubber.”

Uggah also suggested forming a committee to chart the town and division’s development in a more holistic and planned manner.

“We can bring in the various associations and organisations and government agencies to sit together. I don’t mind chairing this (proposed) committee,” he said.

At the gathering, he announced government grants totalling RM750,000 for various associations and schools. The amount included RM500,000 for the Betong Chinese Temple building fund and RM100,000 for the Betong Buddhist Association multi-purpose hall project.

Present were Betong MP Datuk Robert Lawson Chuat and his wife, Datin Claudia Janting, a political secretary to the Chief Minister, Dr Richard Rapu, Betong Resident Friday Belik and the association’s chairman Patrick Own.

In his speech, Robert called on the people to support the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government, assuring that it would protect the state’s rights and interests while reclaiming those that had eroded over the years.

“GPS represents all races and religions in Sarawak. We must protect all our rights and interests.

“If GPS is defeated in the coming state election (due in 2021), we might forfeit our rights and wealth to outsiders and outside political parties,” he cautioned. — DayakDaily