Barisan needs to alleviate woes of Sarawak interior folk


stephenthen@thestar.com.my

MIRI: The Barisan Nasional in the northernmost regions of Sarawak has emerged victorious in the polls, but there is not much cause for celebration.

The ruling coalition must get down to work immediately and figure out how to provide basic amenities like treated water and electricity to tens of thousands of people in the Limbang, Lawas and Baram parliamentary constituencies.

Another important thing it must do is repair the hundreds of kilometres of rural roads in horrendous conditions.

While doing this, the Barisan MPs must solve another problem causing terrible suffering to interior folks – constant floods.

Perennial problem: Part of the Pan Borneo Highway from Limbang to Brunei flooded due to heavy rain recently.

The Star, over the past two weeks, carried out ground visits to the polling districts of Ulu Baram and Ulu Limbang and found the basic of basics still missing.

Interior folks living in longhouses, riverine settlements and kampungs far from urban areas were still without treated water, electricity, proper roads, medical facilities, postal services, telecommunication facilities, easy access to schools, newspapers, Internet linkages, air links and others.

These folks, who are living hands to mouth, have been like this for decades.

“Our roads have not been upgraded since Independence. My longhouse has been hit by floods at least five times a year over the past 40 years.

“Promises after promises by YBs have not been fulfilled,” said a disgruntled voter.

Newly-elected Limbang MP Hasbi Habibollah, from the Barisan component Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu, acknowledged there was a lot of catching up to do with the rest of Malaysia.

“Yes, there is a lot we need to do for Limbang. I cannot make any promises now on what I will accomplish for the people. Give me some time to sit with assemblymen of this area and look at the urgent issues we need to deal with.

“Obviously, there are many places where even basic amenities are missing,” he said.

During the interview, it was raining heavily in Limbang, and less than half an hour later, reports came in from Barisan campaign workers of flooding in many areas.

Within minutes, a major section of the Pan Borneo Highway connecting Limbang town to neighbouring Brunei was flooded, and more than 200 cars were stranded as they could not go over the four-feet-deep flood waters.

The flooded zones were only less than 10km from Limbang town.

Hasbi acknowledged that the issue of floods caused by poor drainage and irrigation in northern Sarawak was a major problem that needed to be solved.

Residents told The Star that social and commercial activities came to a standstill as schools, homes, offices and even Limbang prison were inundated by floods.

In Baram constituency, the conditions of roads, and lack of water and electricity, continued to affect the population of more than 35,000.

Baram Barisan MP Datuk Jacob Sagan said the ruling government knew about the urgency and that these woes had been around for decades.

It was extremely costly and difficult to alleviate the problem due to the scattered population, vast geographical divides and logistic complexities, he said.

Nonetheless, the Barisan must do more. The fact that interior folks of northern Sarawak have kept faith in the Barisan and voted it in again shows they still have confidence in it.

Barisan YBs must repay the voters’ trust with a greater effort to help them.

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