KUCHING: The government is setting up seven new rural service centres for Penans as part of a systematic approach to bring development to them.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu said four centres had been constructed in Long Rayah, Apau Nyaring, Ba Muboi and Long Luteng, while the one in Long Lamai was expected to be completed by end of this year.
“The rural service centre in Long Latei is in the siting stage and Long Jekitan in the early planning stage. These two centres will be constructed in 2014.
“Once in operation next year, these centres will serve as a meeting and trading point for the community,” he said in his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly yesterday.
He said the centres would provide greater access to communication for the Penans through Internet service as well as a place for early childhood education and to market their handicraft.
“In order for this to happen, the agencies concerned are now planning to equip the rural service centres with the necessary facilities and manpower required for their operation.”
Jabu said other government programmes for the Penan included rubber planting schemes in Long Beruang, Long Jekitan and Apau Nyaring, the Penan Handicraft Revolving Fund and food assistance and food basket pilot projects.
He said the food assistance programme, implemented in July with the help of the Health Department, aimed to provide undernourished children below the age of six with access to nutritious food.
“So far, the programme is well received by the Penan community and 27 children in Long Keluan are benefiting from it. Although it is still too early to evaluate the outcome, it is observed that there is already some positive progress as shown in the improvement of the children’s weight,” he told the August House.
He also said the food basket programme in Long Keluan, Long San and Lusong Laku provided assistance to Penan families earning less than RM1,500 a month.
“A total of 333 Penan families have been identified to participate in this programme. They are eligible to make food purchases at selected retail outlets using the MyKasih card.
“The card will be loaded with RM100 per month. However, the assistance for each family is confined to one year,” he said.