Group reaches grateful Penans after rough, three-day journey

LONG TANYIT: After three days of hard work, a team of people managed to bring more than 10 tonnes of food to some 1,500 Penans who are facing acute food shortages in the Kapit Division.

About 10,000kg of rice and other essential foodstuff such as canned food, milk powder, sugar and salt arrived here and the nearby Long Lidem, Long Kajang and Long Abit.

These isolated settlements are more than 12 hours drive along a timber road from Bintulu town.

The food was delivered using a heavy-duty timber truck and a convoy of six four-wheel drives. The team was greeted with smiles, hugs and handshakes.

Long Tanyit chief Salu Ugat said he was grateful to God for answering the people’s prayers.

“Food shortages here are serious. It has happened several times this year already. We waited weeks for this food supply,’’ he said.

Long Lidem chief Naran Pua said the people were surprised that the team managed to make the journey.

“We thought we are being attacked when we suddenly saw the lorry and the 4WDs coming. This is the first time we are getting so much food. We have been facing food problems for six years,” he said.

The Miri Catholic Church, which is coordinating the relief aid collection, had two weeks ago received appeals for aid, saying the Penans had run out of rice and other food items.

Twelve volunteers from the Malaysian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, a non-governmental disaster and relief aid organisation, flew in from Kuala Lumpur after reading about the Penans’ plight.

The team, led by volunteer Captain K. Balasupramaniam, arrived in Bintulu on Wednesday and travelled to the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme in Bakun.

He met up with Reverend Father Sylvester Ding, who is coordinating the deployment of the food aid, and a village head Penghulu Saging Bit.

From Bakun, the team sought the help of a timber firm to help send 1,600 bags of rice and hundreds of boxes of dry food. The journey along the timber roads was difficult. The team faced problems like vehicle breakdown, bad weather and delays resulting from permit requirements to enter a logging concession area.

The team will now focus on bringing food supply to the Lusong Laku Penan settlement, SK Lusong Laku and the teachers living there.

The Penans in the Sarawak interior have been cut off from the outside world after a timber giant dismantled an iron bridge across the Sungai Linau because the area was going to be flooded for the Bakun Dam.

It is learnt that the company had placed several pieces of logs across the river for the people in Lusong Laku to use as a temporary bridge.

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