MARUDI: Thousands of people turned up at the Marudi airport yesterday to give Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei a warm welcome to grace Baram Regatta 2011.
The Sultan flew in from Brunei using a Black Hawk helicopter. An accomplished pilot, the Sultan brought the aircraft to a perfect landing to the delight of the welcoming party at 9.15am. His entourage flew in using two other Black Hawks.
On hand to welcome him were Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Datuk Patinggi Muhammad Salahuddin, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang, DUN Speaker Datuk Amar Awang Asfia Awang Nassar, Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, and local community leaders.
All of them later headed to Marudi town for a colourful welcome by various ethnic communities from the Baram Basin, led by Baram Regatta organising chairman and Assistant Minister of Public Utilities Datuk Sylvester Entri Muran.
The huge crowd jam-packed the streets, and many of them not only hit their digital cameras in overdrive mode but also jostled for the opportunity to shake hands with the Sultan.
Entri later accompanied the Sultan, Taib, Jabu, and Awang Tengah to a floating stage which was manually powered by two longboats filled with people paddling furiously out of the wharf for a parade downriver before ending at the main stage.
They were accompanied by a flotilla of dragon boats and longboats.
The entourage later boarded a yacht and sailed upriver.
The Sultan then flagged off the race in which the prestigious prize was the ‘HRH Sultan of Brunei Champion Trophy’.
He later witnessed an epic battle of brawn which was opened to all categories of boats.
It was won by team Jayong Belaga, narrowly beating Citra.
Salcra was third.