Lawas fast expanding as commercial centre

Hussaini reading BAT6 reports during an interview with him in Lawas on Wednesday.

Hussaini reading BAT6 reports during an interview with him in Lawas on Wednesday.

Lawas as a booming northern gateway needs a new airport.

Lawas as a booming northern gateway needs a new airport.

The water buffalo is the icon of Lawas.

The water buffalo is the icon of Lawas.

LAWAS: Lawas as the northern gateway to Sabah has developed in sync with the needs of time. With a booming economy and fast expanding as a commercial centre, it has seen vast transformation over the past six years when BAT1 first stopped over at the town en-route to Labuan, Sabah.

The town now even boasts of having at least two traffic light junctions to ease traffic flow; at times could be dense due to the increasing number of vehicles crossing over from both Brunei and Sabah. One could easily get ‘lost’ driving in the town unlike six years ago.

However, there are many more facilities and infrastructure that need immediate attention, said Lawas District Officer Hussani Hakim.

Among the most urgent, he highlighted, is the construction of a new Lawas Airport to facilitate travel as Lawas is geographically separated from the rest of Sarawak due to the lack of road connectivity to Limbang and Miri.

“We hope that the federal government will approve the implementation of the new Lawas Airport soon as it has been approved by the prime minister during Parliament sitting not too long ago,” Hussaini told BAT6 at his office on Wednesday.

Currently, Lawas can be reached either by air or by road via Brunei, from Limbang and from Sindumin, Sabah.

“It’s kind of funny that when we need to attend meeting with the Limbang Resident we have to go ‘overseas’ via Brunei as we need to produce our passports at the Brunei Immigration checkpoint,” he said.

Thus he hoped for an alternative route to Lawas from Miri – via the highlands of Bario and Ba Kelalan bypassing Brunei.

He said the road project from Ba Kelalan to Bario is currently undertaken by the army under the second phase of ‘Jiwa Murni’ programme. Phase one of the ‘Jiwa Murni’ programme which involved upgrading the existing logging road from Lawas to Ba Kelalan has been completed.

“If we have the road connectivity of our own, then travelling is more efficient,” he stressed.

Hussaini said he has heard tales of people transporting dead bodies of their loved ones by road via Brunei by putting dark glasses over their eyes to make them look alive.

On a related issue, Hussaini highlighted that Lawas also needs both a recreational park and public swimming pool.

This is because the people now had nowhere to go with their families during public holidays and weekends, he reasoned.

“We need a public swimming pool here so that we can promote water sports among the youth. Currently, many of our youth are involved in unhealthy activities such as drug abuse and other social ills,” he said.

He said Lawas has a rich cultural heritage as there is a good mixture of people from various ethnic backgrounds such as the Kedayans, Lun Bawangs, Tagals, Ibans and (Brunei) Malays and Chinese.

“We have a rich cultural heritage here and that is why we need to continue to preserve our respective cultures. Here, both the government and leaders of the various communities need to work closely together to enhance the good relationship among our people,” said Hussaini, who is also the chairman of the Lawas District Council.

Meanwhile, Hussaini said Lawas has seen vast economic transformation over the years due to the vibrant economic activities such as oil palm cultivation, timber extraction, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) involving fish products such as the ‘tahai’ or smoked fish and fishing.

“We can see that those who are hardworking like the fishermen in Sundar and Awat-Awat, they can afford to build beautiful houses and even able to purchase 4WD vehicles. So too are the farmers in the highlands who plant oil palm. The Chinese of course are well-off due to the good business here,” he added.

 

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