Monday, August 15

Kenyah folk praised for embracing change

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Dennis performs the earth-breaking ceremony to mark the new longhouse site for the villagers of Long Julan Pelutan.

MIRI: The ongoing teamwork and solidarity among the Kenyahs of Long Julan Pelutan are exemplary attributes that other communities can emulate from, says Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.

The elected representative also commends the villagers for not only continuing to work together towards making their settlement a better place for all, but also willing to embrace change and development.

“After being informed of your situation and experience, I think it’s a fair decision for you to seek a new site for your home without abandoning the traditional one, which your great-grandparents built years ago.

“Whatever opinions you may have, let us come together and discuss them. We must choose to create a better longhouse for you and your children to ensure that they would always have the heart to return to their roots, despite where they live their lives and earn their living,” he spoke prior to performing the earth-breaking ceremony on the site of the new longhouse for the villagers at Long Julan Pelutan yesterday.

This Kenyah settlement is located in Ulu Baram, about a five-hour drive from here.

Dennis (standing, eighth left) and residents of Long Julan Pelutan gather for a group photo after the ceremony.

In response to village chief KK James Gau Mato’s remarks about the difficult living condition in his longhouse, where there is no job and the majority of the residents are currently the elderly villagers, Dennis said this was the very reason why the Sarawak government introduced a number of mega projects meant to create jobs and business opportunities that were closer to home for the rural Baram folk.

“Without a major economic transformation start-up point, especially one that could attract the younger generation, I’m afraid that the majority of longhouses in rural Baram would slowly become empty. I’ve seen the decline in the longhouse population since I became the elected representative in 2011. This worries me, I must admit.

“We have plenty of land to be developed and turned into economic sources but as it is today, this still cannot attract current and future generations. We have to come back to the drawing board and try to do something in our ‘kawasan’ (areas),” said the assemblyman.

Dennis emphasised that the formation of several development committees across his constituency, including one in charge of the San area that covers settlements from Long Tap to Long Palai, is an effort that needs full solid support.

“I just hope that our current, educated generation, and maybe the future ones, would come back to their longhouses and venture into agriculture activities.”

Dennis also regarded developing Telang Usan – covering the basic infrastructures and amenities for all 83 settlements and longhouses – as ‘a mammoth task’.

“Still, we have seen many projects being implemented via RTP (Rural Transformation Programme) since 2011, as well as via special projects funded by the Sarawak government. But of course, due to the size and the geography, a lot more needs to be done.

“Having said that, we thank God for giving Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg the vision to set up the Highland Development Agency (HDA) – now led by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and assisted by Mulu assemblymen Dato Gerawat Gala, myself and Baram MP Anyi Ngau,” he said.

Dennis said Abang Johari had also developed new revenue streams for Sarawak as announced by him at the last Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting.

“This would enable our state to have more funds for rural development, including that for Telang Usan.

“This special focus agency (HDA), set up in July 2017, have been allocated with RM1.5 billion meant for developing several roads and standalone water treatment plant in Telang Usan and Mulu constituencies, with a timeline from 2019 and 2020, without depending on federal government funding.

“These two constituencies have never been allocated with such amount of money,” Dennis said.

For Long Julan Pelutan, he said it would be better for the village site to be close to the main trunk road for better accessibility.

“Therefore I urge our people to give undivided support to Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS)-led government under the leadership of Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari to ensure that development would continue to take place in Telang Usan,” he added.

Later, Dennis announced allocations of RM10,000 and RM5,000 from his minor rural project (MRP) grant for the longhouse security and development committee (JKKK) and its women’s bureau, respectively.