KUCHING: The people living in Pulau Bruit are in dire straits, especially for road connectivity and clean water supply.
According to the book, “Sarawak and Its People”, the inhabitants of Pulau Bruit in Daro district has been in existent before 1830.
Today, the community was made up of mostly fishermen and farmers, earning an average income of RM700 monthly.
Since his appointment in 2007 as the community headman of Kampung Bruit, 58-year-old Penghulu Razeli Bujang said that he was optimistic and hopeful that the government will help the islanders in terms of social, economic and infrastructure developments.
Razeli, who was the main host for Kuching Specialist Hospital Community Outreach Programme from Dec 3 to 5 to the island, said that as their community leader he understood the current plight of the people and their wishes from the state government.
But the former army, also the headman of the largest village on the island, urged his fellow islanders to be patient because developments would come in stages to help them out of hardships and improve their living standard.
He told reporters that even though they were categorised in the hardcore poor group, they have to continue working hard and find ways to bring home earnings.
Razeli revealed that fishermen can only sail out to the sea for four months in a year and earned around RM350 per month whilst farmers who relied on paddy planting get around RM300 per month.
He said that at other times, the fishermen and farmers earned their extra incomes from working as a general labourer, mending the homes of fellow villagers or did odd jobs at the mainland, outside the island.
On the living conditions, Razeli said the priority was for clean water supply but they understood that the government could only provide the supply only by 2012. Mean time, they relied on rain water for drinking, washing, sanitation and carrying out other chores.
The villagers will be worry free during rainy season or when a heavy downpour but during the period of drought, they would heavily depended on outside help.
Every household were given at least 4 or 5 water storage tanks by the government to ensure that they have enough daily water ration.
Unfortunately, the island has no water catchment area and the underground water is dirty and salty, making it difficult to find clean water.
On inland connectivity, Razeli said that the only good tar road on the island is the 7 to 8 kilometre road from Kampung Bruit to Kampung Tekajong.
People in Pulau Bruit still use the water ways as mean of transportation to get to other villagers and so depended on the water tide.
Razeli disclosed that, with a population of about 2,000, some 400 people had left to live outside the island.
He said many left the island to overcome hardship while some chose to live with relatives and family members working in towns and cities.
Like any responsible community headman, he hoped that the islanders would be better educated and lived a better life elsewhere but must not forget their roots and families still at the island.
There are around 205 students studying at Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Bruit at present and more than 100 have gone to study in SMK Daro, SMK Igan and other secondary schools in Sibu.
Despite their poverty and hardship, Kampung Bruit has produced 29 graduates so far. Razeli was glad that these people will have a much better life and hoped that they can help their relatives who still reside on the island.
The islanders relied on government for various assistants to ensure that life on the island continue as normal without major illness.
Razeli extended his gratitude to the KCSH Community Outreach Programme which provided medical and other services to them.
“We know that they are people who are concerned about us here and we hoped more such programme can reach the island so that we can get additional and better medical treatment other than the community clinic on the island,” he said.
Lead by director of KCSH and Usaha Cendera Ngeng Eng Cheng, more than 50 volunteers including two consultant specialist doctors, five medical doctors and two dentists assisted by volunteer nurses and medical assistants joined the programme.
Apart from these medical personnels, also participating in the programme were staffs from National Registration, Pusat Pembangunan Kemahiran Sarawak (PPKS) and Agriculture Department, providing registration service for identity cards and documents, education and agriculture counselling as well as talks on ways to boost their social economic standing.
During the three days trip, medical personnel attended the islanders and discovered that more than 40 per cent of them have hypertension, high sugar level which could lead to type II diabetes and eye diseases that could jeopardise their sight.
The government has planned a project costing RM400 million for road connectivity and clean water supply in 2012 to solve the dilemmas of the people in Pulau Bruit.