Integrated approach for rural devt projects urged


BELAGA: An integrated approach, with the Implementation and Coordination Unit ( ICU) in the Prime Minister’s Department as the lead agency, is needed to fast track development projects in rural Sarawak.

ASSISTANCE: Shahlan (front row second right) hands over the rice and milk.

Political secretary to the Prime Minister, Datuk Shahlan Ismail, said this integrated model would speed up delivery of basic infrastructure and public amenities, with the ICU as the lead agency, military providing engineering expertise and manpower, as well as other agencies to help overcome obstacles and challenges.

“This was adopted and proven successful in getting the Ba Kelalan road and bridges project to take off and I would think it could be replicated in other parts of rural Sarawak where the geographically difficult terrain and sparsely distributed villages are the main challenges,” he explained.

Shahlan spearheaded the ground-breaking fast track approach to resolve the woes in Ba Kelalan, which has the highest cost of living in the country due to the lack of transportation and communication.

The road upgrading project, under the military’s Jiwa Murni programme, will enable the first Perodua Kancil to reach Ba Kelalan by Christmas if weather permits, a far cry from the rivers of mud on the logging track linking Long Luping and Ba Kelalan, which was only passable to modified 4WD vehicles in the past.

Shahlan is looking forward to replicating a similar integrated approach in addressing the needs of the rural areas in central Sarawak, including the Sungai Asap Resettlement area, Penan settlements and resolving the woes of those affected by the lower water level of the Rajang River between Belaga and Kapit.

More agencies would be added to the team to address the needs and issues for a speedy roll out and smooth delivery of projects.

Among the issues brought to his attention in Long Singu, Lusong Laku, Belaga town and Sungai Asap were the need for identity cards and birth certificates from the Penan community, funds for longhouses, roads needed due to the shallow Rajang River between Belaga and Kapit, upgrading internal and access roads for Sungai Asap Settlement, as well as economic activities.

On the request for a road linkage there, he said, it was in the final stages of discussion and the Prime Minister was keen to visit the area early next year.

“This is the 1Malaysia of People First, Performance Now in action and we came to get a better picture on the ground by listening to the people and the authorities, analysing them and putting forward recommendations in a full report to the Prime Minister for action to be taken,” said Shahlan during an interview at Bintulu Airport prior to flying back to Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, ICU director-general Datuk Shukri Mohd Salleh said a team effort is needed to resolve the issues raised for government’s attention and action during the three-day tour.

“We cannot solve all the problems, but we will solve them according to priority and capacity, but what is important is that the authorities must engage the public for projects to run smoothly and overcome the challenges as done very well by the Armed Forces with the Ba Kelalan project,” he said.

He pointed out that the authorities sometimes failed to maintain constant engagement with the people, resulting in problems and wrong perceptions arising from the ground.

Meanwhile, the group also presented over 200 bags of rice and milk to the Penan communities at Long Singu for the Long Luar community, whose longhouse burnt down, and those at Lusong Laku.

Shahlan also presented RM1,000 from the Prime Minister’s Raha Foundation to each Penan longhouse for their activities