MIRI: Good development programmes are those that come straight from the heart and are implemented for the benefit of the people without any strings attached.
Former two-term Baram councillor Lee Kee Bian said it was also vital that such initiatives must never be forced down the people’s throat.
“Good development programmes must be implemented to benefit the people without attaching a price or condition. It should not have to be forced.
“That way it will always have the support and respect of the people,” said Lee, when asked for his views on how the government can maintain the people’s support.
Lee recalled the time way back in the early 1970s when as a member of SUPP he took a personal interest in pushing for an airport to be built in Long Lellang, a remote Kelabit settlement with only about 200 people.
Back then, to reach Long Lellang from Miri, one had to take the long and tedious route from Kuala Baram to Marudi town by motor launch along the Baram River, and then travel to Long Lama. This stretch of the journey alone takes two days.
This is followed by a longboat ride from Long Lama to Long Akah, which eats up another two days. From Long Akah, one has to hop onto a small longboat to Long Seniai using Sungai Akah. That’s another two days.
From Long Seniai to Long Lellang requires walking on hilly ‘roads’ in tough terrains for about a day, meaning the whole journey takes seven days!
“Long Lellang villagers complained about spending so much time going through the torturous routes to reach bigger towns like Marudi and Miri,” recalled Lee, who hails from Long Lama but has since settled in Miri.
He added that he then saw the need for a better way to travel, such as by air, and thus decided to approach then Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Yong to build an airport in Long Lellang.
Although just an ordinary SUPP member then, Lee penned the proposal and forwarded it together with the villagers’ petition to convince Yong of the need to build the airport that will open up the interior of Sarawak.
At first, he reminisced, Yong hesitated due to the high cost of building an airport, but Lee advised him not to worry too much about whether it would be justified.
With the help of the Public Works Department (PWD), land was cleared within three months for the airstrip and in no time at all Long Lellang had air connectivity to the outside world.
“It may have happened long ago, but it’s a good example of a development that the people appreciated.
“Now it is fast and easy to fly to Marudi and other towns, and catch connecting flights to Miri.
“Domestic air travel opened up the interior, and the next stage is to build the roads.”
Lee travelled to Long Lellang by air in 1982, and was glad that the airport fulfilled the people’s wishes.
“If the government continue to implement projects that the people really wanted, they will always earn the respect and support of the people.”