FOR the past few years, weather permitting and after church, Auntie Di and I have made it a point to explore the Kuching suburbs and the immediate hinterland, for the fun of learning more about our city.
Between the two of us, we’ve lived in Kuching about 110 years, yet there is a lot that we don’t know about our immediate surroundings in the middle of the city.
Last Sunday, we set out to look for the Dr Sulaiman Daud Bridge. This bridge was recently opened for normal traffic, said to be sited in a new area of Kuching in the direction towards Matang, so it must span part of the Sarawak River between Batu Kawah and Satok Bridge.
But where exactly was it and how to get there? It being Kuching, of course there are no road signs to say, ‘This Way to the Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Bridge.’ You just follow your instincts.
I insisted on going west towards Matang, without the aid of any GPS (not to be confused with the new coalition) or even a compass. I said to the driver to just drive on and that we’ll cross the bridge when we come to it. We’d heard a rumour that it lies at the end of Pisang Road West. We tried the road, twisting and turning through the various tamans, passing by old and new houses, a couple of mansions, more shop houses, more terraced houses, construction sites – and, to be honest, neither of us had ever been in this ‘foreign’ part of town! Twenty minutes of this, but no bridge was in sight.
And not a hint of a sign to say ‘bridge’, ‘Matang’, or anything.
You’d think we were at war, when the names of roads are changed to fool the advancing enemy. But why, in times of peace, do we have to fool our own motorists?
Then we saw a river, and a bridge in the distance, but coming out of Pisang Road it was only a vision. We had to turn left, heading for Batu Kawah with the bridge receding behind us.
Well, you don’t pull this sort of trick on Auntie Di. She swung the car around in what was probably an illegal U-turn, and finally, finally we were heading for the bridge, and crossing it!
After all our high hopes of seeing not just any bridge but the Dr Sulaiman Daud bridge, here’s another disappointment. The signage on the bridge says ‘Sungai Sarawak’! Knowing the geography of Kuching up to a point (we’re still learning), we had a fair idea that this would be the river in question, but why didn’t somebody write at a prominent vantage the name of the bridge – Jambatan Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Daud?
This bridge provides an extra link to the other side of the river where development areas are opening up, new buildings are mushrooming – houses and more houses, shop houses and more shop houses. Good roads, good side roads. Little traffic as yet.
While enjoying the drive and noting that the whole area is jungle on a delta, I was asking myself what’ll happen if there is a bad flood. The Sarawak River can burst its banks following a heavy rain during a high or king tide.
There must be people who can afford to buy those houses and those shop houses … how much are they? Why build more when there are already thousands of buildings unoccupied in the city and in the immediate suburbs of Kuching? Obviously, I’m not a housing developer and therefore out of date.
Now that we had discovered what we were looking for, we think naming a bridge after the late Dr Sulaiman Daud is most appropriate.
Not because we knew him and his family, but because Sulaiman was the first Sarawakian to graduate as a dental surgeon from a prestigious dental school in New Zealand. After working in Brunei as a dental officer, he became a politician in Malaysia, holding posts as Minister of Lands in the state cabinet and as a federal Minister of Education. A Kuching boy making the grade and a bridge named after him – this is appropriate to mark his legacy to Sarawak.
Give honour where honour is due. Our old friend was, and is, a dentist like no other – still doing bridge work years after his demise!
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