Kembara Kenali Borneo: Al-Sultan Abdullah wants well-planned development for Sabah, Sarawak

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The King and Queen taking wefie with the people at one of their stops in the Kembara Kenali Borneo programme in Sabah last year.

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 29): The ‘Kembara Kenali Borneo’ tour, inspired by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, to meet the people in Sabah and Sarawak, has created a phenomenon which is etched in the memory of not only the subjects but also His Majesty and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.

Describing the experience as sweet memories which will last forever, Their Majesties recalled that the tour was initially meant as a holiday for the royal family to enjoy the beauty of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as getting to know the local people, culture, customs and crafts of various ethnic groups.

The tour embarked on by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, together with the Raja Permaisuri Agong and the entourage, as they travelled to the interiors of the two states for the first time, received an overwhelming response and an extraordinary presence of the local community at each destination.

Visits and stopovers during the Kembari Kenali Borneo tour, from Sept 3 to 13, last year, became a phenomenon, so much so that the tour was ‘trending’ on social media at the time.

“It was one sweet memory that will last me a lifetime. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I do have flashbacks, and I cry as it (the experience) moves me… remembering the unexpected reception.

“I am very grateful, and so is Raja Permaisuri,” said Al-Sultan Abdullah, in an interview with editors and senior journalists of the main media at the Istana Negara, recently, in conjunction with the completion of his reign as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Jan 30.

Raja Permaisuri Agong who was also present, said, “We are so overwhelmed. To be accepted; to be warmly welcomed.”

They described the tour as a new experience, indirectly giving the people an opportunity to voice their problems, especially in terms of infrastructure development and basic facilities, which both Sabahans and Sarawakians desperately need.

While showing some of the letters received, and the report book (of actions) taken by the government following the tour, Al-Sultan Abdullah said that every development project in Sabah and Sarawak announced by the government must be monitored and implemented as best as possible, without any leakage.

He said that if there is a leak in each of the projects, then the people in Sabah and Sarawak will lag in terms of development, compared with those in the peninsula.

His Majesty said that the allocation for development projects in Sabah and Sarawak is also very important and must be prioritised, considering the area is much bigger than the peninsula.

“We in the peninsula should be grateful, all the basic facilities are already in place; there (Sabah and Sarawak)… we see the size of Sabah and Sarawak, which is twice the size of the peninsula.

“So, imagine wanting to build a road, from village A to village B, town A to town B – here in the Peninsula only 200 kilometres (km), but in Sabah and Sarawak it will be doubled (in terms of distance), the cost will also double; the allocations are also double or triple as the financial factor in these two states is very important,” said His Majesty.

Recalling the memories of the tour, Al-Sultan Abdullah expressed his appreciation to the Sabah and Sarawak governments, as well as the departments and agencies involved in making the programme a success.

The royal entourage spent time and experienced the lives and unique cultures of the people in Sabah and Sarawak through the Kembara Kenali Borneo, led by Al-Sultan Abdullah, who took the wheel of a four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle to cover a distance of 2,332 kilometres, along the Pan Borneo Highway, which connects Sabah, Sarawak, and Brunei,

Throughout the 11-day journey, Their Majesties showed a deep concern about the plight of residents, who were experiencing various infrastructure problems, with Al-Sultan Abdullah open to receiving letters of complaint from the people, while Tunku Azizah was willing to write down residents’ complaints in a notebook.

“My deep sympathy after hearing and seeing for myself…long houses abandoned on the side of the highway… (there were people) shouting “Tuanku, there is no water here for the past eight days”.

“During the tour, we saw a collapsed bridge. Alhamdulillah, the federal government will build a new bridge, costing RM13 million, to facilitate the villagers.

During the tour in Sabah, Al-Sultan Abdullah saw for himself the condition of the bridge in Sungai Liwagu, Ranau, which was damaged, making it difficult for residents to cross the river.

“I saw that there was a car on the other side (across the river), so I asked how the car was going to get to this side because the bridge was broken; he (a resident of a nearby village) told me that the person had to wait for the water to recede before he could cross the river, but sometimes he got stuck. InsyaAllah a new bridge will be built there, and (supply of) water can also be facilitated,” said His Majesty.

Al-Sultan Abdullah also described the people of Sabah and Sarawak as extraordinary, for their willingness to wait and turn out in droves to greet the Kembara Kenali Borneo tour convoy, led by His Majesty.

Among the events which caught the public’s attention was the brief meeting of Their Majesties with two-year-old Missclyen Roland, a Sarawakian girl diagnosed with congenital generalised hypertrichosis (CGH), with her parents, when the Kembara Kenali Borneo convoy stopped at the grounds of the Mosque Al-Falah, Kampung Penan Muslim Batu 10, Bintulu-Miri on Sept 10 last year.

“(During the meeting) I held (Missclyen), I felt pity and love, so I talked to Tuanku (Al-Sultan Abdullah) that I wanted to adopt (Missclyen), to help pay for her education and treatment, not to take her away from her family,” recalled Tunku Azizah about her meeting with the girl.

That moment marked the beginning of the relationship between the two-year-old girl’s family and the royal couple when Tunku Azizah decided to adopt Missclyen.

Tunku Azizah also intends to visit Missclyen again this February or March.

“(Currently), I have her father’s phone number and I contact (Missclyen’s family) regularly, and we are now looking for treatment for Missclyen,” said Her Majesty. – Bernama