MIRI: The Rural and Regional Development Ministry in the federal capital has intervened in the iron-bridges disputes between the natives of interior central Sarawak and a giant timber company.
The company had wanted to dismantle communication and transportation linkages in the deep reaches of Kapit Division in the east Malaysian state in the island of Borneo.
Deputy Rural and Regional Development Minister Joseph Belaun Entulu told the Penans and other natives living in the affected regions that he would speak to the big boss of the timber company, the state minister concerned and his own minister in Putrajaya about this issue.
I will ask the timber company not to disturb the bridges, and will discuss how to find a solution agreeable to all. I will also talk to (the chairman of the company in Sibu).
These bridges are very important for the natives in rural regions … without them, they cannot travel to the outside world.
Ulu Rejang is the biggest parliamentary constituency in the country and the population is very scattered. They need to be linked (via these bridges) or else they will not be able to get food, fuel and other necessities, he told the Penans during his recent visit to the settlements affected by the dispute.
The timber giant will soon be withdrawing from the areas that would be inundated by the flooding of the Bakun Dam reservoir.
The timber company had already logged more than 50,000ha in the areas near Bakun and is now in the advanced stage of pulling out its machinery and trucks.
It had recently decided that by next month, it will also dismantle the iron bridges that it had built more than 10 years ago – bridges that the company used to transport workers and machinery into the timber concession zones and to ferry logs out to the sawmills.
Its decision caused an uproar among Barisan Nasional MPs and among the natives of central Sarawak as this would totally cut the inhabitants off from each other and from urban centres.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, during a four-day visit last week to various locations in Kapit, had also promised to help the affected natives.