S’wak fire victims seriously disappointed

It actually takes a fire, and 1,000 homeless people to tell the governmet that they are slacking off.

MIRI: It has been a futile 20-year wait for one satellite telephone set. No wonder the fire victims at the Punan Bah settlement in Kapit Division in central Sarawak are feeling disappointed.

Twenty years ago, politicians who visited the 1,500-strong community from the minority Punan ethnic group said Punan Bah would be equipped with a satellite communication set so they could contact the outside world in the event of emergencies.

“Twenty years ago, we asked the politicians and they agreed. We are still waiting today,” said Punan National Association publicity bureau chief Calvin Jemarang.

Last Monday, fire razed three longhouse blocks in Punan Bah, located some 500km south of here, and completely destroyed the wooden living quarters, leaving some 1,000 homeless. Punan Bah is about 250 years old, one of the oldest settlements in Sarawak.

It took more than a day before the fire victims could travel down to Belaga town by river and logging roads, some 80km from the site, to notify the police about the fire and to appeal for help from the welfare authorities, because of logistical problems and because the Punan Bah settlement did not have any telecommunication equipment.

Jemarang also appealed for fire extinguishers, water pumps and hoses for all longhouses.

Full article here.


I previously wrote about this fire incident here and here.

There’s been no report so far that there were any deaths at all, so I’m assuming that all the villagers are alive and well, save from being homeless.

It’s this kind of incidents that make people wonder, how much of what a politician says can we trust? Obviously, the people in Punan Bah will learn from this experience that promises can always be broken.

Imagine what it would be like if something more massive had happened. How would these people be able to get help from the government? As it is, it took a whole day before anyone other than the homeless people themselves knew about the fire. And after that, it took another day or two before the vital necessities arrived.

Of course the Sarawakians are disappointed. Even I’m disappointed. This is not the kind of treatment you want from the government. They have promised the people something of vital importance to the mere existence of their settlement, and the government just conveniently forgets about it the minute they get back to their air-conditioned offices.

If they can acknowledge that it’s been their negligence that caused these 1,000 people to be homeless, then I’m hoping that they’re taking all the necessary steps to rectify the problem. And of course, at the same time deliver what it was that they promised them.

** One thing good that I have to say though, is that this piece of news was carried by theStar from the beginning till the end. There have been news pieces before that seemed to lose its way halfway, and we’re left not knowing what happened in the end.

At least we know that the problem in Sarawak is being acknowledged. Let’s now hope that the government takes up the responsibility of fixing it.


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