My friends from Baram,
Now the Malaysian parliament already dissolved and there is a lot of political talks taking place anywhere around town and villages. Not sparing one of the biggest constituency,the Baram parliamentry, we can't help but talked about it in political term and development of the area. The incumbent MP is most of the time in Kuching. As a voter from one of the station there, it is heartening to see the whole situation of Baram.
Starting from Marudi: it is almost a dead town, surviving on its own and there is minimal inputs from outside maybe since a decade ago.. The local bizmen got to connect their own road (15 km?) to a plantation road (owned by ex-timber co.) in order to reach Lambir and to Miri. And you've got to have super 4wheelers to go through especially rainy days (often holiday seasons as well) and got to pay twice the service of private ferry across Bakong and Baram river. If the river is swolen, you are to leave your 4wheeler in marudi or got to transport it by barge via Kuala Baram, extra cost again. Now, the express boat service is so poor, the operators can't provide decent boats anymore. The last time we 'tumpang' express boat Marudi-Kuala Baram sector, i saw a Swaylin poster (Iban Artiste - lady singer) pasted on the wall at the back seat, believe me, that poster is seen in one of my late mum's photo taken with our headman on the same boat a decade ago. Meaning nothing change much on that boat, including the seats cover, all torn already.
Move to Long Lama: Formerly the transit for timber transportation via Baram river, it should be upgraded with a rural growth centre (rgc)in place, it's just a dream. After the state election a couple opf years back, the majority votes for BN dropped, maybe that is why the rgc doesn't move? We also have this road issue been going on for about a decade now. We hardly benefit in the development of the state. Since the timber biz move out from this rural bazaar (to Lapok, Tinjar) there is only the secondary school providing a 'viable' biz community here. Bleak future if the road not coming in the next Malaysai plan.
Back to Lapok: The longest road to build (there is also a story of 'the longest bridge' to build) is an eyesore and heartbreak. I always lament the fact that this is one of the the worst part of public access road in Malaysia. I pity those guys who labored much to keep some cash, purchase any japanese twin-cab 4wheelers on loan for max 9 years and utilize it to venture into rural transportation biz. Within 2 to 3 years, the vehicle couldn't stand the 'roughness' of the road. There are still many years to go on the loan!! But when can we have simple access road crossing this big district (the size of the Pahang?) to Lawas to complete the so-called "Pan-Borneo Highway"? Which highway are we talking about?
Rural areas in Bakong, Tutoh-Apoh, Tinjar, Upper Baram: There is nothing to be proud of, except they were formerly timber producing areas and now host to giants oil palm plantations and planted forests, of which, i believe, does not really benefit the local populace in the long term. Major changes in the policing will have to be done in the future to avoid permanent damages to the societies in years to come.
There comes a corridor named SCORE, and Baram is listed there for a hydro-power project. Maybe there is a good point to look into. Major project like this may bring better economical impact to the peoples. But lets put it into perspective when a community leader said this in a public meeting few years back, "beginilah Tan Sri, kalau ada jaraya dibina sampai ke kawasan kami, apa pun kita boleh buat jika kita berusaha. Kalau tidak ada jaraya, ada kereta pun, kita tidak ke mana bah..". That statement was greeted with an applause from the other rural leaders present. I don't remember if Tan Sri responded to it. I guess this is already five years since and it seems that public meeting is yet another campaign for another election.