Monday, August 2, 2010

Kampung Long Banga Not Forgotten - A tribute to Malaysian PM

Dear Friends,
Long Banga, being a far outpost village in Sarawak, closed to the international Malaysia-Indonesia border (Kalimantan province) really is not a forgotten place of late. This village, established around 1900 by a group of Sa'bans that left their Kelabit families in Long Peluan and latter followed by their Kenyah Leppo' Ke relatives, has been thriving under all circumstances since their settlement at this scenic location. From the pagans days till they embraced Christianity in the late early 1960s, from pure farming community till education changed almost all families into semi-agricultural and partly town-based till today, the changes are apparent at this remote place. This village was also used as a base by the Allied Army during the Confrontation in the mid-1960s.
Then, all of a sudden the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Seri Najib announced he is visiting the village in July, 2010. The excitement over this visit was sky-high and the villagers had work hard together with the primary school teachers (amongst the only government office available there) to ensure the visit was a memorable ones. The cooperation amongst the Sabans and the Leppo' Ke are exemplary. Their work ethics are good eventhough going through personal differences at times. The Kenyahs provides the artististry and details into the raw ideas and prowess of the Sabans. This is not only evident in their works but also in marriages...
When PM Najib arrived at this place on 22nd July 2010, the more changed for the better were expected. He announced a RM6million mini hydroelectric scheme and a RM1million access road to the village's airfield..
As his visit was witnessed by thousands of other Orang Ulu (mostly Kenyahs and Kayans) from various long houses down-river Baram, whom also don't want to be forgotten, PM announced the construction of the infamous 30+ year old 42km Beluru-Lapok road for RM100+ million.. What a relieved for all Orang Ulus..
But most importantly, we the Long Banga folks appreciate PM's visit to this outpost village, which shows his eagerness to know more about this country, even to the tiny community like ours. At least, he showed that he is willing to be at the remotest of the Orang Ulu area, as he told the audience, after consulting Dato Jacob Dungau Sagan, who hailed from a nearby village down-river Baram.
While addressing to the Orang Ulu folks for the first time at their remotest village in Long Banga, PM Najib jested that he also like wearing the 'tapung' for the first time...

We like to thank all the government agencies that made the PM visit a success and all Orang Ulus that came in droves until we could not house everybody at Long Banga, visitors overnite spilled-over to Long Peluan and Long Balong, both 20 minutes away by 4WDs..

Again, with the Orang Ulu's standard of hospitality, we were short of giving a 'name' for PM, but there were numerous 'forest produce' gifts from various community, he was also blessed with special prayer from Pastor Oda of SIB Long Banga, also a first time for PM, I guess.

Let's see how the government agencies responsible for the projects announced go about their implementation..

Monday, July 12, 2010

Many First Time Happenings

Dear All,

A first time experience is always genuine, exhilarating, may be devastating but that 'first time' will be remembered well in our life's span. We could quotes many first times here, but being an ardent sports fan (of all kind) there are a few first times happenings this week alone..

Golf - Eduardo Molinari won for the first time in Europe at the Scotish Open at Loch Lomond.. Paula Creamer, one of my favourites LPGA member, won the US Women's Open, her first major, at the Oakmont Course, the same place where Angel Cabrera won the
US Open last year. On a personal note, I too played at Kelab Golf Miri for DPTS Alfred Jabu Challenge trophy under the Dayak Golf Association's umbrella for the first time over the weekend. Lost badly though to fellow Dayak golfers..

F1 - Mark Webber won the Silverstone for the first time being a 'no.2 driver' as he mentioned sarcastically over the radio, also a first time such a jibe was made at their own team.

World Cup - The Spanish Armada won the title for the first time at the Soccer City last night and got the honour to place a star over their logo..waka waka, South Africa 2010 a world cup that will be partly remembered as a first time 'vuvuzela' being widely used..It is also the first time the top scorer with 5 goals, Thomas Muller of German, been chosen from a 5-way tie based on goals scored, assists and time of play..

Sports being so global now enable us to follow many games at a time and technology has brought these games to our living rooms within seconds..

Away from the global sporting world, there is a coming first time happenings at a tiny village in the 'heart of borneo' this month as well. The little village of Long Banga is due for a visit by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB DS Najib Tun Razak. This is a first time of a kind where the PM will be with one of the smallest indigenous community of Saban people, one of the remotest village in the State of Sarawak, Malaysia and so forth..

For the ordinary rural community living in the vicinity of the village, be they are of Saban, Kelabit, Kenyah, Penan and other ethnicity, this kind of visit is the best gesture form a person they highly regarded.. Surely, the experience of having the PM at our village will be remembered in our life's span. It will be engraved in the history of the tiny outpost village that host a community of less than 600 peoples.. Grateful will they be and they would not mind the hectic preparation that comes with it.. Being part of this remote community, we can gratefully proclaimed that it is a first time Long Banga been visited by the highest government office of the country.. and we could humbly plant a star sign at the site of the village on the map of Malaysia. So excited they are about this first time, they are praying hard for a safe journey, good weather and joyous moment for this occasion.

Officials reading this entry, who are going on this trip for the first time, please be assured of your well being and acceptance at the village..

Viva Espana..del Bosque the man...

Best wishes

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Long Banga - the hard facts


Long Banga appeared in tonight's Malaysian RTM1 panorama's program featuring the Maswings' twin otter planes flying destinations. As one of the few destinations for the 19 seater aircraft in the interior Baram, Long Banga village as well as the neighbouring Long Peluan, Long Lamai and Long Beruang benefited very much from this subsidized flights.

Before 1996, logging operations did not reach this part of the world and there is no other mode of transportation other than walking on foot to Lio Mato, which normally take two days for an average person, with an overnite in a jungle hut at Metapa.

From Lio Mato, a long boat ride to Marudi will take another two days with an approximate 2 drums of benzine for a twin 30 hp outboat motors. The returning journey normally takes 3 days upriver to Lio Mato with 3 drums of fuel. The cost is quite substantial, therefore only the rich guy in the village can keep those engines and boats at Lio Mato which will only be used once or twice a year. The trip is planned in such a way that more that 10 persons will travel downriver to share the cost of the fuel.

Then the government decided to open up an airport at Long Banga in early 1990s.. the original plan was abandoned because the flight landing direction is a bit tricky with mountains at both ends. The current completed ones is an extention or rather an improvement of the army's field used to land items from the Caribou 130 during the confrontation with Indonesia in 1960s and also the BEM missions therafter. Before MAS rural service commence (latter FAX and now Maswings) in early 2000, the completed airport was used by chartered flights. A Dornier or Skyvan is normally hired at a rate of RM5,000.00 for a return flight to Marudi, whereby the local trader fill the aircraft to the brink and any space left is for paying passenger. This only happens about 3 to 4 times per year and normally the teachers and nurses posted to the villages in the vicinity make the trips.

In early 1997 the quiet village is surprised by the arrival of logging operations. But the villages adapted fast to the changes and started to travel by logging roads to Miri for about 8-10 hours, depending on weather conditions. This has largely changed the livelihood in Long Banga. No more walking on foot for days excepting between local villages. Besides, trading items are not flown anymore, but by land trips that will cost around RM700-800 per chartered 4WD double cabin trucks (land cruisers). Anyway, that did not reduce the prices of goods at Long Banga estimated at Coca Cola RM3.00, Maggie Mee RM1.00, Tiger Beer RM6.00, Derek drinking water (small botlle) RM2.00..

When I went back in February 2010, a lot of physical changes happened. More houses are built by the younger generations with better design and added with the availability of cements that can be brought by land from Miri, makes better houses. A new church is built by the Kenyah's section of the village.

But still, travel by air is a blessing for the populace. Small in number though, the current three flights per week (Tue, Sat and Sun) well serves the people living and working there, very much. The government servants (teachers and rural clinic staffers) really need this service as most are outsiders, and fancy of checking their 'gaji' monthly at Miri or Marudi. With a one way subsidized flight costing about RM80.00 to Miri, there is very little complaints from the villagers.. they are often self-reminded of their yesteryear's hardship...
To fascilitate internal movements, the government has teamed-up with the timber company operationg in the area to upgrade the kampung road and built a new bridge crossing the main river to school.