Barred from using plantation roads, already-packed boats only option for folk
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing said he was told that severe overcrowding of boats occurred because rural folk rushing to get home for Gawai Dayak had been barred from using certain plantation roads.
Roads that pass through certain plantations operated by private companies are the only land routes to the many interior settlements scattered in Sarawak.
Tiong, who is SPDP deputy president and former BN Backbenchers’ Club chairman, said yesterday that many longhouse dwellers had complained to him that since they were unable to use these roads, they had no other option but to travel by boats to reach their destinations.
“Longhouse folk complained that they have been barred by certain plantation companies from using routes that pass through the estates. That was why they had no choice but to take whatever boats were available.
“During the peak of festival rush, all river boats are already fully booked.
“When desperate last-minute passengers boarded these already-packed boats, these boats turned into safety hazards.
“These private plantation companies cannot treat rural folk like this.
“They must allow the people to use the roads that pass through the plantations, especially during the festive rush.
“I am going to bring up this matter to the attention of Parliament during the coming sitting,” Tiong said in a press statement yesterday.
His press secretary Jacky Chan Jet Hui, who is also SPDP information chief, said Tiong had instructed his staff to give whatever help was necessary to the rural folk affected by the boat incident in Belaga.
Tiong had also called on staff of Bintulu Hospital and the Kapit Hospital to render swift aid to the victims.
Tiong also called on the police and other relevant departments to investigate the cause of the incident and urged the river board management to beef up its enforcement measures.