'Boat accident proof of development flop in S'wak'
The express boat accident in the Rajang River near Belaga yesterday is a tragic proof of failure of 50 years of development in Sarawak with still no road access to rural districts, said DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang today.
He urged both the federal and state government to regard the accident as a national tragedy and put it as the top agenda of the last day of the Sarawak state assembly and the second cabinet meeting, both held this morning.
"Both the Sarawak state assembly and the federal cabinet should come out with a prompt and immediate response for an urgent plan to give top priority to provide road access to firstly, Bakun-Belaga-Bintulu and secondly, Kanowit-Song-Kapit."
If both meetings failed to address the issue, the Gelang Patah MP demanded it to be the top topic for MPs from Sarawak, Sabah and the peninsular during the first 16-day meeting of the 13th Parliament beginning on June 24.
Lim has said that DAP is shocked and outraged at the tragedy.
He cited a reader's letter published in a news portal which pointed out that the distance from Kanowit to Kapit is about 100km, but the road construction between them is not even scheduled to be completed within the next five years.
In contrast, the dual carriageway from Cameron Highlands to Bentong was completed in three years with the same distance and topography, said the letter.
"The BN system is incapable of providing socioeconomic justice, because the economic cake is distributed from the top down according to race and hierarchy in the party. This, unfortunately, is the system that the rural populace appears to have voted for," read the letter which was penned by a "senior instrument engineer" from Shell Malaysia.
'System of rotten political governance'
Lim added that the letter is a powerful indictment, not only at the failure of equitable development in Sarawak after 50 years, but also on the whole system of rotten political governance in the state and nation.
He recalled that 13 passengers had died in a similar express boat tragedy in Tatau district near the Bintulu town two years ago.
According to Sarawak Police Commissioner Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani, 11 passengers are still missing in the express boat accident in the Rajang River near Belaga yesterday, while 179 others had managed to swim to the shores as at this morning.
The ill-fated express boat, named Kawan Mas, was on its way from Bakun in the upper part of Belaga town to Kapit when it was said to have sunk after crashing into a rock near Tanjong Giam Bungan between 8.30am and 9am yesterday.
Initial investigations indicated that the express boat had exceeded its capacity for 67 seated passengers as it was believed to be overloaded with over 200 passengers returning home for the Gawai Dayak festivities, and had encountered an engine failure before crashing into a rock and then sinking.
The Sarawak Rivers Board chairperson Roland Sagah has announced a full investigation into the tragic accident, warning of appropriate action against the express boat operator for failing to heed the advice not to overload or allow passengers to climb onto the roof when the vessel had been too full when plying the river waters.