A rural community was promised a RM68 million road project but is now frustrated that the project has been abandoned due to 'insufficient funds'.
SERIAN: Kampung Munggu Kopi is less than 15 kilometres away from developed Serian township. But for some unknown reason this 75-year-old settlement has been left behind from the mainstream.
The 400-strong Bidayuh community is without grid electricity, proper piped water and a reliable road connecting them to the Pan Borneo Highway.
The villagers rely on an unreliable archaic gravity feed water supply system and those who can afford it have generator sets for electricity.
Secondary students stay in hostels at SMK Serian, while their primary school ‘siblings’ travel 3km daily by boat along Sigaong river to SK Tanah.
This is because the sole connection to the main road is a decades-old, gravel covered and full of potholes.
“The government showered us with promises before this, before the 2011 state elections and the recent general elections Most of us doubted them, and for sure, we were not wrong,” said a dejected villager, Christopher Kerry, 42, when met by FMT in Munggu Kopi recently.
Abandoned after polls
Kerry said, frustrated household had begun doing their own wiring after the pylons that were erected, apparently in preparation to get electricity from the main supply grid connected, were pulled down.
“The pylons that were supposed to connect electricity from the main grid were suddenly pulled down recently.
“They (the contractor) said this was because the pylons’ layout was not compatible to PWD’s plans to construct a new road (replacing the rural access road).
“This is very frustrating. We had done a ‘gotong-royong’ (communal service effort) to have the areas for the supply pylons cleared.
“In the end, it seems that our hard work was for nothing,” Kerry lamented.
He also questioned how the blunder in layout could occur, resulting in some of the steel pylons currently being merely stockpiled just outside the village.
The proposed new road was not only supposed to link the Pan-Borneo Highway with Munggu Kopi, but also the Malay village of Kampung Tanah Puteh and another Bidayuh community in Kampung Sebemban further downriver.
The road was planned by the Public Works Department under the Eighth Malaysian Plan, but was postponed and placed under the 10MP according to the then Infrastructure Development and Communication Minister Michael Manyin in 2010.
The project would cost RM68 million, he had said.
But it’s all been just talk said Kerry.
RM68 mil allocation but ‘insufficient’
Only a 3km road stretch was built, then suddenly the project was abandoned and the construction machineries ‘vanished’ coincidentally after the last state elections.
It was only when Serian DAP branch chairman Edward Luak highlighted the issue in the media that some “clearing” work was done for the project by the contractors.
Luak had also at the time questioned the road’s construction cost for the road, labelling the RM4.5 million per kilometer cost as “too high for a normal village road”.
He said a retired civil engineer friend who visited the site had estimated the road type to cost about RM500,000 a kilometre, putting the 3km completed stretch to cost RM1.5million.
“Now I want to ask, where did the other RM66.5 million (from the allocation) go?” he asked.
Munggu Kopi is under the parliamentary and state constituencies of Mambong and Tarat respectively.
Last month Mambong MP James Dawos, reportedly told a RTM talk show that the road was unfinished due to “insufficient funds allocated”.
Dawos’ ‘revelation’ makes Luak’s question most pertinent. It has also caused Munggo Kopi villagers’ further frustration.
“We had enough of the government who only knows how to make promises.
“Until the road is completed, I don’t think electricity would reach our village. When that will be is everyone’s guess,” said Kerry.