SUSPENSION BRIDGE ACROSS THE KUBAAN RIVER
A 32 metre-long suspension bridge across the Sungai Kubaan was recently completed and declared open by Datu Len Talif Salleh, Acting Permanent Secretary Ministry of Planning and Resource Management and Director of Forests, on 17 December 2009. Sg Kubaan is located in the watershed of the north-western boundary of the Pulong Tau National Park in the Ulu Baram.
The bridge was constructed under the community development programme of the Pulong Tau National Park project that is supported by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and implemented by Forest Department Sarawak as the project's Executing Agency. The objectives of project's were biodiversity conservation and community-based development. Samling Strategic Corporation in Miri helped to transport the steel cables, cement and all other materials as well as personnel to the construction site. Members of the construction team comprised forestry staff from headquarters in Kuching, and regional offices in Miri, Sibu, Limbang, Bario, Lawas and Ba'kelalan and seven Penans from the village of Ba' Medamot.
Another activity that was implemented at the same time was the upgrading of the 12 km-long jungle trail from Bario to Ba' Medamot. This trail is regularly used by the Penan communities living outside the national park, and Kelabit and tourists from overseas. Works involved were widening of certain dangerous sections of the trail and replacing timber bridges across small streams.
In his speech, Datu Len Talif Salleh emphasized that the bridge was a symbol of cooperation between the government, ITTO, the timber industry and the local communities. Recently, at the instigation of foreign NGOs who have no real intention to help, 17 so-called Penan communities declared over 160,000 hectares of forests in the Ulu Baram as Penan Peace Park. In fact, there were no 17 Penan communities involved but only a small fraction of the 14,000 Penan communities who were being manipulated by the foreign NGOs to gain sympathy in their respective countries to raise funds. Sadly, none of the money raised has been utilised to uplift the living standard of the Penan or to provide infrastructure facilities which could benefit the Penan and other communities in the area.
In fact, these same NGOs groups, especially the so called Bruno Manser Foundation is a traitor to the Penan community by denying them the option of being able to live a progressive life similar to other communities in the State. They have done nothing to help the Penan except to oppose any development that would benefit the Penan community.
On the other hand, the Forest Department, under the ITTO supported project, Pulong Tau National Park, has been helping the Penan communities living in the vicinity of the Park for the past two years, by providing gravity feed water supply and other basic amenities to Long Lobang and Long Sabai; providing training in fruit and vegetable planting to six Penan villages, including supply of planting materials and tools; assisting 230 applicants from the Penan and other communities, who lack the means to apply for their birth certificates and MyKads. Shoes, exercise books and pencils, tooth brushes and soap have also been provided to the Penan students studying in Bario. The Department will continue to do whatever it can in the coming years to assist the Penan.In fact, projects are already in the pipeline such as extending the gravity feed water supply to Ba' Medamot and providing building materials for their houses.
As one of the 28 natives group of Sarawak himself, Datu Len, in his early years/days also had collect jungle produce for a livelihood. However an education, graduated in BSc. Forestry provided by the government has made successful him the success. Bruno Manser Foundation and its member would not have a clue where Borneo is and least being a contact with the Penan. These people who were privileged to be borned and raised in a country with modern facilities and amenities, have a main agenda of raising funds for his own organization benefits. Based on his own experience, Datu Len consider education to be crucial to one's success in life and so we urged the Penan to take every opportunity to send their children to schools that have been provided by the government. An example they can look to is that of Damaris Panai, a Penan of Long Kevok, who due to her good SPM results, has received the Chief Minister 's Special Award and a full scholarship by Interhill Group to further her studies in accounting. (Click to see photos)
Clip video launching of Suspension Bridge Across Kubaan River