Kedayan villagers hope govt not proceed with eviction plans
BO – Thursday, September 15, 2011, 17:29 MST
No one dare to venture into Simalaju areas particularly it rivers a few decades ago. It was a wild life sanctuary, infested with some of the areas’s biggest saltwater crocodiles.
The biggest one caught for killing a human was measured nearly six meters and weighed well over a tonne according to the 60-odd Kedayan villagers that call the place home.
Yesterday the media were shown the place where the remains of the killer crocodile was buried and most importantly, they want people to know where their old village was standing.
“We show you the these places not because of the crocodiles. There is something else.” said Laleh Bin Taha pointing to a tall structure shaping up in the horizon.
“That is Samalaju industrial park,” he said and “that’s the location of our old village that were demolished to make way for a huge plant”.
The rapid development in their surrounding areas, said Laleh was a welcomed development although they are not directly involved building the industrial park. The economic spinoffs are the ones that mattered.
Samalaju which is at the heart of of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy, not only benefits big companies but also local communities, said Laleh.
According him, they no longer have to drive over to Bintulu town to sell their catch and agricultural products.
“This morning we caught more than a ton of fish, hundred kilos of prawns. They were sold out even before we berthed our boats,” he said.
Laleh said in order to meet the increasing demand, mostly from the hundred of construction workers at nearby Samalaju, he recently purchased several new boats.
Despite the increase in personal fortune, thank to the economic boom brought about by the Samalaju development, there is still a lingering fear that one day, they would be displaced from their land, according to Laleh, who is also Kuala Simalajau Kedayan village JKKK chairman.
“I’m the fourth generation living on this land.
“We’ve been surviving by foraging the land, catching prawns from the river and fish from the sea,” he said.
“Now we have been told to move. But we don’t know where else to go.”
It is learnt that the authorities have been asking them to move since 2007.
Laleh said they had appealed to various parties, including writing a letter to government and local authorities for help but until now, their efforts had been futile.
“We are not begging for financial assistance from the government but a chance to make a living and remain here,” said Yusop Abdullah, Laleh’s brother in-law.
He said they would not be giving up hope just yet.
“We just want this small piece of land where we can berth our boats and build our huts for us to stay.
“That’s isn’t too much to ask from government which has promised to care of the people,” Yussop said.