August 15, 2009
Death in Timber Camp
One of the greatest pains suffered by the workers and especially indigenous people who work in the timber camps is accidental death by timber logs which have stacked up on the hill slopes and river banks waiting for transportation elsewhere. Another accidental death is caused by slipping from a slope while precariously chainsawing a tree. Another common timber camp death is caused by a bulldozer falling into a ravine.
Good companies insure their workers well and that really helps in funerals and other incidental payments making everyone very happy and feel rewarded. In Sarawak most workers have Socso and pay their EPF without fail.
When unprotected,illiterate and ignorant workers die under the logs by accident or in any other possible ways their families suffer the most. Many of these could also be migrant workers from Indonesia or the Philippines.
Those of us who have travelled through logging areas and timber treks only know too well how dangerous it can be (see photos).
Although such deaths are already few and far in between due to the conscientious efforts made by all the workers on Safety First when accidents happen and tragedies ensue one can only be very very sad and grieve for the dearly departed.
We recently lost an uncle who hailed from the Katibas.
He had always been a jolly good fellow and generous at heart without malice towards any one. He never had a chance to go to school and had worked all his life as a labourer eeking out a living to the best of his ability. When he finally managed to have four walls and a roof over his head his life was cut short by a fatal fall half way through chainsawing a tree. He fell legs first down the hill crumbling his backbone and tearing and cutting his bladders open.
The ladies from other longhouses came over the express their condolences. Biscuits and tea would be serve as every one sat down on the lampit (mat). The talk would focus on how kind the deceased was and how well he got along with the others never forgetting his need to be generous to those around him. He would be fondly spoken of as the mourners remembered him before he was finally buried on Monday. Catholics do not bury their dead on Sundays.
the deceased had not completed his "family home" before he died.
The canvas covered the makeshift kitchen which was put in front of the longhouse.
As expected the every efficient longhouse Neighbourhood Committee (JKKK)garnered all able bodied men and women to help out. For three days the mourners would receive their meals from this makeshift kitchen. A pig had been slaughtered. Noodles bought and other ingredients contributed by the members of the committee and family.
With a very generous donation made by the timber company the pre-funeral waiting period was well managed by the sisters-in-law and the ex-father-in-law. The deceased had been married to his first wife for many years before she passed away. A few years later he married another woman who brought in five children into the family.
This kind of extended family is very tolerated as long as the community was able to accept the various legitimate arrangements according to their communal and religious beliefs.
Funerals like this bring the best out of every one. It was very touching to see distant relatives coming to mourn and expressing their condolences.
A young man walked the whole night to come from another longhouse just to pay his last respects. He would like to remember how kind the deceased had been to him and be present at the preparation of the grave and at the final journey for the burial in the longhouse cemetery.