May 29, 2013

Tragedy in the Rajang before Gawai 2013

The Rajang is a huge Mother River, running 366 miles from its source to the delta at the South China Sea. It is a river that passes many ethnic groups along the way. So in a way, so many different peoples drink from the same source.

The Rajang is also famous for first its long boats which carried warriors who hunted for heads and then made peace in the 1880's, wooden motor launches built by the Chinese 1900's and then the special bullet lik express boats which are sealed up except for the two front doors and one back door where the power engines roar with life.

Sibu is the foremost ship building hub of Sarawak. It builds boats for the locals as well as for the foreigners who place orders which take one or two years to full fill because of the long queue. Sibu express boats are found in Sumatra to name one foregin country. Sibu built expresses ply along most of the Sarawak and Sabah rivers.
Photo: TRAGEDY before Gawai! Belaga-Kapit express boat sank with 14 missing & 170 saved! The boat's capacity was 74 pax.There's only 1 boat from Bakun-Belaga-Pelagus Rapids-Kapit-Sibu per day. There's a pot holed road from Bakun-Bintulu but that's a long ride. There's NO road from Kapit to any other towns.

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Composte photo from Sarikeians. Thanks.

But how many accidents have really been seriously recorded by the Sarawak River Board and the Sabah River Board? What stringent rules have been maintained?

The Bakun/Belaga/Kapit express plies only once a day. This boat reaches Belaga with already a full load of workers who are working in the Bakun. The passengers thus were mainly Ibans and Orang Ulus.

It is so ironical that the express is called KAWAN MAS. Golden Friend. Did any one check its RIVER worthiness before the fatal trip? Its engine was reported failure one hour after Belaga. Was there any Government officer or Police Officer on patrol in Belaga? The Express company would have earned three times more on this trip having so many illegal passengers. Is the extra earning all worth it? (Photo : Borneo Post)

May 28th was a dark day in Belaga. An express boat carrying 3 times its capacity first had engine failure and then hit a rock near  Buyong Tebok area. It capsized. Turned turtle. 170 people survived. 14 missing. It has capacity for 74 passengers only.

Gawai is a thanksgiving cum harvest festival. It is a time when the Ibans in particular would rush home with goodies, and cash for their reunion in the longhouses. Young bujangs (bachelors) of the Iban ethnic groups, amongst others like Kayan, Penan and others are often the sole breadwinner or cash cows of the family, bringing home cash,more often than not, for three generations. Those members of the family who stay home are involved with padi and oil palm planting, fishing and vegetable gathering.

Bottoms up. (Borneo Post Photo)

Photo: Update 10:00pm: A fateful Tuesday unlike any day. That capsizal hit hard this land. Waves strongly felt in Sarawak and beyond. And grief broke loose. Despair was fast at hand. The 170 survivors had drawn some cheers, but 14 missing drew warm tears. Calamity of scale unseen before. Homecoming joy for festive celebrations robbed. May God of comfort be with the families and rescue team who vowed to search till miracle does break.
 This photo reminds me of a lost toy floating in a river far away from the child because it is too dangerous to pick it up. The bottom of the express boat Kawan Mas when it turned turtle.(Pix courtesy of Culture and Heritage Assistant Minister Liwan Lagang. NST)
Borneo Post Photo)

Some of the survivors, a bag is noted.(Borneo Post photo)

When a member of a family passes away, the mourning ADAT(way of life) of the Ibans prescribes the switching of radio, talking in soft tones, no merrymaking,no outside visitors. All their women will take out their black sarong to wear, and they wear no makeup, some do not bathe for a few days. These mourning and grieving rites will be observed until the NGETAS ULIT (FORMAL CLOSING OF THE MOURNING PERIOD)  mark the end of the sorrowful period.( Gregory N. Mawar)

Why can't the Timber Companies charter boats for their workers as part of their Social Concern or Corporate Commitment to Society once a year, at least for Gawai? Why can't the River Board get their men to control the crowds? Did the Police turn a blind eye?

Don't blame the rock that sank the express boat.


Anonymous said...

The corporate world is too greedy in a fact of life. May those souls rest in peace. So sad.... Ibans or natives in the interior works hard for their livelihood, but many are lost through such tragedies.
You are right, the rock should not be blamed. But I can see all authorities ONLY AWAIT when tragedies had happened!!! Can I say this is what style????

Anonymous said...

by pulau_sibu on Thursday, 30 May 2013 - 1:03 am

Afterall, the total number of deaths along Rejang River is much less than that of the North-South expressway in the Peninsular. If a highway is constructed, there will be more accidents in addition to destruction of environment. Look at our impressive Pan-Borneo Highway and how many people died every year!

So I believe we should just make the traffic along Rejang safer, and continue to use it

Small Kucing said...

certainly it's a sad thing. How can they put so many in that boat???

Stenographer said...

Exactly.But there are always two sides to the story, or may be even three. Those on the side of the boat owners said, they were doing a "good turn"..nevermind, ching chai ching chai...carry as many people... Many of the passengers also said they were glad to be able to get a place at the the express boat itself if it could talk, it would tsk tsk is like TheCameland the Last Straw....Pity every one in this tragedy.

Stenographer said...

Life is like that. Jungle treks before roads, river transport by long boats, and then expresses. Ministers go by air and helis..Politics and development will shape both advancement and tragedies. Responsibilities Vs Irresponsibilities..Wisdom vs foolishness. We have choices to make.

Stenographer said...

wll SAID!!

mANY willwait and see. In Sarawak, I would say, people wait to see what the government will do or will not do. Many are still fatalistic,many are feudalistic, and some just wait for the durians to drop.Some years are good some years are not good. Leaves drop and die,rot and become fertilizers for the trees and other flora. A life cycle continues into the next.

May be this is the kind of life others expect from the victims..welfare of the minority versus suppression of the majority is very 1984 re"George Orwell. Life goes is the people's choice.Some one did say that.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

sad history.

Stenographer said...

yes sad indeed.

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