Wednesday August 11, 2010
Meagre response to pleas for help for Penan fire victims
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: Response to appeals for aid for some 500 Penans living in two longhouses deep in Kapit Division – who lost everything after their settlements were destroyed by two fires last week – has been discouraging.
So far, only two big timber companies operating in the affected areas have donated small amounts to the victims. One gave RM700 and the other RM200.
The Long Kajang longhouse located deep inside a logging concession zone near the Sarawak-Kalimantan border, some 11 hours by timber road from Bintulu, was gutted by fire last week and some 200 Penans there are now living in makeshift huts.
In Long Luar, not far from the Murum dam site, some 300 Penans are also in dire straits after their longhouse was razed by a fire in the same week.
Hulu Rajang MP Datuk Billy Abit Joo, who is seeking welfare assistance for those affected, was disappointed with the measly sums given by the timber firms.
“I am sad that two big timber companies operating in the areas had only offered RM700 and RM200. What can the fire victims do with so little?” he asked.
“After all, these giant companies have tonnes of resources from their timber and oil palm projects. They should have a heart for the Penans,’’ he said yesterday.
Abit is now trying to secure RM40,000 for each of the affected families for the government.
The victims urgently need food supplies, clothes, cooking utensils and mattresses and blankets,’’ he said.