Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SMEs need continuous support from govt, says chambers’ president

BINTULU: The Small and Medium (SME) industries in the state are comparatively small and weak, said the president of Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Sarawak (ACCCIS), Sia Hiong Ngee (pictured left).

Thus, continuous support from the government in terms of loan and providing affordable industrial lands are vital.

Sia said the government’s policy of encouraging foreign investment is highly laudable as vast foreign direct investments do not only bring employments but stimulate economic growth.

“While welcoming foreign direct investments (FDI), I hope that the government will also put more effort to promote local industries especially SME’s,” said Sia in his keynote address during ACCCIS 44th annual general meeting at ParkCity Everly Hotel last Saturday.

He said the state government’s implementation of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) was most encouraging.

“Mammoth projects such as the pulp and paper mill in Tatau, polycilicion and aluminium smelter plants in Similajau, press metal aluminium plant in Balingian, the Bakun and Murun hydro plants will bring a lot of opportunities.

“Not only to sub-contractors and suppliers but also to transporters, food caterers, hotel operators, furniture supplies and many more related businesses,” said Sia.

He hoped that the pace of constructing the infrastructure, especially bridges could be accelerated.

According to him the major roads linking the SCORE centres from Tg Manis in the southern tip to Similajau at the north-eastern top were yet to be connect for the efficient free-flow of traffic.

Sia who is the president of Bintulu Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry pointed out that in the near future the road system in Bintulu would not be able to cater for the heavy road traffic.

He reasoned that based on a record that more than 60 per cent of the heavy vehicles registered in Sarawak were in Bintulu.

“We hope that the government will upgrade Medan Jaya, Kidurong road, Medan Jaya mile 7 junction to an eight-lane carriageways while Bintulu Airport and Tatau road to a four-lane carriageway,” he added.

Sia also hoped the authorities concerned would speed up the process of approval of project applications because delayed approvals would put off a lot of proposals and cool down enthusiasm.

Apart from that he also requested for the relevant government authorities if possible to build factories and lease them out to beginners who have the skill but lack of capital.

“This will create a bigger and healthier business community and they will become the supporting industries for the conglomerates, increasing their efficiency and reducing their maintenance costs,” he said.

On the swiftlet farming industry, Sia called for full support and assistance from the relevant authority.

In view of the increased demand and good price for the product, the chamber hoped that more people irrespective of race and origin could participate in the business.

He also noted that young people nowadays preferred office to field works, adding that this was a serious phenomenon because we were running short of blue-collar workers which had to be bridged.

“Parents and learning institutions need to further encourage the young to take up blue-collar jobs.

“Only if they work hard, willing to learn, their future is equally good, if not better than those taking up white-collar jobs as those taking up white-collar jobs if not better,” Sia said.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Parents urged to instil patriotism among children

PATRIOTIC: Talib signs the banner to show his support for a crime-free 1Malaysia society as Yusof (left) looks on.

BINTULU: Jepak assemblyman Datuk Talib Zulpilip urged parents to instil and cultivate the spirit of patriotism among their children as part of the value of their upbringing.

He said the spirit of patriotism is a vital factor for the young generation to be good citizens of tomorrow.

“Without patriotism, you will not be a good citizen,” said Talib during the Squad 69 PDRM Sarawak ‘Jelajah Keamanan Satu Malaysia’ dinner held at New World Suites last Saturday.

Talib also linked patriotism to the country’s security as he believed citizens with strong love to the nation will make the country strong and prosperous.

“No nation can be developed without strong national security and we’ve seen examples of how countries became chaotic due to internal wavering,” he said.

He stressed that to have peace the people must have the spirit of patriotism in their hearts.

Peace, said Talib would accelerate the economic growth of the country as the investors would gain confidence.

He congratulated Squad 69 as a good platform for the ex-armed forces personnel unite the various communities and subscribe to the 1Malaysia concept.

Squad 69 has set up a special committee pertaining to security here which is also participated by various government agencies.

During the annual general meeting (AGM) held last Saturday, DSP (Retired) Muhamad Yusof Isa was returned unopposed as the president.

In his keynote address, he said the committee will consist of personnel from Rukun Tetangga, the education, information and youth and sports departments, as well as government agencies and organisations.

Yusof also disclosed that one unit of security corps was also introduced in the division.

“Accredited coach and facilitator will be attached to train the members,” said Yusof, adding that members will consist of teenagers and secondary school students.

Dept supports proposal for two more colleges

This will reduce shortage of local trained teachers especially in rural schools, says Education director

BINTULU: The State Education Department supports the suggestion from Sarawak Teachers’ Union (STU) to set up two more teachers’ training colleges in the state.

Its director Dr Julaihi Bujang said this would reduce the shortage of local trained teachers, especially in rural schools.

Julaihi however said additional colleges might not necessarily solve the problem as “some local trained teachers are reluctant to serve back in their areas but prefer to teach in urban schools”.

He was asked to comment on the request from STU president William Ghani after he had officiated at the Bintulu-level Teachers’ Day 2009 celebration at SMK Assyakirin in Tanjung Kidurong here yesterday.

Julaihi said the request was good for intake of locals and trainees from Sabah. Travelling expenditure would be reduced if the colleges are sited in Lawas or Limbang.

Currently, there are some 38,000 teachers serving over 500,000 students in 177 secondary schools and 264 primary schools throughout the state.

Touching on another proposal, he said the department had no say on the intake of trainees and the proper training of untrained teachers .

He said the decision and intake comes under the jurisdiction of the ministry’s training division.

Ghani had recently called on the government to set up two more teachers’ training colleges in Sarawak to ensure intake of at least 50 per cent local trainees.

Earlier in his speech, Julaihi urged teachers to uphold the good image of their profession and be ready to change with global changes and challenges.

He said they were not only entrusted to educate but, most importantly, inculcate among locals values for the 1Malaysia concept.

A retired teacher, Bakeri Yusof, 70, from Kampung Baru was honoured with the Model Teacher 2009 award at the function.

RM9m in arrears still owed to BDA

BINTULU: Property owners currently owe Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) some RM9 million in assessment rate arrears.

The figure came about after the deduction of BDA’s collection of RM4.1 million in bad debts throughout last year.

This was revealed by the BDA acting deputy general manager who is also assistant general manager (corporate division), Shukarmin Chasemon, when asked by reporters about the collection of assessment rates since BDA began to administer Bintulu in 1985.

The media conference was to announce the commemoration of BDA’s Customers’ Day scheduled for 10am to 4pm on June 30 in front of Wisma Bintulu.

Shukarmin said the total amount collected exclusive of the arrears throughout last year was RM28.5 million.

“This amount does not include the arrears of RM4.1 million collected,” he explained.

He also admitted that big companies in Tanjung Kidurong were among the good rate payers, in that they never failed to pay what is due to the authority.

However, Shukarmin also admitted that the poor pay masters were those residential owners.

“We normally serve them notices. First, second and third warning notices, and if no action is taken, then we will caveat their properties,” he said.

Meanwhile, more than 10 government service counters would be put up during the one-day celebration, and there will also be counters set up by higher learning institutions and financial institutions.

Food and drink stalls too would be set up for visitors.

There will also be a surprise gift for every 50 visitors; the BDA gallery will be open to the public; and transport for some 500 students from secondary and primary schools will be provided.

“At 8am that day we will have our monthly staff gathering in front of the lobby. Our deputy chairman, Dato Sri Celestine Ujang Jilan, will lead us,” he said.

In connection with the Customers’ Day, he said the service counter in Perbinda office at Mile 2, Jalan Sultan Iskandar would operate as usual with additional counters specially to take care of rate payers who settle their bills from June 24 to June 30.

BDA acting assistant general manager, (Environment Division), Dr Hamli Biha was also present at the conference.

Ghani: Untrained teachers should be trained

BINTULU: The Ministry of Education has been urged to give headmasters and principals the power to identify and recommend all the untrained teachers who have been teaching for a number of years, to undergo proper training.

“These are those who really want to become teachers because they have been teaching for a number of years. They should be given the priority to be drafted into teachers’ training institutes,” said Sarawak Teachers’ Union (STU)’s president, William Ghani Bina.

“The training division must therefore consider taking this group because they are the ones who should get the proper training,” he said when officiating at the 6th STU’s Bintulu division annual general meeting held at Li Hua hotel here yesterday.

He also felt that the training division should consider taking in those with the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) qualifications to be trained as teachers.

“Some of those with diplomas or degrees may not be relevant to the current requirement,” lamented Ghani, who strongly believed that those with the SPM certificates were the most ideal group to undergo training for five years.

Meanwhile, he also said that the union members should be willing to attend leadership trainings in the future with the hope of producing more members with leadership quality.

“Not only it is important for you to be trained as leaders. You too should be trained as recruiters so that more teachers could become union members,” he continued.

Currently, there are 20,600 registered members within STU, with 784 registered with the STU Bintulu division.

Ghani reiterated that out of the 103 unions in the state, STU is the most active union as most of its activities are widely publicised in both the national and local newspapers.

Earlier, STU Bintulu division’s chairlady, Soo Siew Huong called on the members here to act as agents of the union by disseminating information to teachers who have yet to register as members.

“As union members, the monthly subscription fee will be refundable when you retire later on, therefore it means that joining the union is free-of-charge after all,” she said.

Touching on the incident where a primary school teacher here was alleged to have forced four pupils to perform oral sex on him recently, Soo remarked that it had brought great shame to the profession.

“We all should condemn this act because it tarnished our image,” she said, adding that teachers should be the ones to take good care of their pupils and students, not to victimise them.

The STU’s Northern Zone vice-chairman, Dundang Bantin, was among those present to witness the AGM.

The line up for the 2009-2011 committee are Soo Siew Huong (chairlady), Dadoi Iregai (vice-chairman), Wong Siew Lang (secretary), Aishah @ Rosni Jelani (vice-secretary), Teo Neu Lin (treasurer), Dayang Latifah Awang Sam (vice-treasurer), committee members Epong Jok, Lucie Radu Balang, Rosline Lamui, and the co-opted members Sigo Jo, Ling Ik Hee and Awang Dahlan Awang Lai.

Ghani was also invited to present awards and incentives to members’ children who excelled in last year’s Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR), Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) and those who acquired diplomas and degrees.

PBB urges members, supporters to be loyal in good and bad times

BINTULU: Members and supporter of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) here were urged to be loyal to the party during good or bad times.

The call came from PBB Jepak branch chairman Datuk Talib Zulpilip when officiating at the PBB Jepak branch TGM at Assyakirin community hall recently.

Talib said tru party members were willing to fight and stand for the party’s wellbeing without asking for anything in return.

“Loyal membes of PBB must willing to serve the party anytime and every time they are needed and would not be easily influenced by the opposition’s sweet talk.

“Members should solve any problem in the party through discussion and not simply be mad with the government,” said Talib.

He said the opposition would be happy when they ge angry with the government.

“The stability and ability of the party to be strong depends mostly on the strength of the grassroots, not only just certain leaders,” said Talib who is also Jepak assemblyman.

He reminded the people to remain united for the good of the country.

When people live harmoniously, the resultant stability in the country would attract and give confidence to investors to invest in projects like Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

A developed country with strong government could create more job and business opportunities for the people.

Talib urged PBB members to invite their friends and relatives, particularly the young generation, to join PBB.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good party leader like responsible father: SUPP man

SUPP REBUILDING: Ling (sixth left) cuts the cake together with the other SUPP members

BINTULU: A good leader of a political party is just like a responsible father, said Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Bintulu branch chairman Henry Ling Kuong Meng.

Ling said like a father who brings hopes to his children, so does a party leader on whome members put their hopes.

Ling made this comparison when speaking at the Father’s Day celebration organised by the branch’s Women Section at its premises Tuesday evening.

Ling said like the father who had many children with many differing interests and habits, the party leader also had members who looked at things in many ways.

In other words, he said, a party leader, like a father, must know how to go about operating in such situation.

He said the able party leader would be able to get the members to his side of the coin.

Having said that, he said, party members must observe rules and regulations and must give all their cooperation to the leader.

He said if members must insist on their ways of doing things then the party would be facing challenges not just from its members but also the opposition.

He warned that infighting would weaken a party and that a weal party would not be able to fend off opposition attacks.

Ling said SUPP members must learn from past setbacks and to rebuild from its weaknesses.

BDA inks contracts for RM5,792,329 worth of projects

BINTULU: Contract agreements for a total of RM5,792,329.80 worth of projects were signed between Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) and the chosen contractors at BDA headquarters on Friday.

BDA was represented by its general manager Mohidin Ishak while the contractors were represented by their respective directors and managers.

The first contract is for the proposed bridge at Sungai Sebuan Besar in Kampung Jepak worth RM957,368 undertaken by Syarikat Perusahaan Bahagia.

The contract period is 10 months and the scope of works are bridgework, box gabions and piling works.

In the signing of the contract agreement, the company was represented by its manager Wong Chin Lee and project manager David Hwong Perng Sheh.

The second contract worth RM2,606,145.80 and tendered by Jayalu Sdn Bhd involves the construction and completion of the proposed drain at Taman Bamboo and Taman Beverly.

The project is scheduled for completion in 12 months’ time.

Its director Thomas Lu Khui Kai and site supervisor Charlie Mohamad represented the company at the signing of contract agreement ceremony.

Mohidin said it is a substantial project on the improvement of the living condition and facilities in the area which was earlier brought up by several political party members to BDA particularly on upgrading the drainage system.

The third contract is the proposed precast concrete u-drain along Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi by Kemena Holding Sdn Bhd. The RM1,077,240 project is expected to be completed in six months.

The company was represented by its director Hii Wei Ling and administrator Ting Fong Chiung.

Mohidin pointed out that this project planned by BDA is to improve the infrastructures in the central business district which is the downtown of Bintulu.

This also comes under the 9MP allocation.

The fourth contract involved the proposed extension and upgrading of Bintulu Esplanade including associated works at Jalan Main Bazaar.

The project worth RM1,151,576 is tendered to Sunmow contractor and is expected to be completed in six months’ time.

The contractor will be responsible for removing and disposing of affected existing works, tiling, extension of stage, cross-over, drain cover and gully trap, roadwork, road furniture and piling works.

Its general manager Kong Chiong Miew and project engineer Kong Chiong Ung represented the company at the signing ceremony.

Mohidin said the contractor would enlarge the esplanade while upgrading the other facilities in the area.

Asked whether there would be another toilet for the esplanade, Mohidin said BDA was still looking at the matter.

“Intention to build one new public toilet between the esplanade and the wet market has been proposed,” he added.

Mohidin hoped that contractors would meet with the deadlines as stipulated under the contract agreement.

Present at the function were Sarawak United People’s Party Bintulu branch chairman Henry Ling and political secretary to Bintulu MP Zaedy Nor Abu Nassir.

Form ties for greater success: Dr Chan

TOKEN OF APPRECIATION: ACCCIS cum Bintulu Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Sia Hiong Ngee (fourth left) presents a souvenir to Dr Chan as others look on.

BINTULU: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam yesterday called on Chinese businessmen to combine their strength through partnerships.

He said that in today’s business trend, businessman would be able to develop further by sharing resources.

“Today they must be able to work with others. Get away from the old family type of businesses and go international.

“When you become an international businessman you must not just depend on your family because the talent within the family is limited,” said Dr Chan who is also Minister of Modernisation and Agriculture and Minister of Industrial Development.

Dr Chan was interviewed by reporters after he officiated at the opening of the 44th annual general meeting of the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sarawak (ACCCIS) at ParkCity Everly Hotel yesterday.

He said by combining resources they would be able to grow faster.

“It has always been difficult for Chinese businessmen to work together with others,” he noted.

“I think to grow big you need the resources not from your own sources but from others too. It’s very difficult to build up from very small resources to be big.”

He recalled that in the past, the Chinese became successful in business because they were very hard working and they had savings.

“But for today’s business, that is not enough. Today you need very extensive knowledge not only of your local businesses but also those all over the world,” he said. He pointed out that today’s businessmen must think of the world outside and be very knowledgeable in their fields locally and internationally.

He stressed it was crucial to get access to knowledge fast and that efficiency would guarantee success.

“If you get information slower than others you will be at a great disadvantage.

“In today’s knowledge society, you need to know your stuff and know it quick.”

He also stressed on the importance of maintaining good relations among themselves.

On this he was glad to note that the Chinese were very good in maintaining business relationships and Chinese all over the world were successful because they had been able do it very well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Military exercise to identify best procedures

PAYING ATTENTION: Muhammad Ismail (right) and Aminuddin (second right) speak to soldiers at the training exercise.

Event also helps to foster closer rapport between M’sia, Brunei

BINTULU: Malaysian Armed Forces Commander Tan Sri Muhammad Ismail Jamaluddin said the Malbru (Malaysia-Brunei) army exercise held at Similajau National Service Camp here is for identifying how best countries could work on their Standing Operating Procedure (SOP), communication and disseminate and receive reports.

He was speaking to reporters at a media conference after officiating at the closing of a 14-day Malbru exercise yesterday.

He said the exercise was aimed at getting better understanding of team training, and identify matters pertaining to the scope of work in accordance with the army’s SOP.

“This year, Malaysia has been given the honour to organise the exercise. It is also to foster closer rapport between both countries,” he said.

From the Brunei perspective, the sultanate’s Brigadier General Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Abidin, said the exercise was an opportunity for both countries to train together.

“We hope this exercise would benefit armies of both countries through the sharing of assets,” he said.

He also hoped that such an exercise would be organised in Peninsular Malaysia with more challenging features for more and better benefits.

Panglima Medan Tentera Darat Lieutenant General Datuk Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, First Division Commander Major General Datuk Mazelan Kasap, 9th Brigade Commander Datuk Khir Abdullah, and senior officers were among those present.

A total of 72 high ranking officers and 852 officers from both countries were involved in the exercise which started on June 3 in Miri and ended at Similajau yesterday.

Start small, Talib tells Bumi entrepreneurs

BINTULU: It is not advisable to start a big business without the necessary experience and expertise, as at the end of the day you could encounter difficulty and suffer a big loss.

This advice to Bumiputera entrepreneurs came from Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) chairman Datuk Talib Zulpilip.

Talib said they should not jump into big business without considering their ability first. Big scale business requires knowledge and experience to ensure smooth operation and to better face the challenges ahead.

He said this when officiating at a prize-giving ceremony and a presentation of certificate at Rukun Tetangga (community centres) Skim Pembesaran Kampung Jepak Phase 1 at Medan Niaga Jepak yesterday.

He suggested that local entrepreneurs start small while arming themselves with knowledge through courses specially tailored for them.

“The government has introduced many schemes to assist local entrepreneurs such as training and finance assistance.

“It depends on local entrepreneurs whether to grab the opportunity or not,” Talib said.

Nowadays many fields of businesses can reap a handsome profit as in the food industry when there’s demand for a product.

The food industry is a big sector and local entrepreneurs have wide choices in foods such as ‘ti’ong’ which Bintulu is famous for. This traditional food has good potential to be commercialised and expanded.

Talib assured that SEDC would assist in whatever way possible like giving out loans to entrepreneurs who can come up with a product that is proven competitive in the market.

Also present at the function were SEDC director (entrepreneur development) Jamaluddin Mohd Yusof and Rukun Tetangga (community centres) Skim Pembesaran Kampung Jepak Phase 1 chairman Samsuri Narawi.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Apply for SCORE incentives via state govt, investors told

OFFICIAL VISIT: Nor (third left) during a briefing at Bintulu Port. Mior is at right.

BINTULU: Foreign investors who want incentives specially designated for the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) have been told to approach the state government.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop (Economic Planning Unit), said the requests must be first submitted by the state government to the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) for discussion before any decision could be made.

Nor was speaking to reporters after a short visit to Bintulu Port Authority (BPA) in Tanjung Kidurong here yesterday prior to his official visit to Bakun hydroelectric dam in the afternoon.

He said MIDA would discuss any matter pertaining to the special incentives meant to attract foreign investors to SCORE.

It was also noted that there have been several forms of special incentives for foreign investors among which is a five-year tax-free period.

However, Nor did not elaborate further on whether or not there has been any new nor additional special incentives approved to date.

“I am very happy to see that the state government has been able to ensure that all the overall development plans are in place,” he said.

He assured that any efforts to realise SCORE would be given full support by the federal government.

SCORE is one of the five development corridors in the country, and as such is an important initiative and development catalyst for Sarawak’s central region.

Nor said the development that would take place was aimed at accelerating and generating the state’s economic growth and development so that the people would enjoy a much better living standard.

He said among the projects to be located at SCORES’s Samalaju area would be processing of high-quality silica products, and Tanjong Manis’ Halal Hub with focus on aqua-culture.

Chief executive officer of Bintulu Port Holding Berhad (BPHB), Mior Ahmad Baiti Mior Lub Ahmad; Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) general manager Mohidin Ishak; Bintulu Deputy Resident Sirai Daha and senior officers from the State Planning Unit were among those present at the function.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Use modern methods: Sikie

Farming community urged to change old ways of doing things in daily operation

BINTULU: Bumiputera entrepreneurs and the farming community particularly have been urged to utilise modern methods and techniques in their daily operation.

Kakus assemblyman John Sikie Tayai, in making the call yesterday, said in today’s competitive world, they had to change their mindset to be able to succeed in their respective endeavour.

“Farmers should change their old ways of doing things and use modern methods of production. What you have started must produce results and that translates to profit,” he said when officiating at the closing of a ‘Gerak Gempur’ (income expansion) course at Regency Plaza Hotel yesterday.

He however lamented that many Bumiputera entrepreneurs were still far behind their Chinese counterparts in many aspects of the business operation.

To correct this he said that they could, for example, learn from them and be willing to change their old ways.

He also advised them to be brave and grab every opportunity that came their way and not to wait for the government to provide for them.

On the part of the government he said it was providing various courses to the people interested to participate in the business sector.

Earlier, assistant director of Sarawak Development Office (Miri Division) Rabizah Muhammad, who also spoke called on the people in the rural area to grab all opportunities provided by the government to improve their economic standing.

She said that 88 people mainly from Tatau took part in yesterday’s course organised by Sarawak Development Office in collaboration with Tatau District Office.

The participants learned about four scopes of business; agro-based, small and medium enterprise, services, and agriculture, which they could explore.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Similajau National Park, Bintulu - Conservation Zone or Tourist Spot?

IS Similajau National Park, 30km northeast of Bintulu town, a tourist destination or a conservation area?

Some say it is not listed among the premier tourist spots in the state. True or just a misperception?

According to Sarawak Forest Corporation (SFC) regional manager, Mohammad Jirin Anis, the first thing people should know is the park’s origin and how it got to where it is today.

He said this had to be made clear to avoid any misunderstanding on the park’s status and its attraction to the tourism sector.

“Similajau National Park was gazetted on December 1, 1976, to provide a conservation zone for the unique geographical features along the Bintulu coast and protect the flora and fauna of the surrounding areas. It covers

7,064 hectares of coastline with 1,932 hectares as the water-body area under the sea,” he added.

Some say the park was established chiefly because of its natural beauty but is that enough?

Jirin apparently doesn’t think so.

“Unlike other parks, we don’t have a dominant icon as a main tourist attraction and as you might know, the park was initially set up for conservation purposes before it was opened to visitors,” he noted.

Jirin, who has been with the park’s management for many years, believed there were two main reasons why people came to the park — relaxation and research.

However, he hoped the scenario could be changed once SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy) took off in earnest.

“At the moment, the percentage of researchers at the park is small — mostly foreigners. Actually, we’re now looking forward to the implementation of SCORE projects near the Similajau area. When this is done, many people will come to Bintulu and work for the industries.

“With more people here, new opportunities can be created and we’re waiting for the right time to promote the park as a tourist destination and perhaps in the process, come up with new products to cater for the tourists,” Jirin enthused.

With the global economic slowdown and its negative impact on the tourism industry, the park is now, understandably, focusing more on attracting domestic tourists.

“The downturn has affected us directly in terms of decreased foreign tourist arrivals. As for the tourism products, they are still there and not affected as much because, as you might know, we are offering Nature tourism.

“This year, we are targeting 80 per cent local visitors but as of now, we’re still receiving quite a number of foreign visitors though not as many as before,” he said.

He disclosed that last year alone, the park recorded a total of 1,700 foreign visitors — most were independent researchers but some came with their families just to enjoy Nature, bird-watching and other recreational activities.

“This year, we’re hoping to get more domestic visitors. Our facilities are being upgraded, so those who like adventure such as trekking and camping and just to relax, can come here,” Jirin added.

Presently, the park’s management is building six new chalets and two new eight-room hostels and upgrading the other facilities.

“When these are completed by April next year, the park will be ready to provide better facilities and accommodation to both local and foreign visitors,” Jirin said.

Asked whether the park would introduce more tourist attractions, he said it all depended on the government’s plan and allocation.

Some people believe the reason why the park is not really favoured as a tourist destination is that except for its ‘golden beach’, there are no other natural attractions such as pristine waterfalls, mountains and such like.

Jirin said an artificial waterfall should be a good start if that was what people really wanted although he personally felt the natural environment should still be a top attraction.

According to him, what the locals may not realise or appreciate is the park’s location.

“What makes this park different from others in Sarawak is its location close to the town centre — about a 30-minute drive. This is an advantage to the local people,” he added.

However, what do other people think? Do they like the park, if so, why, or maybe they will reject it?

A 35-year-old private company employee who wanted to be known only as Jimmy, said the park had its own unique attractions like the natural surroundings but he pointed out it was not enough to lure visitors if the management concentrated solely on the park’s natural beauty without thinking of improving or diversifying its current tourism products.

“They should provide more up-to-date facilities and infrastructure — a canteen, for instance,” he said, adding that there should also be more choices on food.

Jimmy urged the management to capitalise on the park’s natural beauty and make it a safe and enjoyable place for visiting families.

“I feel this place is good for weekend family gatherings, so I hope more facilities can be built for children.

Hopefully, the park could move with the current change and development taking in the Division.”

Asked why some people considered the park a nonentity, he said it could be due to the lack of facilities and the predominantly jungle landscape.

“This is all right for people who love Nature. Energetic people are likely to look for such a place where they move around and enjoy the scenery. But for people who like a quiet stay and playground facilities for their children, they may not find the jungles and the natural beauty to their taste,” he reckoned.

Meanwhile, Bintulu Taxi Owner’s Association chairman, Simon Alan, said the percentage of foreigners using taxis to the park had decreased due to the economic downturn.

“Nothing much has changed since last year — just an average figure from my point of view but I’m not sure if they are using other transportation like rented vans or transport provided by their travel agencies,” he added.

He noted that more foreigners than locals were using taxis to go to the park.

“To some locals, it may not be worth spending RM50 per trip by taxi to the park but it seems nothing could be done about the fares.

“I know there are some interesting places like the ‘golden beach’ at the park but it’s quite far for some people to get there. That’s why I hardly ever see locals charter a taxi to the park. Maybe, they use their own transport,” Simon said.

“Even if they do visit the park, there is nothing much to do there, especially for their children, except to see the scenery — and not all people like doing that kind of thing.”

On the taxi drivers’ responsibility towards promoting Similajau National Park, Simon said to some extent, the cabbies had done their part by giving passengers, particularly foreigners, information on places of interest, including the park, in and around the Division.

According to him, the park management had once held a dialogue with the Bintulu Taxi Owner’s Association on how the association could seriously help to promote the park.

In his view, to enhance the park’s popularity among especially the locals, there is a need for the management to think outside the box and come up with more ideas besides just promoting Nature tourism.

“I think they should jointly organise activities with the local communities or associations to make the park more interesting — quite part from its natural beauty,” he suggested.

Among the activities he has his mind are water sports, games and any activities the different communities can enjoy.

By and large, the park still remains a conservation zone for some types of flora and various species of fauna although it does offer an unforgettable experience for visitors who enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of its natural surroundings or watching the various species of wildlife within the park.

Association chairman welcomes new fare rates

BINTULU: The hardships of cabbies need to be taken into consideration despite negative feedback from the public on the proposed nationwide hike in taxi fare by the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB).

Bintulu Taxi Owner’s Association chairman Simon Alan (pictured left) said this when contacted yesterday.

Saying that he agreed 100 per cent with the proposal, Simon revealed that all cabbies here welcome the new rates, which he saw as timely and which they had been waiting for.

Most people believe that hiking fares would burden those dependent on taxis for transport.

Simon’s argument is that the rising cost of living meant adjustment had to be made for taxi drivers.

“It’s not only me but all taxi drivers suffer from the current economic downturn, and need this change to keep up with the standard of living.

“The new fare rates could hopefully lighten our burden from the rapid increase of prices of items and spare parts of vehicles,” Simon said.

Asked if the new fare would affect the usage of taxis here, he admitted that it would have some impact on regular commuters.

“But I think it is for a short time only. It maybe fine in the long term when commuters have accepted the increase,” he added.

According to Simon, most of their commuters in Bintulu are from outside the town and working with Shell and offshore companies.

“We rely mostly on outside people who work here but locals have their own transport so don’t really need our service,” he elaborated.

Since taking a taxi is expected to cost more, Simon was asked its impact on tourism.

He replied that nothing would change their competitiveness as even tourists seldom use taxis now.

The peninsula had proposed a 30 per cent hike in fares which he deemed reasonable and could be implemented here.

Asked if there is any intention to raise fares by more than 60 to 100 per cent, Simon replied that other than causing a lot of difficulty to passengers, such a figure was unlikely to be approved.

“Thirty per cent should be fine but 100 per cent is crazy as passengers would be reluctant to use our service then,” he said.

Simon looked forward to a better taxi rate from CVLB, whose proposal he saw as fair to taxis and commuters alike.

He said he had expected a new rate this year after CVLB asked for the list of fare rates from the association recently.

Friday, June 5, 2009

SUPP needs to be in partnership with rakyat, says party’s Bintulu chief

BINTULU: It is not enough for the Sarawak united People’s Party (SUPP) to be in the government and a member of the Barisan Nasional (BN).

SUPP Bintulu branch chairman Henry Ling stated this yesterday.

He said the party must also be in partnership with the people by functioning effectively to stay united with the rakyat.

“We must find out what are the people’s fears towards the BN and through SUPP – a component in the BN government – we must allay those fears and work for the betterment of the people,” Ling said at a flag-raising ceremony at the SUPP premises here.

The event was held to commemorate the 5oth anniversary of the party.

Ling also called on the party members to work together and stay united and bring changes to let the people know that they supported the BN and not the opposition.

He pointed out that SUPP was formed in 1959 due to demand for changes, adding that the founders wanted to see everyone, irrespective of origin or credd enjoyed fair and good treatment.

“Our leaders and supporters have advocated changes in the last 50 years and today we need to renew our aspirations for changes with people first in our mind to peruse the objectives of the party,” Ling said.

He also reminded the members not to feel humiliated by the defeats suffered during the last state election, advising them to move on with a fighting spirit, determination, strength and commitment for victory in the future.

Women section chief Christina Tan and other senior committee members and veteran members of the party were among those present during the function.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Drugs more deadly than Influenza A (H1N1), says assemblyman.

BINTULU: Drug abuse is more dangerous than Influenza A (H1N1), Jepak assemblyman Datuk Talib Zulpilip said yesterday.

He said the disease which had infected only two Malaysians was not a long-term enemy of the country like drugs which had affected 12,355 people in the country last year.

Talib said the people in the country became very anxious about Influenza A (H1N1) but paid little attention to drug abuse as it was not a cause for alarm.

“Should we just worry about the two cases of swine flu and not drugs which had ruined the lives of more than 10,000 people in 2008 alone,” Talib said when officiating at the ‘Jalinan Mesra’ programme at Jepak community hall here.

The programme was organised by Miri National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK).

State AADK director Jasni Jubli and Bintulu Deputy Resident (Social) Ismawi Salleh were among those present at the function.

He reiterated that drugs were hazardous to people’s well-being apart from threatening the security and stability of a country.

“History has proven how ruthless and bad drugs and their dealers could transform those involved.

“As such it is crucial to keep the young generation away from drugs because the future of the country depends on them,” he stressed.

He urged parents to be more cautious and responsible in educating and guiding their children along the correct path, and steer them away from any negative element particularly drugs.

In his speech, Jasni said the war against drug abuse called for total involvement and commitment from all quarters.

He said AADK could not carry out the task effectively on its own.

“We need the support of all including various agencies and the public to make the state free from drugs by 2015,” he said.

According to Jasni, based on the report of the Geographic Information System (GIS) of his agency, a total of 304 drugs addicts were recorded here last year.

The three-day programme which ends today is participated by various government agencies here which have set up booths and conducted talks and seminars.