An accident along jungle track connecting several villages in rural Sabah has enraged villagers forced to trek for hours through mud and then cross a treacherous bridge to get to town:
TENOM: It’s hard to comprehend that 50 years on, a jungle track that is almost impossible to pass in the rainy season, remains the main route connecting a group of villages in Kemabong in Tenom district.
For as long as they can remember villagers have been uncomplainingly using this dirt track to get in and of the area, taking their children to school, going to the hospital or simply stocking up on essential items available in Tenom.
Back in 1985, amid great excitement, a gravel road leading to the villages of Sumumbu and Kapulu was built by a logging company in 1985. After the logs were extracted, no further development was forthcoming.
A crude and narrow log bridge, a few thin logs placed over a deep gully in ‘Camel Trophy’ style, the famous off-road competition, is the only way for vehicles to cross and the villagers, all mostly traditional farmers use the route daily to send their produce to Tenom.
Teachers at the two schools and students from the surrounding villages come close to getting a mud bath on rainy day and have to endure clouds of dust when the weather turns drier on their trips to and from school.
During the rainy season, the road is a nearly impassable quagmire of deep mud and makes the usually hour-long trip to Tenom town four hours of hell.
The horrendous condition was exposed when a villager complained that that residents in the area were facing problems getting to or out of the area after a four-wheel-drive vehicle tumbled off the bridge and into the gully badly injuring the driver and passenger.
The accident on Feb 3 almost claimed the life of a 40-year-old teacher and his 10 year old son when they tried to cross the log-bridge.
The affected villagers have had enough and have demanded the government step in.
Lukap Ukui, 53, the chairman of the Sumumbu Umno branch, has been at the receiving end for ignoring their plight until now. But he says he is as disappointed that their many appeals to the government to upgrade their road had fallen on deaf ears.
Ukui wants the state Barisan Nasional government to act swiftly, but fears that their wishes may not be answered any time soon.
One of the problems is that the Sabah Forest Industries and Sabah Forestry Department, both state government’s agencies have refused to permit any effort to upgrade the road as it crosses the Rundum Forest Reserve.
With lack of enforcement, there are fears that illegal logging and poaching would become easier for many who are now only deterred by the poor travel conditions.
Residents of Kg Kolorok, another village in the district, are also complaining that their 60km road has never seen a `good day’ since its construction in the 1980s. It is impossible for vehicles to use the road during the rainy season.
Just last month farmer, Andingos Ukun, 28, took about four hours to make the crossing on his motorcycle when he had to send his infant son to the Tenom Hospital for treatment.
He said he spent most of the time pushing his motorcycle through sometimes knee-deep mud while his wife who was wife cradling their crying child in a homemade sling wrapped around her shoulders carefully picked her way through the mud.
“This is our life here … no one cares. We are not asking for the sky. We only want basic things like roads like any other village in the state. Why is no one listening?” Ukun asked. – AM