Kg Sebako of Pulau Bruit, Mukah, Sarawak.
Kg Sebako is one of the many fishing villages that dotted Pulau Bruit of Sarawak. Kg Sebako got its name from mangrove tree or ‘bakau’ in local lingo.Touted as the second largest island in Malaysia, surprisingly Pulau Bruit lagged in so many aspects in comparison to Pulau Langkawi. Due to its remoteness, not many steps are seeing being taken to develop the island and to raise the standard of living of its inhabitants. Some are still living under the poverty line.
Kg Sebako is located at the river mouth of Sg Sebako, facing the mighty South China Sea. There are a number of jetties along the river to welcome back their fishermen after a hard day’s work at the sea, and visitors, if any. Boats of various shapes and colour moored at those jetties. In the absence of tarred roads, waterway and boats are the main transportation method. For easy accessibility homes are built along the river bank.
Majority of the men in Kg Sebako are fishermen. Traditional fishermen with small boats and light equipments thus limiting their area of work, they couldn't go de. Another source of income for them is to make ‘salai lumek’ or smoked fish. A certain type of fish is used to make this ‘salai lumek’, a Kg Sebako specialty. It can be eaten on its own, fried or as an additional item into some dishes. ‘Salai lumek’ is sold in every corners in Sarikei albeit at a higher price, but it still very much cheaper in Kg Sebako.
There are two grocery stores in Kg Sebako for the people to get their essential household items. They can also opt to go to the nearest town Sarikei, a two hours journey by boat. But some find the fare for the journey is not encouraging. In November and December, supplies are limited due to rainy season and strong waves. Boat service will be interrupted and fishermen will not be able to go to the open sea.
Wooden houses on stilts are the preferred choice here, though in certain area brick houses can be spotted. An cement lane is an alternative to tarred road snaking at the centre of this fishing village. Cars are non-existent. People on foot and motorcycles are the only users of the lane. On both sides of the lane, wooden planks are constructed to connect the houses to the lane.
Here, the population still depends very much on rain to provide them with water for washing, drinking and preparing for food. For some reasons only known to the politician, the people of Kg Sebako up to this date are still denied access to clean piped water. Every household need to have at least one blue-colored PVC tanks to collect rain water. Things can go from bad to worse during dry spell. Their blue-colored tanks will run dry. Clothes still need to be washed, food need to be cooked, so on and so forth. The polluted Sebako river will be their last resort.
As the sun plunged under the horizon, along the sounds of crickets and other insects, there are this constant humming sound produced by generators to generate electricity. Those who can afford a generator will enjoy the luxury of fluorescent lamps and television at night. For those who can’t, they will be contended and make do with oil lamps or with a fee they can connect a cable or two to their more affordable neighbor.
It is indeed sickening and saddening at this age and time, some people among us are still don’t have access to tarred road, medical facility, piped water and electricity. Sarawak is rich with its natural resources, like oil, gas and timber. Whatever has happened, only the authorities know the answer. If electricity can be supplied to the sole palm plantation on the other side of the island, why can’t it be not supplied to the villages? On average, locals have to spend RM300-00 a month to buy fuel for the generator, whereas electricity will offer much cheaper price for that duration and less pollution too.
Maybe, since Pulau Bruit is not as marketable as Pulau Langkawi, relevant authorities are turning a blind eye on them. After all, why develop if there is no guaranteed returns? It seems like the people of Pulau Bruit in general, and Kg Sebako in particular will have to endure many more years without those basic amenities.