BETONG (Sarawak), Oct 28 (Bernama) -- It takes five hours by road to reach
Betong town from Kuching.
Visitors know they have arrived when they see the “Selamat Datang” (welcome)
sign on an arch in the shape of the Parang Ilang and Terabai (the Iban sword and
shield), symbols of the battles fought by the legendary Ibanese warrior, Rentap.
Betong was upgraded to the status of a division on March 26, 2002. It was
then selected to become the administrative division centre.
The areas of administration include the Saratok District and the Betong
District. Betong has also been expanded to cover the Small District of Maludam,
which was previously under the jurisdiction of the Sri Aman District.
Betong is an important area in Sarawak history, as it is where many of the
protests against the Brooke administration took place.
Also, historical locations and buildings, such as fortresses, still exist
today, and some are even in use.
One of the locations is Bukit Sadok, where three major battles between
Rentap and the Brooke administration took place from 1857 through 1861.
ONCE A DEAD TOWN
Betong Deputy Resident Pathi Kerni, said the Betong Division is located
between three main rivers, Batang Lupar, Batang Saribas and Batang Kelaka,
covering an area of 4,180 sq km.
He added that the area population is nearly 94,000, the majority being
Malays (51,290), followed by Iban (37,283), Chinese (5,084), Bidayuh (225), and
Melanau (219), while the remainder are other races in Sarawak.
"The main economic activities in Betong are agriculture, farming and
fishing," he said, during a recent media briefing in conjunction with a media
travel programme organised by the Sarawak Information Department.
"The people also work in the public and private sectors, as well as in
business," he said.
Nearly 90 per cent of the area has a road traffic network, clean water
supply (77 per cent) and electricity supply (75 per cent), he said.
He noted that the federal government has allocated some RM2.3 billion under
the Eighth Malaysia Plan to the Tenth Malaysia Plan for the development of the
Betong Division. This involves 989 projects.
The state government has allocated RM600 million for 1,104 projects.
He said focus was given for the Rural Growth Centre (RGC) Layar and RGC
DEVELOPING NCR LAND
In a bid to increase the income of the rural population, Pathi said, several
steps have been taken by the government and its agencies in developing Native
Customary Rights (NCR).
The focus of the state government, in collaboration with the Rubber Industry
Smallholders Development Authority (RISDA), is to redevelop the rubber planting
sector in mini estates in Betong, he said.
He said 11,000 hectares of land have been replanted with rubber trees,
involving some 2,600 mini rubber estate growers.
"Income from rubber-planting can be around RM2,000 a month, depending on
current market prices," he said.
In collaboration with Chinese-based company Guangken Rubber (Sarawak) Sdn
Bhd, the government has also set up a rubber-processing factory in the division
to facilitate rubber-planting in the surrounding region.
He said, a 25-year contract with the company should ensure a brighter future
for rubber-planters in the Betong area.
Inggo anak Luyoh, 58, one of the mini rubber estate planters at Rumah Graji,
said efforts to redevelop the rubber industry in Betong have greatly benefited
people in the area.
There are currently 120 hectares of NCR land in Padeh Betong that have been
developed in collaboration with Guangken Rubber.
"We are confident that the rubber industry will develop further in Betong,
because of the vast experience of the Chinese company in the industry in several
countries in the Southeast Asian region."
He said planters are getting a steady income of between RM2,000 and RM2,500
Guangken Rubber (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd Assistant General Manager Li Huawei said
the factory in Betong is capable of producing some 90 tonnes of processed rubber
Besides processing rubber to be exported, the company also helps with
planting rubber trees and training the locals in methods for tapping rubber and
managing rubber products.
Li said the factory provides job opportunities to 103 local citizens and
Besides investing in Malaysia, the Chinese company which has been around
since 1951, has also invested in some 220,000 hectares of rubber estates in
Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam.
DEVELOPING EDUCATION IN BETONG
Besides focusing on developing the agricultural sector, Betong also places
importance on improving the education of children in rural areas, said Assistant
Welfare Minister Robert Lawson Chuat.
Looking back 40 years ago, he said, Betong was just as behind in education
as many other rural areas in the state.
"But in 1975, an era of transformation and change in education began in
Betong, under the patronage of then Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu
Numpang," he said.
Lawson said he still remembers the visit to Betong of former Prime Minister
Menteri Tun Mahathir Mohamad, who was then a senator. Lawson was still in
Mahathir said that an important strategy in development was improving the
public’s level of education,
In recognition of this, Lawson said, more schools have been built in the
rural areas, especially in the upper rivers of Betong.
Today, Betong can be proud of the many educational institutions in the area,
such as the Mara Junior Science College (MRSM), Sekolah Menengah Vokasional
Betong, Kolej Komuniti, and the upcoming Politeknik Metro, he said.
BETONG’S SECRET TO SUCCESS
He said the cooperation of all parties under the Nasional (BN) government is
the key to Betong’s successful transformation.
"In our division, there are one minister and two deputy ministers from the
federal government who work closely with the state government," said Lawson, who
is also the State Assemblyman for Bukit Saba, in Betong.
He said the public’s support of government’s projects in the area also
AZM SHM CR INE CR