FAST developing Pakan is set to grow into a satellite town on the back of the state government’s commitment to kick-start the town’s restructuring plan under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP).
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who broke the good news when launching Phase 2 of the Pakan-Ulu Julau-Ulu Kota Road project last July, said huge funding would be needed but assured it was affordable with the state’s newly-found source of income from oil and gas production.
The proposed project is welcomed by the people of Pakan as a continuation of progress they have enjoyed under the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) state government and now carried on by Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
“This is going to be the next level of development for Pakan as all this while, especially since its elevation to a district in 2002, implementation of basic infrastructure, facilities, and utilities has been the main focus for Pakan,” Pakan assemblyman Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom said.
The proposed satellite town project would not only restructure the landscape of Pakan but also clear the perception that Pakan is among the 10 poorest districts in the country, he added.
As the satellite-town transformation is a big project, Mawan admitted it would take many years to implement but assured progress would be achieved in stages during the five-year 12MP, starting this year, and beyond as the various implementing agencies have already begun working on it.
“Even the Pakan-Ulu Julau-Ulu Kota Road project, which started about 15 years ago, is still progressing into the final third phase, let alone the proposed new township or satellite town project which is set to be a game-changer for Pakan,” he said.
Steady development pace
Mawan added that Pakan had enjoyed a steady pace of development since its elevation to district status in 2002.
“By now, not only many roads have been built with allocations totalling over RM200 million under the ninth, 10th, and 11th Malaysia plans but various facilities as well, including a sports complex.
“Road connectivity has paved the way for the provision of water supply and electricity supply from the state’s main grid as well as efficient telecommunication facilities and services.”
On the Pakan-Ulu Julau-Ulu Kota Road project, which he considers a catalyst of socioeconomic development for Pakan, Mawan said Phase One, involving a 13.3km stretch from Pakan town to Rumah Buing had been completed in 2011 at a cost of RM63.725 million, while Phase Two, which started in 2015 on a 15km stretch from Rumah Buing to Nanga Kara Clinic, had been completed as scheduled at a cost of about RM130 million.
According to him, an 8km stretch to Ulu Kota under Phase Three is in progress and, once completed, will not only link up the whole of Pakan with the Pan Borneo Highway but also integrate the district into the framework of Bukit Sadok Agropolitan in Betong Division.
He is optimistic this road will spur socioeconomic development in Pakan with a strong foundation for future growth, especially the realisation of the proposed satellite town.
So far, a total of 68km of roads have been tar-sealed – Pakan Road (22km), Engkamop-Entabai Road (9km), Jalan Wak (12km), Jalan Ulu Julau FH1 (11km), Jalan Ulu Pedanum (6km), Jalan Tubai Buah (4Km), and Jalan Sesco (4km).
“As such, I consider Pakan no longer a backwater because a lot of development projects such as roads, bridges, schools, clinics, electricity supply, treated water supply, telecommunication facilities, and many others have been continuously implemented in the district by the previous BN and the present GPS-led state governments, especially after Pakan was made a full-fledged district,” he stressed.
So far in Pakan, 97 per cent of longhouses in Pakan have been connected by roads with 95 per cent of households enjoying electricity supply from the main grid.
Efforts will continue to facilitate and expedite the provision of much-needed utilities to all the longhouses through various initiatives such as the Rural Electrification Scheme (RES), the Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (Sares), and the Sarawak Rural Water Supply Scheme (Sawas).
The district also enjoys efficient communications coverage following the setting up of telecommunications towers and now, with the involvement of the Sarawak Multimedia Agency (SMA) to encourage more telecommunications service providers to venture into the rural market, telecommunications services are expected to improve further.
“WiFi and broadband facilities are available now and the service is expected to improve when all the telecommunications towers and other related facilities, set up by the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) and telecommunication providers, become operational.
“There’re also many public facilities such as a mini-stadium, a community hall, and a library. Even a surau has been set up here,” he said.
Some 20 years ago, there were no tar-sealed roads in Pakan. The 22km Pakan Road was muddy and only passable to four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles during the wet season.
Now with good road connectivity, the district is just half an hour by road from Sarikei and about 45 minutes from Sibu, Mawan said, dismissing claims by certain parties that Pakan has been neglected all this while.
It used to be a three- to four-hour journey from Sibu to Pakan, but now the journey from Pakan to Sibu was only 45 minutes, he added.
Although Pakan has experienced tremendous development since being elevated to a district, Mawan regretted some dissenting noises were resorting to instigating the people to hate the GPS government. He believes this was the work of what he called “political desperados”.
He is happy the people of Pakan are well aware of lies spread by the opposition and continue to stand firmly behind the state government.
Considering development in Pakan all this while has been delivered in small boats, Mawan said the satellite-town implementation was, by comparison, a colossal project aimed at transforming Pakan into an economic growth centre with the development of new commercial buildings, residential and recreational areas, and other facilities within a 10km radius from the existing town or about one-tenth of Pakan’s total area of 924.6 square km.
Also, part of the Pakan transformation plan is the upgrading of Ulu Strass Road from the KJD section of Pan Borneo Highway, cutting through Pakan Road to link up areas on the border with Sarikei such as Buku, Gerugu, and Sungai Rusa.
Like the coastal highway on the other side of Pan Borneo Highway, this road will also provide an alternative shorter routes to places between central and southern Sarawak, particularly Krian, Spaoh Airport, Betong, Sri Aman, and Serian.
In addition, 38km of concrete and 82km of earthen roads had been built to link most of the longhouses to the main road, Mawan said.
Other projects already implemented include steel, belian wood, and suspension bridges.
Mawan further said for the proposed satellite town project, various implementing agencies such as the Land and Survey Department, Sarikei Resident’s Office, Pakan District Office, Public Works Department, Department of Irrigation and Drainage, Meradong/Julau/Pakan District Council, and others had already held numerous discussions and were expected to come up with a masterplan soon.
“In fact at the district level, they have set up a taskforce, involving various agencies and local community leaders, headed by the district officer and myself, to coordinate with the Divisional Development Committee on the masterplan.”
Among the proposed establishments are commercial banks, a police station, a fire station, a collection processing and packaging centre (CPPC), and a bigger administrative centre for more government agencies.
Presently, a conservative layout plan has been drawn as a lot of consultations are needed with the stakeholders, including the affected landowners.
One plus factor is that the perimeter survey of Native Customary Rights (NCR) land in the identified 10km radius has been carried out whereby such land has been gazetted as communal reserve under Section 6 of State Land Code (SLC), including some which have been divided into individual lots and ready for title issuance under Section 18 of the SLC.
“That will facilitate payment of compensation to owners of land acquired for the proposed town restructuring and expansion project,” Mawan said.
He called on the intellectuals or professionals of Pakan to come together to help realise the transformation of the district, which already has the Chief Minister’s blessings.
“Due to continuous support of the majority of its population of about 18,000 people, Pakan has been able to enjoy tremendous development over the past 20 years.
“Let us pool our resources in the coming years to transform Pakan into a vibrant satellite town as pledged by the state government,” he added.