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clock 15-11-2017
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Struggling to Rebuild Life After Losing Home to Highway

For almost two years, 75-year-old Sumang Anak Dundang and her family have been living in a partially completed house, without electricity and relying on kerosene lamps at night for light.

Rainwater, carefully stored in a blue container, is all they have for drinking and bathing.

It has been tough but Sumang, who lost her husband years ago, has no choice but to make the best of her "new” home.

She and her family used to live at Sungai Engkabang, about 20km away from Serian town in Sarawak but was forced to relocate as the house had to make way for the Pan Borneo Highway.

Her son-in-law, Joseph anak Nyua, then built their current house on their native customary rights land, located less than a kilometre from the Serian-Sri Aman road.

Not only did Joseph have to spend money building the house, he also had to widen and improve the access road to the new house from the main road located about 250 metres away.

The family needed RM50,000 to build the road and the house but they only received compensation of RM37,856.

Left with no other choice, Joseph, who works as a labourer and is the family's sole breadwinner, dug into the savings meant for his two children's future education.

With most of his savings spent on the house, which is still not completed, Joseph received more bad news in the form of an invoice dated Sept 5 from Syarikat Sesco Berhad, for RM20,087.

The invoice is for the relaying of power lines from the existing low-tension power line to his house, located 250 metres away. Payment must be made before March 5, 2018.

Joseph has sought assistance from several sources, including from elected representatives, but has so far not received any response.

Serian DAP chairman Edward Andrew Luwak, who is assisting the family, hoped the government would help them as the family had lost their house to the Pan Borneo Highway.

Edward said the compensation amount should also be reviewed to ensure that those affected would be able to rebuild their lives.

In July, Edward urged the state government to compensate a farmer who alleged his land was reclaimed to make way for the Pan Borneo Highway.

Edward is not the only Sarawak politician who had called for fair compensation to those affected by the project.

Earlier this year, Sarawak PKR chairman and Ba'Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian said he welcomed the project but the authorities should also sympathise with those whose homes were being levelled so the highway could be built.

As the highway is a federal project, he said, the federal government should ensure enough funds for every aspect of the work, including fair compensation to those affected.

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