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Lawas - a beacon on the horizon

RIVERINE RIDE …Passenger boat operating between the mainland to Kg. Awat-Awat across Sungai Sundar.

2nd February, 2009

LAWAS : Lawas town, located a 30-minute drive from the Sindumin check point at the Sabah-Sarawak border offers many fascinating and historical places to local and foreign travellers.

However, these places of interest in Bumi Kenyalang, once ruled by the white Rajah James Brooke were not given appropriate coverage in the local media including tourism magazines.

New Sabah Times journalist Shane Shah visited Lawas district recently accompanied by Lawas Hospital retiree named Matsalleh Amit.

Tourists and travellers from Sabah pay RM20.00 to travel to Lawas by bus for the three and half hour journey from Kota Kinabalu. The bus leaves at 7.30am and 1pm everyday from the bus terminals near Padang Merdeka and Wawasan Plaza.

Upon reaching the Sindumin check point, passengers have to produce personal and travel documents for screening by Immigration and police officers.

A Lawas District Council (LDC) counselor, Hj Ali Akbar Hj Awang Din interviewed by New Sabah Times on January 13 says the Sarawak Government will continue to allocate funds to develop Lawas town and rural development projects like roads, electricity and water supply, oil palm plantations and other basic amenities.

“Lawas town and its suburb have undergoing rapid development since Sarawak gained independence in Malaysia 51 years ago,” says Ali Akbar.

Local Government and Federal offices including district police headquarters, hospital, schools, Fire Rescue Department, rows of concrete shop houses, hotels, lodging houses and public amenities were built in Lawas years ago.

Lun Bawang and Brunei-Malay are the major ethnic groups in the district. The others include Kadayans, Chinese and Ibans.

Majority of the rural folks are farmers and fishermen while the younger generation work in the civil service and private firm.

He said the assemblyman for the district Datuk Amar Hj Awang Tengah who is also the Minister of Planning and Management Source II cum Minister of Public Amenities plans to develop Lawas as a tourist attraction by promoting local handicraft to domestic and foreign tourists and upgrade the living standard and income of local people.

A Five Star hotel located in the heart of Lawas town is now under construction.

The Lawas General Hospital has more than 100 staff including trained nurses and four doctors. It is equipped with various facilities ranging from maternity ward, children ward, male and female wards, paediatrics, physiotherapy to rural clinic services.

The administrative assistant Puan Maya Suma Amzah said : “We treat between 80 to over 100 outpatients everyday and majority of them suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure. Chronic patients who seek further treatment will be sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital or Miri Hospital.”

Located 13 kilometres from Lawas town is the district’s first resort, Sri Tanjung Resort, which was set up by a local bumiputera, Hj Adenan Hj Ismith nine years ago. The wooden resort has two dormitories to accommodate 40 people at any one time and eight standard rooms attached with bathroom, a conference room and a balcony facing the sea.

A 20-minute boat ride from Sri Tanjung Resort will take you to Pulau Sari which is famous for cage fish breeding and the site of a historical cemetery.

A Second World War remnant of the first concrete shop houses built off Sungai Batang Lawas river banks is found in Kampung Kuala Lawas. Several concrete pillars mark the first settlement of Chinese businessmen in the village decades ago.

A distance away from the shop houses is the Noor Islam Mosque which stands as a land mark of the village including a white elephant Customs Department office located near a jetty.

The background of Lawas district featuring rolling hills and virgin forest covered by fog offers a panoramic view from Kampung Kuala Lawas amidst the colourful houses in Pamukat water village across the river.

A fish roasted processing centre locally known as “ikan tahai” is found in Kampung Awat-Awat, a water village off Sungai Sundar River banks, some 37 kilometres from Lawas town.

Kampung Awat-Awat, like Kampung Kuala Lawas was established by a Malay-Brunei ethnic group whose origins can be traced back to the Brunei Sultanate Kingdom decades ago.

A businessman known as “kicap” is the first Chinese to operate a wooden sundry shop off the Sungai Sundar river banks. He is the only Chinese family living among the Malay-Brunei community in the village.

Kampung Awat-Awat has more than 100 stilt houses with over 1,000 people. A mangrove swamps crab (ketam kalok) catching area is located about a kilometer away from the village.

Dua Burut who catches crab since his younger days says he can earn an average RM500 every month. The crab is sold at RM10 in the village and RM14 in Lawas wet market.

Before reaching Kampung Awat-Awat, visitors will pass through Kampung Sundar, located 30 kilometres from Lawas. The mini town has three shop house blocks, tamu ground, food stalls and other public amenities. Majority of the population there are Kadayans.

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