KUCHING, Dec 17 — Upon entering a brightly-coloured longhouse in Kampung Keniong Lama, Malay Mail was greeted by the sight of residents clad in white shirts bearing the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) logo.
They were awaiting the arrival of the coalition’s candidate for Gedong, Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg, who is its president as well as caretaker Sarawak chief minister.
The longhouse, located in a hillside compound about 15km from Simunjan town, was festooned with GPS flags, creating a lively atmosphere.
Malay Mail approached 65-year-old Badul Tawai, whom we found leaning against one of the many doorways of the two-storey modern longhouse, mostly populated by Iban.
She greeted us with a story of the water supply to her residence.
Badul said that most of the families in the 15-door longhouse were farmers who rely on water tanks to carry out their daily routine, including showering, cooking and tending to their humble gardens.
Despite her gentle tone, she managed to convey her distress at how 14 families, or almost 80 people in total, relied on the rainy season for their water supply.
“Luckily, it is that time of the year when it rains constantly, so we do not have to worry about not having enough water or none at all,” she explained.
Another resident, 70-year-old Lantong Bias shared that the longhouse was once constructed entirely out of wood, but it was renovated in 2001 to a one-storey brick longhouse before another storey was added about 10 years ago.
Lantong revealed to Malay Mail that a week without rain could deplete the tanks, causing water disruption for days while they waited for a tanker from the Rural Water Supply Department (JBALB) to come by.
“If it is the dry season, the entire longhouse counts down the days until the rain comes and saves us.
“There is a river that we could venture to, but it is too far by foot, as not everyone has a vehicle,” he said.
Concerned about how long her garden can last without water, 62-year-old single mother Lawan Reban said she hopes that the new elected representative of her constituency will provide a piping system.
“I wish Abang Jo can help us provide a new water piping system so we can get through the day with one less worry on our mind,” she said in a whisper.
The longhouse is in the Simunjan district but falls under the Gedong state constituency.
Voters here will elect a new candidate on December 18 to be their representative in the Sarawak legislative assembly.
In the previous election, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu under the previous Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition won the constituency with a 3,365-vote majority through Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais who went against Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate from Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) Rapelson Richard Hamit as well as an Independent candidate Uja Bansi.
Giving up his seat in Satok, which he has held for 40 years, Abang Johari is in a four-cornered fight in Gedong against PH (Amanah) candidate Kamal Bujang, Parti Sarawak Bersatu’s (PSB) Mohamad Sofian Fariz Sharbin, and Parti Bumiputera Kenyalang’s (PBK) Tomson Ango.