KOTA KINABALU, Oct 30, 2015:

It took just barely four months for villagers in remote Pitas to complete an 8km stretch that now benefits at least seven villages in the area.

Although it may not be a finished tarred road, like that promised to them by the government over a decade ago, the villagers are still counting their blessings.

This stretch of raod has saved at least half the time it took for them to get on with their daily routines.

“Now, it takes our children just an hour to get to their school in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pitas, as opposed to three hours before,” said Janting Madisa, who was among hundreds who chipped in and worked on the road last year.

Pitas is about 230km from the capital.

Prior to this, students had to take a boat over the Bengkoka River and continue their journey by chartered buses, while those who could not afford the ride would just walk to their school.

“I would consider myself lucky as I have relatives staying nearby my children’s schools.

“They agreed to allow my children to stay with them. My children come home over the weekend. The same goes for other families.

“But others are not so lucky as their children are forced to walk four hours, to and fro between their homes and school. And the journey gets longer during rainy days.”

Janting, the former Kampung Perupuk-Dowokon village head, said everyone from Kampung Mandamai, Kampung Kobon, Kampung Perupok, Kampung Dowokon, Kampung Pinapak, Kampung Maliau Pusat and Kampung Maliau Layung grouped together to build the stretch.

They used money they raised through door-to-door collections.

“The villagers raised the funds, contributing RM5 to RM50 each.

“And thanks to a kind-hearted Samaritan, who lent us his machinery, we were able to begin constructing the stretch on June 23 last year.

“It was completed in October. It was in February this year that help again came in from a non-governmental organisation, and we were able to install culverts.

“The stretch may not be perfect as it does get hard to pass when it rains, but at least we have a road that links the villages here.

“People like myself are able to market our farming products faster, unlike before when some would go bad due to the long journey to the market in (Pitas) town, 25km away,” said the 49-year-old, who counts bananas and coconuts among his crops to make a living.

Janting said before, it took him at least four days to transport his products out to the market, causing some of the crops to go bad. This travelling period had since been cut by half.

“The costs may not have changed, since we still have to pay more or less the same price for transportation, but at least now I have more to sell since fewer crops go bad,” he told The Rakyat Post.

In 1999, the road linking the seven villages was approved under the Seventh Malaysia Plan, but the project was abandoned after construction was completed just a few kilometres into these villages.

Fifteen years passed, and villagers were tired of the empty promises and decided to take matters into their own hands after their appeal to the government to continue with the project was ignored.

The irony of all this was that the district Public Works Department had erected a signboard — Jalan Pandan Meliau Pinapak — proclaiming that the road had been completed.

It, however, does not exist.

“Actually, we do not expect a highway to our villages, just a stretch that is safe and comfortable to all users.

“The existing road, although better than before, is still impassable when it rains.

“We are doing all we can because we want our children and our children’s children to live a more comfortable life. Besides, that is what modernisation is all about.

“Although we’ve felt ignored for over a decade, we still have faith in the government.

“We believe they will listen to our plight and provide us with better facilities. That is our wish.”

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