Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Homeless fire victims see timber giant’s aid as insult


MIRI: The 600 Punans who were made homeless when a fire razed their longhouse in Ulu Tatau, central Sarawak, said they felt hurt, insulted and humiliated when a timber giant gave them aid in the form of packets of salt.

The hungry and tired victims from Rumah Ado, located five hours by timber road from Bintulu, had been appealing for help from the Government and some timber companies operating in the Tatau district after the fire on Thursday.

Yesterday, the manager of a private logging consortium, which has its headquarters in Sarawak but with several overseas projects, handed the fire victims two packets of salt each.

Punan leader Penghulu Sanok Magai received the salt at the fire site in front of hundreds of victims.

Meagre help: Magai showing the packets of salt given as relief aid
for fire victims by a timber company in Miri yesterday.

Magai was shocked but kept his cool and even managed a smile as he politely accepted the bags of salt.

However, the Punan National Association is fuming mad and its publicity chief Calvin Jemarang described the act as cruel and heartless.

“Why must this timber company insult the fire victims like this? If it is reluctant to give any aid, then do not give anything,” he said.

“These victims are homeless, have little food and drink and their future is uncertain, and yet this timber company humiliated them like this.”

Relief aid has been slow in arriving. The Bintulu Welfare Department has been sending rice, clothing and noodles in limited amounts because of logistic problems.

Jemarang appealed to politicians and private firms to give more aid.

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