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    Selasa, 6 Januari 2009

    TRAFFIC SNARL AT LITTLE TOWN OF LAWAS

    January 06, 2009 11:52 AM
    By Hamdan Ismail

    LAWAS, Jan 6 (Bernama) -- Just before the year end holidays, notably before Christmas, the remote town of Lawas in Sarawak was placid and traveling to and from Lawas was a breeze.

    Nonetheless, the recent end holiday period brought a new and unimaginable specter to this town located at the north of Sarawak - traffic jams.

    And if you want to know how bad it gets, Samat Alias a regular traveler on the

    Limbang-Lawas route relates how a one hour 45 minutes journey had turned into almost a 13 hour nightmare during the period.

    He had to queue for about five hours at the Brunei-Malaysia Immigration post at Pandaruan in Limbang before having to do the same for another three hours at the border in Puni, plus another three hours at Brunei's Labu Immigration Post that came as the last checkpoint before entering Lawas.

    "This long period of waiting inside the car is quite rare. But I believe that it is about time for the government to do something about it," said Samat who is apparently disappointed that his day was wasted inside his car.

    Though this scenario is seasonal and most evident during the year end, the sudden surge in the number of vehicles to Lawas remains a cause of concern to many.

    WHERE ARE THE VEHICLES COMING FROM

    Then why there is a big influx of vehicles into Lawas in the first place? It is the work of the neighbouring Bruneians who came in droves often as a stopover on their way to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah that is three hours away from Lawas.

    Many also do their shopping in Lawas. Probably the biggest pull factor is the currency exchange that favoured them with the rates currently being RM2.30 for every one Brunei dollar.

    Lawas is the place where they buy `tahai' (dried fish), adan rice and highland vegetables or just come to take a break there. Many also head to Ba' Kelalan on the Bario highlands to unwind using the timber tracks or by air from Lawas.

    LOCAL BUSINESSES BENEFIT

    According to a recent report in Brunei Times, a daily in the Sultanate, an average of 1,000 Brunei registered vehicles were recorded flocking into Miri in Sarawak or Kota Kinabalu in Sabah for shopping.

    While the influx had inconvenienced the locals traveling to conduct the daily chores, the local businessmen on the other hand are delighted by the increase in sales volume as more visitors made Lawas not just as a transit point but also their new shopping destination.

    While they wanted this momentum to remain, it is also their wish that the road infrastructure linking their small town with the other parts of Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah will be improved by the authorities concerned.

    HEAVY TRAFFIC A CAUSE OF CONCERN

    The sudden increase in the traffic volume had also raised the concern of Nelson Balang Rining, the state assemblyman for Ba'Kelalan constituency which covers Lawas.

    "The number of people passing through Lawas by road between Limbang, Brunei and Sabah had increased tremendously to as much as 1,000 vehicles per day," he noted.

    On a normal day, the figure could hardly surpass half of this number but with the present development it is timely for the road infrastructure here to be improved, he said.

    For road travelers from Miri or the main part of Brunei, known as Brunei Muara, they had to cross two rivers via ferries to reach Lawas apart from having their passports stamped eight times... not inclusive the stampings for non-Sarawakians who planned to ride all the way into Sabah.

    Nelson added that the Miri-Brunei-Limbang-Brunei Temburong-Lawas road link had grown in importance now and something had to be done to facilitate road travelers.

    On the Sarawak government's part, he said a bridge under construction crossing the Trusan River about 30 minutes from Lawas town that will be ready by the end of this year will provide some relief.

    "While the construction takes place, we have asked for two, instead of one ferry to operate at the Trusan river to transport land vehicles from each side of the river to speed up the traffic movement," he added.

    -- BERNAMA
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