KUCHING: Is there any possibility for a Penan whose is wearing only his traditional dress being engaged as a caddie to such personality like Tiger Woods?
This could be possible if the government agrees to a suggestion by Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau to open up a golf course in the Penans’ territory in Baram in order to give them employment opportunities.
The suggestion was made by Ngau when he talked about woes faced by the natives of the Baram in the absence of basic amenities, infrastructure and economic activities in the area.
“This golf course will be part of the effort to increase the value-added of the tourism sector, and with the expected improvement of the road system in Baram soon, the setting up of the course will definitely provide employment opportunities to the locals,” Ngau said when he debated on the state 2012 budget.
Pointing out that a big chunk of the development budget goes to among others tourism development, Ngau said: “I would like to urge the relevant ministry to look into the request from the people of Ulu Baram who have identified places of interest to be developed as tourism products.
“Definitely Baram is very rich with tourism products, but very poor with supporting facilities such as good roads and other related facilities.
“The absence of these facilities makes tour packages become too expensive thus make it (tourism) unmarketable,” he said.
“As part of the effort to increase the value-added of the tourism sector, and with the expected improvement of the road system in Baram, I urge the government to encourage the private sector to open up a gold course in the area,” he said.
“The opening of the course would give the locals (Penans, Kayans and Kenyahs) job opportunities,” he said.
Currently the people in his constituency depend on rivers and jungles as their major source of food, pointing out that hunting and gathering of jungle produce are still the way of life.
“Rivers and jungles had acted like freezers to them in those days, but today there is an alarming drop in all types of fish and animals,” he said, urging the government to create a Penan communal land or Penan Reserve land, where they could still practise their traditional way of life.
Commenting on Ngau’s suggestion (to build golf course), Baru Bian, Ba’Kelalan assemblyman and Pakatan Rakyat’s shadow minister for Land Development and NCR land affair branded the suggestion as very ‘naïve’ to have a golf course in the interior of Baram.
“Once you destroy the forests and vegetation you also destroy the habitat of the animals.
“Secondly, the fertilizers they use to maintain the golf course is detrimental to marine life,” he said, pointing out that the course would not viable and beneficial ecologically speaking.
“It is so expensive to maintain the course and who would go and play? And how many people can get a golf course employment. 100? That will not solve the employment problem,” he said.
Bian suggested that to open up work opportunities other options should be considered for example the ecotourism like introducing home stay and the planting of different kinds of cash crops.
“Construction of roads to the interiors would open up the place too. This will encourage people to go back to their longhouses and take up their NCR land for farming,” he said.
For a golf course with 18 holes, its length should be between 5,000 and 7,000 yards and it needs at least an area of 150 hectares.
The cost of building the course depends on the type of course the government wants and the type of land where the course it is to be built.
Such a golf course may cost several hundred millions of ringgit.
Ngau did not point out exactly where the course could be built, and if it is in the Telang Usan valley it will be submerged under water when the proposed Baram dam is completed.
The dam which is about the size of Singapore is expected to drown between 70 and 80% of the NCR land.
It is projected to cost more than RM3 billion.
Bian hoped that Ngau is not serious with his suggestion.