| Faza Suraj |
REFURBISHMENT of the abandoned government houses in the Belait District are currently being carried out in phases.
This was said by Belait District Officer, Hj Harris bin Hj Othman, in response to public’s concern towards the houses posing a threat to residents around the areas.
He highlighted that they have identified 164 run-down houses since 2012 in the areas of Jln Lorong Bolkiah, Jln Lumut, Jln Mumong, Jln Lorong 3 Selatan, Jln Puteri Brunei, Jln Maharaja Lela, Jln Maharaja Anakanda, Jln Singa Menteri and Jln Maharaja Setia.
Restoration efforts are being made at nine barracks and until now, 62 units have gone through complete refurbishment, while 102 more are expected to be completed by the end of 2015.
“We will be using the houses to provide temporary accomodation for the residents of Kg Jabang, Kg Api-Api, Kg Baru and Lorong 14,” said Hj Harris, in an effort to help the residents still living in squatter houses which totalled up to 152 families – 88 from Kg Jabang, 38 from Kg Api-Api, 21 from Kg Baru and five from Lorong 14. Nineteen families have been successfully relocated from the said areas.
“The process may be slow but that is because we are being thorough in performing checks and prioritising the locals,” he said, adding that this is a special case where non-locals and non-government workers are included for the sake of helping the underprivileged, even though the original criteria requires a family member to be in civil service.
There is also a plan to turn Kg Jabang into a recreational park when the relocation process is done, he added.
Sarah Muliana, 37, who was once a squatter in Kg Jabang and is now living in one of the barrack units in Lorong 3 Selatan, expressed her gratitude that her mother-in-law’s application for a house was approved. “We couldn’t rent a house with my husband’s salary because we also have five children to support.”
Md Firdaus bin Abdullah, 43, the head of a family of seven with five children is thankful for the facilities such as fresh water and electricity at the barrack. “We used to collect rain water for consumption but now, our children can live comfortably and it’s easier for them to focus on their studies.”
He also mentioned the flood issue in Lorong 3 Selatan, where it became a routine for them and their neighbours to move their cars somewhere when it rained for hours because the garage would usually be flooded, or in worst case scenario, water would have flowed into the houses. “I just hope that something will be done to help us and let the water to recede quicker,” he said.
Faridah Anak Sawal, who now stays at Jln Sultan Bolkiah after moving from her 18-year squatter home in Kg Jabang, highlighted that the initiative by the government has greatly improved her family’s health by providing them a proper place to stay.
“My children have health problems which were made worse by the smoke emitted by a generator which we used to power our house. My son would cough a lot while my daughter would faint on a number of occasions and that worried me. My father had an infection on his leg which was then amputated. Now with the new house, we have a better and safer environment to live in.”
She shared that the family used to pump water from the ground, but everything has changed now, she said. “Cost of living is now cheaper because we don’t have to buy petrol to power a generator anymore and the government is very generous with their assistance. For that, we are thankful.”