BINTULU: In the 1960s, the Bintulu town was merely a fishing village with a population of 5,000.
On the 16th of Sept 1963, Sarawak joined Sabah (then North Borneo), Singapore, and Malaya to form the new Federation of Malaysia.
Today, the coastal town with one of the world’s largest natural gas reserves is booming with activity, and has a population of over 200,000.
Three friends who grew up during the time share with Bernama their experiences during the transition.
Travelling outside by land was a difficult affair in those days, said Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamed Abdul Majid, who grew up in Bintulu.
“There were no roads at all connecting nearby towns. All travelling had to be done by boats. It was only in late 60s that road construction was started to Miri,” said the 66-year-old when met here, recently.
He said the first buses introduced in Bintulu were owned by the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara).
The buses plied the untarred road from Batu 18 (of the Bintulu-Miri road) to the town in 1969.
“Most of the passengers coming from Batu 18 were Iban villagers who did not have money to pay for the bus fare. Instead, they would pay the bus driver, known as Abdul Jabbar, in the form of vegetables, chickens, bamboo shoots and other items,” the former Science Faculty Dean of Universiti Malaya told Bernama in an interview.
He said the local Ibans used to refer to the bus as “bas Jabbar” as some of them would assume that it was owned by him.
“Udah datai bas Jabbar?” (Has Jabbar’s bus arrived?) would be an oft-repeated question.
Bintulu historian Mahmud Yussop, who is also Mohamed’s childhood friend, in his blog “Images of Bintulu Before and Now,” said the buses provided a much-needed public transportation for Bintulu to Miri, some 200 kilometers away.
Mahmud explained that Miri back then was the capital of the Fourth Division.
Sarawak, under the British, was divided into five Divisions and each Division was headed by a Resident. Each Residency had a number of districts.
In the early 1970’s, Bintulu was a sub-district in the Miri division and all government affairs were headquartered at Miri for the final decision making.
This arrangement made progress very slow for Bintulu.
“In the 60’s, Bintulu was in the backwaters of development. Not many people were able to buy cars in the 60’s and 70’s, so the bus service was a real boon for the general public of Bintulu,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kiprawi Aman, the supervisor of Kenderaan Bas MARA Service then, said the bus service was not so much for profit than an obligation by the federal government to provide public transportation for the rakyat.
Labels: Bintulu, Iban