The Ibans caught between tradition and fire safety

Amendment to by-laws on longhouse design considered

The Sarawak government will consider amending the by-laws regarding construction of longhouses.

According to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, the matter should be studied first as it requires the feedback and acceptance from the rural longhouse communities.

He also points out that the amendments are considered to prevent fires, which often strike longhouses, in that the construction of every new longhouse must be in compliance with the set standard.

We see that we may have to amend the existing act and the by- laws under the council, which may be mandatory.  But we cannot force such construction because we do not know if there’s any acceptance by the population, as every longhouse’s construction is a tradition. – CM Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg

It is known that Sarawak Building Ordinance (SBO) 1994 serves to regulate the implementation, development and construction of any extension to any building; and they must not be undertaken without the written approval from the local authorities.

Abang Johari said the amendments should also be examined not only by law, but also with reference from the Fire and Rescue Department before the construction of any building.

According to him, Sarawak has a standardized design for the construction of a new longhouse that includes the installation of a fire wall too, but this has not been made mandatory.

It is observed that there are longhouses, including one in Baram, that use the standardised design.

“There are some who follow the design, where they have empty space in the central section before the kitchen area; some do not follow it because it is not mandatory,” he said.

Earlier, Abang Johari declared the closing of the ‘Satok Community Fire Programme 2018’, where he was accompanied by Fire and Rescue Department Sarawak director Khirudin Drahman.

Source: The Borneo Post