LIVING up to its name as ‘City of Unity’, Kuching is not only home to a multiracial society but also committed to doing its best for the local community.
There are two local authorities given the mandate to administer the city since Aug 1, 1988 – Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) and Kuching South City Council (MBKS).
In conjunction with the city’s 32nd anniversary this year, New Sarawak Tribune sat down with DBKU mayor Datuk Junaidi Reduan for his thoughts.
Junaidi is the seventh DBKU mayor, sworn in on Sept 5 last year.
Q: Personally, what do you think Kuching is famous for?
Junaidi: One of them is cleanliness, and worthy of becoming a tourist attraction for that particular reason.
The second is, Kuching lives up to its status as a ‘City of Unity’ model. We can see multiracial and multireligious people mingling harmoniously despite their differences. It is safe to say that we don’t have racism and religious extremism here.
The city is also famous for various tourist attractions such as the Kuching Waterfront, Main Bazaar, India Street, Cat Museum and historical sites like Fort Margherita, Tua Pek Kong Temple, to name a few.
The city is also famous for its local food such as Sarawak laksa, kolok mee, kek lapis, terubuk fish and seafood.
Q: How do you view Kuching city in general?
Junaidi: Kuching is unique because it is a ‘City of Unity’. That title, which was given on Aug 1, 2015, depicts the city an example of a place where everyone can live peacefully regardless of race, religion and cultural background.
In terms of administration, I personally believe that Kuching is actually administered by three local councils, with the third being Padawan Municipal Council (MPP). This is because if you look at the Emart supermarket in Matang area and its surroundings, that is considered a part of Kuching city but it is managed by MPP.
Kuching previously was well known as a clean city. It used to be number one in Malaysia, but now, has dropped to number three or four. So, our target is to bring back the glory days.
That’s why we came up with a lot of programmes, and one is the ‘Cleanliness Month’ campaign. We are trying to work with not only MBKS but MPP also because this programme is meant for the whole city.
When people visit places in Kuching and find that some are clean but some are not, they won’t care whether the place is under DBKU or MBKS. Instead, they see them as Kuching city.
To manage this problem, we have set up a joint committee between DBKU, MBKS and MPP. Even Kota Samarahan Municipal Council has shown interest.
We have come up with various ideas but following the Covid-19 crisis, we had to postpone the activities. The ‘Cleanliness Month’ campaign, for instance, has been brought forward to next year.
Q: Any other major plans apart from the ‘Cleanliness Month’ campaign?
Junaidi: DBKU also planned to hold the ‘Kuching Car-free Morning’ programme every fourth Sunday of the month. We wish to create a space free from cars and suitable for the local community to conduct activities. We have identified three sites but yet to finalise.
It has been postponed due to Covid-19. We will probably start early next year.
This programme has significant importance, to help reduce carbon emission and traffic congestion. With this space, people can hold events and other side activities.
Q: How does DBKU cope amid the Covid-19 crisis?
Junaidi: There are two phases; the movement control order (MCO) period and the relaxed phase. When the MCO was strictly enforced, we saw almost a closure of most businesses. Enforcement was easy for DBKU because there were few operations.
But when the MCO was relaxed, it was a bit tough for us. A lot of concerned citizens filed complaints of non-compliance by some quarters. If people were dining, then that’s all right as we can put one table for four people and we put up signs on where an individual can sit and where they can’t. But when it comes to movement, it is difficult.
Thus, we focused on creating awareness. Among them, through the Waterfront musical fountain, where we display a reminder on the standard operating procedure on the water screen projection.
We also have audio speakers, LED displays and banners reminding visitors to practice physical distancing, wearing of face masks and so on.
We also have joint patrols with the police, Ministry of Health, Armed Forces, Civil Defence Force and People Volunteers Corp.
Q: What about the management of hawkers and traders under DBKU?
Junaidi: We have two types — the first are those trading in premises such as Kubah Ria, Medan Niaga Satok and so on. The second are those scattered by the streets.
During the MCO, the hawkers selling by the road sides closed their businesses. But now, they have resumed operations as we go into relaxed MCO. Our challenge is, how can we monitor those who are scattered in different locations in this big area of jurisdiction? In the end, we decided to increase the frequency of inspections and becoming stricter with enforcement.
Q: What do you hope to see Kuching become in the next five years?
Junaidi: When I was first sworn in, DBKU already had its own vision to make the city cleanest, beautiful, safest, smartest and sustainable in Malaysia by 2023. This is already ongoing via DBKU’s CBS Enhancement Plan 2019-2023. I’m here to do my best to help achieve this.