In recent years, Tanjung Manis suddenly become a popular place in the media as well as on the Map of Sarawak. This former fishermen’s village of Belawai is currently connected only by rivers.
In 2002, Tanjung Manis, formerly under the administration of Sarikei Division being put up under new administration of Daro District which is under the new Mukah Division. However, the locality which takes about one hour and forty five minutes by speedboat looks easier to be under Sarikei Division which takes only half an hour from Sarikei Town. It is not an upset for the locals anyway, as they still prefer to travel to Sibu and Sarikei for their daily needs as well as the dealing with the Government Agencies. For this traditionally river champion, nothing much changes on the administrative center.
Under the developments, this area has overcome huge changes on the basic infrastructures as well as mega projects. In fact, the first wave of the development being constructed for past five or ten years which make Tanjung Manis a white elephant at this moment. Until all the roads, which is under construction to construct the missing link to Sibu and the bigger town in Sarawak, most people (even I myself during my first visit) agreed that the roads in Tanjung Manis (or well known as Belawai Sub-District) are monkey roads. The total road lengths in this area are more than the total vehicles that really needs the roads. However, that is development, nobody could see the impact before it realize to the real dreams of the Government.
Tanjung Manis Deep Sea Port, reported to be the most sophisticated and the biggest of it alike in the state have proof itself to be the main factor that will facilitate the developments. Nobody could argue on this, as for now, ships and vessels are the first to welcome the visitors who visit Tanjung Manis. The only thing not sure on is either the fisherman tug-boat on the area is really belonging to the locals. It is reported that most of the boats are from other country with license to fish on the Malaysian territory.
Tanjung Manis Airport which is completed for more than five years ago might be considered a real white elephant project. This nice airport with modern facilities, which could accommodate Fokker-50, is used only occasionally. Once, the Mas Wings and Hornbill Skyways fly from Mukah and Kuching but stop their operation perhaps due to fewer passengers. Most locals, who are fishermen and farmers, prefer to use river as their mode of transport which offer them much cheaper than the air. As such, the only passenger for the airplane are normally those who working with the developers and government servant on their official duties.
Other government agencies, formally only located themselves at the bigger towns as their headquarter are now slowly constructed their office on the area. The beautiful, modern office of Lembaga Sungai Sarawak (Sarawak River Board) and Jabatan Imigresen are completed and located at the beautiful one of a peninsula in Tanjung Manis. This hopefully will at least control the immigrant to freely enter Sarawak.
Government Quarters, built in different shape and materials to accommodate the officers, who will assist on the upcoming developments. Unfortunately, most of the quarters, as well as the low cost housing are abundant. Some people believe that the time will come when the houses will be fully occupied.
With the amazing announcement on the SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy) by government, gives the new hopes for the second or third wave of the development of Tanjung Manis. More and more developments are ongoing, giving out thousands of job vacancies to the locals. Bridges and trunk roads to Sibu are well progressed, which will realize the dreams to see Tanjung Manis as the most important Port in Sarawak, maybe Borneo…who knows?
Tanjung Manis Halal Park, earthbreaking launched by YAB PM recently reflect how serious the Government on realizing a develop Tanjung Manis. Logging, the industry that has geared up the development in the first place seems no way to stop. Factories on the processing the wood products still the main industry in Tanjung Manis. However, with the forest and the trees are getting less in time, halal food processing are the potential industry to take place.
Most of the beaches in central region are normally have no attraction, polluted, smell of swamp and dirt on colour. The turbid water and polluted as the side effect of the logging activities gives no hopes for the tourism industry. However, it is totally different in Tanjung Manis, Belawai Beach is made up of clean sandy beach. Except for the waste logs, floating from all parts of Sarawak, the beach has the most beautiful beach in the region. Not many beach lovers know the secrets for the time being, because of leak in term of promotion and no infrastructures at all. The locals still cannot see the potential, as nobody pouring their effort to built resort or any tourist facilities. When the time comes, when the outsiders has their intention on developing the tourism in Tanjung Manis, it might be too late for the locals. As usual, the will work for others, on their own land.
As per my last visit, the crime rates in Tanjung Manis are scarying. For a remote area with less entertainment to influence peolple on the dirty life style, two or three cases on the floating human bodies cannot be seen as minor. Furthermore, it was reported that the victims are the non-nationality of Malaysia. This is seen to be more serious if more developments carried out, creating a bigger Tanjung Manis.
As Tanjung Manis is growing, food industries are in good business. The locals grab good opportunities on this. The land price are bounching, three or four folds or maybe higher than before. The greedy locals will see this as their opportunities for easy money. At the end, they will suffer to fight even for their own graveyard! More and more outsiders migrating in, means they need entertainment. The life style change significantly, plays the very basic changes to the youngsters. For the isolated kampongs, usually live in low-profile culture definetely will face the culture shock. It just my imagination...
For the next five or ten years, the new Tanjung Manis will be born. New city in the jungle is rising up, and another landmark will put Sarawak on the globe. The ferries, boats, and wooden structures will be a history. However, how much the developments will benefit the locals is perflexity. Today, Tanjung Manis is just a small town, with empty shop houses and empty building, which are not reflecting the actual money being spent by Government for it. For a small town, it starts fielding the outsiders on their odd language that I myself cannot understand. They are the main contributors that give business to the traders. When it develops to a city, what worried me is that, opportunities for us, Malaysian is closed. For those who are rich, will get richer, and for the poor will be poorer. The time will come when this new city will lord the lands of the landlords.