Living without clean water, electricity for over 60 years

National 4 minutes, 15 seconds


BELIEVE it, or not! A man lives without clean water and electricity supply for over 60 years but lives a contented life nonetheless.

Butit Murah, a retired low-level government employee, lives in a 64-year-old wooden stilt house in Kg Lugu, Mukim Sengkurong, Brunei-Muara District. He has been living in the house since he was born 63 years ago.

The former low-level personnel at the Survey Department, the Ministry of Development, talked to The Brunei Times at his home yesterday. "I have seen the changes of two village heads, but nothing has changed here," he said.

He said he had applied for housing, electricity and water assistance for years but to no avail.

After so many years deprived of what many in the country would consider basic necessities, Butit said: "I do not want to be a burden to others. It is up to the government to decide whether they would help me or not with the electricity and water supply."

The youngest out of seven siblings said the house was his home for his whole life. He applied for housing assistance seven years ago.

Butit, however, still wish to have water and electricity supply. He also wishes for the road leading to his house to be repaired, so that it would be easier for his relatives to visit him.

The 63-year-old man voiced his disappointment on the two former grassroots leaders of the Kg Lugu. He said that for years he did not receive the 'Kurma kurnia peribadi', or His Majesty's personal gift of dates usually distributed to Muslims in the country for the fasting month.

However, Butit praised his current village head for helping him and highlighting his plight which has encouraged several generous donors to come to give him donations.

Speaking of relatives, Butit said that his relatives who live in other areas often visit him and that one of the children's favourite things to do is running around his kebun (fruit orchard).

Butit has no vehicle of his own, except for a bicycle, chained to one of the house's pillars, which was also a gift from a generous donor.

Even though he has no access to electricity, Butit owned a mobile phone which he used to keep in touch with relatives and friends.

"I used to have a working land-line (telephone) but I decided to stop the service. I have to pay a huge amount for something that I rarely use. I prefer using my mobile phone," he said.

Asked how he charged his phone with no electricity, the old man said he would go to his relative's or friend's house to charge his mobile.

Butit will have something to look forward to in the near future as the relevant authorities have said they would work on providing him with supply of clean water. However, he had to be patient and wait a little longer for electricity supply.

Butit got his water supply from a well near his house. Dug by his late father in the 1940s, he said the well provided him with water for his daily chores.

"I drink water from the well as well, that is why I feel great," he jokingly said, adding that with no access to clean water, the well is a blessing from Allah SWT.

Knowing first hand how challenging life can be, Butit urged village heads to perform their responsibilities for the people under their care, especially the needy and destitute.

Butit received Old Age Pension, Baitul Mal and Welfare allowance from the country's welfare organisations but this does not mean that he just lay idle. He also recently received his 'Elaun Sara Hidup ' ( ESH ) or 'Cost of Living Allowance' from working with the Survey Department.

Never married throughout his life, Butit now spends his retirement age tending the fruit trees and buffaloes around his land.

The land around his home is planted with various fruit trees such as durian, rambutan, and jackfruit. Butit sells the fruits as an additional source of income.

Many people will come and 'book' the fruits, he said, "but not all of the fruits are for sale". He usually keeps some for his relatives.

Butit keeps his orchard well maintained with the grasses kept short. He said he learnt the importance of keeping his surroundings clean and tidy from his late father.

All are done by manual labour, he said, except for keeping the grasses short, which he said he gets assistance from his buffaloes. He lets them graze on the grass around the fruit trees.

Butit is a true believer in hard work and that there is no short-cut in life. He has never applied for any loans from the bank or the government, relying instead on his hard work to earn a living.

"We need to be wise in what we do with our life. My parents worked hard to care for the family. In truth, we can work for our rezeki (bounty) as long as we are able to do so," he added.

The Brunei Times