Rumah Sarawak occupies an old mansion, with ample parking for the staff and a few visitors.
The guard at the old guard hut asked my business of being there and I told him I'm preparing for a possible transportation of a dead body to Sarawak. He let me in and introduced me to Mr. Uni Sijon, a Bidayuh from Bau. So there we were, a Bidayuh Bau and Biatah trying to communicate; fairly well with a few words missing from my vocabulary.
He asked me when the person passed away and I said "Not yet, I'm making early preparations just in case the terminal illness ends up with death. It's hard enough for the family going through the sickness part, so I'm helping out with the end part. Many people don't know how to get their deceased back to Kuching. Some had to settle for cremation in KL because they couldn't afford the transportation cost."
At this point I saw Mr. Uni's hand reached for the document tray and pulled out a newspaper cutting which says BN bantu pemuda Iban hantar pulang mayat ibu".
"Yeah exactly. That person didn't even consulted Rumah Sarawak. This story is giving a negative image on Sarawak people, and it has put the church in a bad light." I exclaimed.
"The worst part was the obvious attempt to gain political mileage out of the predicament" I added and Uni nodded in agreement. "Too bad..." he said.
"Anyway, what is the procedure of getting assistance for a flight back to Sarawak for the deceased? Is there a form I should fill up?" I asked.
"Well, we don't really have a form. But most of the procedures are handled by our panel funeral care, Casket Paradise Funeral Care Sdn. Bhd. Normally the family member would contact us and we also advise them to contact Jabatan Kebajikan Sarawak. We will then direct them to Casket Paradise for the necessary paperwork. They usually need the death certificate along with other Sarawak origin identification of the dead. Casket Paradise will then issue an invoice to us after they have settled the paperwork and effect a firm delivery. They usually get the job done and wait for between 2-6 weeks for our payment. The invoice concerns Rumah Sarawak, Jabatan Kebajikan Sarawak and Casket Paradise."
"The biggest problem is transportation to Sarawak. Once in Kuching, land transport is less headache. So how much would be typical cost of transportation?" I asked.
"The invoice we normally get ranges from RM2100 to RM2500, depending on the necessary treatment for the body. Some require extensive clean up or modifications due to cause of death. But that is handled by our panel. We only handle the paper work and coordination between the client, Jabatan Kebajikan and our panel funeral service. Let me give you the contact numbers now."
While he was getting the numbers, I asked him how many deliveries are handled a year and he just smiled and said "I'm not sure of the statistics."
Probably because we just met.
"Please contact Mr. Bada anak Buju @ Ambrose Seran at these numbers. He is the person in charge of the coordination. My name is Uni Sijon. This is the contact of Casket Paradise", he handed me all the necessary contacts; more than enough for anyone's lead.
"How many staff are here in Rumah Sarawak? How many Dayaks?" I asked.
"There are about 30 staff here, and the Dayaks are Mr. Bada and myself." he told me.
Finally, I asked him about the other services provided by Rumah Sarawak.
"We now handle the logistics of Sarawak Government officials to KL and transit beyond KL, arrange their accommodations and facilitate them in their official errands. We used to assist Sarawakians with no relatives in KL to secure accommodations while they get medical treatments here, and we also had the barracks for emergency cases. But we don't do that now because most of the barracks were in the parameters taken up for development."
I thanked him for his time and went back to office.