Sunday, November 30

Help us to get rid of Taib, says Adit

The newly appointed leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Gabriel Adit, has called on leaders of Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) to help Sarawakians wrest control of the State government of Sarawak headed by Abdul Taib Mahmud.

In an emotional plea, Adit, who addressed delegates and observers at the PKR annual congress on Saturday in Selangor, said: “Please help us to fight Taib Mahmud. He has been Chief Minister for more than 27 years. Enough is enough. However, it is not easy to fight him.

“That is why I call upon leaders, Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen of PKR, DAP and PAS to come to Sarawak and help us,”
he said.

Turning to Sarawak delegates numbering about 200, Adit said that when they returned to Sarawak they must bring with them lots of membership application forms.

“In our membership drive we must go to every nook and cranny of Sarawak. We can even go to “lubang cacing” to look for members. Before the State election comes we aim to get one million members from Sarawak,” he said to the applause of about 5,000 delegates and observers.

He also called on Sarawakians to join PKR as it was a multi-racial party and it offered the “best” option open to them to replace the State government.

In responding to Adit’s remarks, Anwar Ibrahim, PKR’s de facto leader, said that every effort must be made to make Sarawak as the sixth State to be controlled by the People’s Alliance.

“We will begin next month. And we will have the next annual congress of PKR in Kuching,” he said.

Among the invited guests were former president of the defunct PBDS, Dato Sri Daniel Tajem, SAPP president Yong Teck Lee, and Zaid Ibrahim, former minister in the Prime Minister Department.

Tuesday, November 25

PRS to submit memorandum on NCR land

Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) has decided to submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister and chairman of Barisan Nasional regarding NCR land and other issues that have been plaguing the Dayak community.

The decision was made during the supreme council meeting of the party in Bintulu last Saturday and a committee has been appointed to draft the memorandum, said a supreme council member to The Broken Shield.

During the meeting NCR land issues and the problems especially affecting residents of Sungai Asap were discussed, he said, adding: “The NCR land issues are posing serious political problems to PRS and the Barisan Nasional and so are the problems affecting the residents of Sungai Asap.”

He said the 10,000 people resettled at Sungai Asap in 1998 as a result of Bakun hydro-project faced real and acute problems that needed the urgent attention of the relevant authorities.

“They just cannot survive with three acres of land given to each family. As many do not have regular incomes, they are unable to pay for their housing, their children’s education, and water and electricity bills.

“I hear that the residents have been given warning that their supplies of water and electricity may be cut off in the coming weeks unless they settle their bills,”
he said and pointed out that the problems affecting the residents would become worse.

Some of them, like the 20 Punan families from Punan Talun longhouse, might have to return to the jungle where they did not have to pay bills for water and electricity.

“All these details will be included in the memorandum to the Prime Minister. If we fail to inform the Prime Minister, then we are failing in our duty. And failing to arrest these problems may also pose political problems to us in the coming election. So don’t blame us later on,” he said.

Copies of the memorandum will also be extended to the State government.

Monday, November 24

Divine intervention on NCR Land development?

Prices of palm oil which is one of the principal exports from Malaysia have dropped sharply from RM4,330 a tonne to RM1,460 a tonne. Crude palm oil (CPO) futures prices on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Berhad were down for the third straight day amid growing pessimism over the global economic outlook this week.

Reports say that global financial problems and uncertainties over the economic climate was dampening demand and keeping buyers away. Many importers had opted to default on their contracts as the prices of CPO had dropped sharply and banks importing countries are more cautious in extending credit facilities.

Hence some importers of the commodity faced difficulties obtaining credit line from their banks, thus they cannot open LCs.

“If the prices continue to drop below RM1,300 a tonne, many planters will suffer heavy losses and may ‘ngiling their tikai’ (roll their mats),” says an economist.

In Sarawak, some two million hectares of lands have been approved for oil palm plantations, the bulks of these lands are Native Customary Rights (NCR) land which has been seized from the natives.

While the State government and big oil palm estate planters are having sleepless nights over the down trend of prices of CPO, the native land owners are jumping with joy and even consider it as “divine intervention”.

“God knows how to stop these big companies from further taking away our NCR land and destroying flora and fauna. It is one way God stops them from destroying His creations,” said an NCR land owner, hoping that many of them would abandon their estates.

Since the amendments to the Land Code in May 2000, the owners of the NCR land have been having not only nightmares, but have also been criminalized for owning the land; many have been jailed in defending their ancestral lands and many have taken the government to courts.

But taking the government to courts is very expensive affair. First, the landowners have to deposit RM10,000 to the court. Second, they have to come up with the legal fees (fortunately a few of the lawyers do not ask for legal fees.) Third, the burden of proof is on the landowners. The only ones who can help the landowners with the proof are the headmen, and community leaders, but here again the government has already warned them not to be witnesses.

Using private surveyors to survey their land with the aim of providing the proof is not allowed after the government passed amendments to the Land Surveyors Ordinance in 2001 which essentially remove the ability of natives to prove the extent of land on which they exercise NCR via increasingly popular communal effort – the community mapping.

It is obvious that the land owners have to pass so many hurdles, legal or otherwise, to prove that their lands belong to them. And as they are helpless, God has mercy on them and hears their prayers. Praise is to the Lord my God. Amen.

Saturday, November 22

Sarawak election on the offing?

Although the next State election is about three years away, talks of early election are already in the air and political pundits have come up with a number of theories to justify their predictions.

One theory has it that Taib was recently summoned by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who wanted to call for an early parliamentary election six months after he had been appointed Prime Minister. The reason given was that he wanted to have a new mandate for his government. And he wanted Taib also to call for the State election simultaneously with the parliamentary election.

Najib fears that if Sarawak chooses to have its solo election as it has been doing since the days of Taib’s uncle, it opens an opportunity for Menteri Besars of Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Kelantan and the Penang Chief Minister as well as other leaders of Pakatan Rakyat to bombard Sarawak with their rhetoric and aggressive campaigns. Surely many will succumb to this type of electioneering.

And if that happens, the possibility for Sarawak to become the sixth State of Pakatan Rakyat is there. But if the State and parliamentary elections are to be held at the same time, leaders of Pakatan Rakyat will have little time for Sarawak as they themselves will also be tied down in their respective parliamentary constituencies.

There is also another theory suggesting that Taib may call for an early election some time next year to enable his son Sulaiman to contest. He cannot wait for the full term of the Dewan in view of his age and health problems. Upon his electoral victory, Sulaiman is to be made a minister; any time he wants to step down his son is already there – a minister. So the hand over of power is therefore expected to be smooth.

According to political pundits, Taib is said to be fearful of the growing support for PKR especially among the Dayaks who are angry with his government’s policy over NCR land. The large number of people present at the gathering-cum-dinner in which Anwar Ibrahim was present in Sibu last week sent shivers down the spines of BN leaders especially Taib. Taib, they say, believes that the holding of early election is expected to pre-empt PKR from gaining further footholds in the predominantly Dayak constituencies.

Adding impetus to the possibility of early election is the recent approval of the RM900 million by the Dewan Undangan Negeri. When the amount was presented, no details were given. And this prompted Wong Ho Leng, the Opposition leader demanding the itemization of the projects and accused the government of trying to “camouflage” the details on which the money had been spent or would be spent.

Like the Opposition leader, we are also wondering: Why does the government refuse to give details? And what is it so secret about the RM900 million if you have nothing to hide? But your guess is as good as mine – the money is meant for “projects kilat”!

Wednesday, November 19

Is Larry Sng joining PKR?

By associating himself with Gabriel Adit, State Assemblyman for Ngemah and Anwar Ibrahim at the dinner in Sibu last Saturday, is Sng Chee Hua preparing his son Larry to join Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)? This appears to be so as Sng knows that his son Larry’s days as an assistant minister are numbered.

In fact this Saturday Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) supreme council will meet in Bintulu to discuss among other issues the replacement for Larry Sng who has become partyless following his expulsion from the party.

“Now that Larry is partyless, he should therefore be replaced as an assistant minister,” said a member of the PRS supreme council who suggested he should remain anonymous considering the sensitivity of the issue.

He said: “We are giving Abdul Taib Mahmud the name of YB who should replace Larry. He cannot simply ignore our recommendation as it is the president’s right to nominate his own man.”

During the dinner function in Sibu, Larry Sng’s deputy Jimmy Donald Lim, vice presidents Munan Laja and Earnest Chua, woman chief Josephine Mawat, youth chief Leon Donald Lim and several other supreme council members and supporters were not only present at the dinner, but were actively involved in its preparation.

Knowing his son has no future in BN, Sng quickly seized the opportunity by riding on the wave of Anwar Ibrahim’s popularity. The combined forces of Pakatan Rakyat and Sng’s resources will make Larry a hard nut to crack in the Pelagus constituency come next election. Even some Dayak State assemblymen who are pro-Taib’s NCR land grabbing policy may face an uphill battle if only the wrath of the people can be translated into votes.

Monday, November 17

Can Adit lead PKR to fight BN? ~ ref. Malaysiakini

Can Adit be our "Dayak Obama"?

Gabriel Adit’s joining Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is not a surprise at all. He was seen with PKR leaders many a time and had been involved campaigning for Anwar Ibrahim in the Permatang Pauh by election in August.

But what surprises many of us are the number of people he brings with him to join PKR. Just imagine he handed 11,753 application forms, over 6,000 of which were from Kanowit, to Anwar Ibrahim at a dinner in Sibu on 15 November 2008.

Adit is really smart as he knows how to maximize the impact of his entry to PKR. Instantly he is being recognized as the leader of the group and is being given full responsibility to spearhead campaigns for the overthrown of the State Government.

Since the March election, PKR has been looking for someone especially from the Dayak community to be the leader; someone who is able to convince the Dayak voters to support the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) or the People Alliance.

PKR knows that to win the election in the State, the Dayak voters in the 29-Dayak majority seats (out of the 71-seat State Legislative Assembly), play the most crucial role in the coming election – whichever side they support that side is likely to win.

Not surprisingly, both the BN and PKR are gunning their campaigns towards the Dayak constituencies. For the time being, the BN seems to have the upper hand as they know how to exploit the Dayaks’ weaknesses, coax and even intimidate them into supporting the Barisan parties.

On the other hand, PKR is also confident because of changing political mood prevailing in the country as well as having certain issues to be used as weapons and these include NCR land issues and the alleged discriminatory practices against the Dayaks which have become very evident during the 27 years of Taib Mahmud’s dictatorial rule.

Can Adit, the newly found leader of PKR, who is also the State assemblyman for Ngemah, and Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto leader of PKR, open the 'eyes and minds' of the Dayaks who have been too “barisanised” to support the Pakatan Rakyat in the coming election?

If what had happened in Sibu on 15 November, that is the huge response to be PKR members, is going to be the trend in other parts of the State in the next few months, then Sarawak is set to become the battle ground for the control of the Land of the Hornbill come next election.

Sunday, November 16

More people want Taib to resign ~ ref. Malaysiakini

Nowadays more and more Sarawakians are getting bolder and bolder in demanding for Abdul Taib Mahmud’s resignation as chief minister of Sarawak. Some time ago it was DAP Ting Tze Hui (Member for Meradong).

Recently it was Beginda Minda, publicity chief of Baleh branch of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) who asked Taib to resign. For those remarks Beginda was forced to resign from the party. Now the MP for Bandar Kuching, Chong Chieng Jen has joined the chorus.

In an interview with Malaysiakini, Chong not only asked Taib to resign, but also accused Taib’s family of accumulating “astronomical wealth” through State contracts such as RM300 million for the construction of the new State Assembly building. Many road and building projects have been awarded to CMS and Naim Cendera, both companies are owned by Taib’s family members and relatives.

Many more contracts are waiting for these companies in the proposed SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy) that is expected to draw in more than RM100 billion of investments and the construction of 12 dams in the State.

Literally thousands of Sarawakians – whether they are Malays, Chinese or Dayaks – have expressed dissatisfaction with Taib’s administration, and have wished him to resign, but not many dare to express it publicly. Listen to them at offices, coffee shops, villages and longhouses and you hear them talking bad about Taib’s 27 years as chief minister and his family being awarded government contracts, etc. and etc.

Among the Dayaks, their common talks centre on thousands of acres of their Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands being taken away and are sold to big “towkays” who are mostly supporters and financiers of Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) for huge oil palm plantations.

Taib knows about the people’s resentment against his administration. In fact he knew it a long time ago so in December 1995 he announced he would retire by 2000 in order to pacify the people. (See the attached news cutting below: Sarawak Tribune, 7 Dec 1995).

Now it is eight years over due. And the people who were supposed to take over from him have disappeared into political oblivion. Such great names include Bujang Ulis, Dr. Sulaiman Daud, Abang Yusuf Puteh, Abang Abu Bakar and Adenan Satem.

The question the people of Sarawak are often asking is: Why does Taib continue to rule Sarawak despite of his age, health problems and the huge amount of wealth his family has accumulated?

One reason is perhaps he could not find a suitable and trusted leader to take over from him; someone whom he can trust to “look” after his (Taib’s) family’s businesses when he steps down. “Mau tidak mau” (whether he likes it or not or whether we like it or not), he has to wait for his own son, now a deputy minister of Tourism to take over from him as chief minister. That may take two more years or even longer as his son has just entered politics.

It appears that Taib wants to ensure that his family’s businesses will not be “disturbed” as he has seen how the Indonesian government seized properties belonging to Suharto’s family or the Philippines Government wanted the Marcos family to return to the people the ill-gotten properties.

And more frightening for Taib is that the Sarawakians may elect Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) to power in the coming State election or subsequent elections; worst still for him, if Anwar Ibrahim is to be the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Saturday, November 15

Focus on Masing as a leader

Eyes on Masing now

Eyes are now on Dr. James Masing after he dared to stand up for the rights of his Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) against Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), the backbone of the State government, for the ill-treatment meted against his party.

His outbursts against PBB leadership last week have not only received praises from his party leaders and members, but have also earned the respect of members of the Dayak community.

Watching Masing closely are also some 100,000 hardcore members of the defunct Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) who have remained partyless upon the deregistration of the party more than four years ago as he has a round of spats with PBB over the Batang Ai seat and other issues.

Many of them have pity on Masing because they know that Masing and PRS have been bullied since the PRS crisis in 2006 and during the State election that year its candidate for the Balai Ringin constituency had been deprived of the seat to contest.

Instead PBB through Donald Lawan, a PBB man, and Sng Chee Hua, a rival for the PRS presidency at that time, hijacked the seat and laterally handed it to Snowdan Lawan (Donald Lawan’s son). Of course Snowdan is with Masing’s PRS now, but in his heart of hearts he is a PBB man.

Likewise in the March parliamentary election two of Masing’s preferred candidates were sidelined. Instead PBB put up candidates who have an inclination towards PBB to stand on a PRS ticket. Masing has tolerated all this while until he blew his tops recently. A week earlier, his “right hand” man not only accused PBB of a big bully, but also called on Abdul Taib Mahmud and Alfred Jabu to resign.

PRS is not the only party that has been bullied. Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), led by William Mawan, has also suffered in the hands of the bullying PBB, although they will not admit it openly. SPDP’s representatives for Marudi, Sibuti, Batu Danau, Ba’Kelalan and Tasik Biru were not their candidates, but that of PBB’s.

Mawan was forced to lend the SPDP shirts to them to don. Having no choice, Mawan has to accept a “fait accompli”. Today the PBB men and a woman are firmly rooted as they hold important posts in the party.

After the departure of Tan Sri Leo Moggie and Datuk Sri Daniel Tajem from the political scene, the Dayaks are still looking for a leader, not a “confrontational” leader, or a leader who is only able to do “apple polishing” duties, but a leader who dares to speak for and defend the rights and interests of the community who have been marginalized, suppressed, bullied, unfairly, and unjustly treated. It appears that they have found one in Masing.

However, many ex-PBDS hardcore members still harbour ill-feelings against Masing for what he had done to PBDS, but they can still forgive and forget him if he can prove himself worthy of their and Dayaks’ support.

What they want from him is no more rhetoric, but a firm action. Their message to Masing and to anyone who aspires to be a leader is: Walk the talk to help the Dayak community.

Thursday, November 13

We are waiting for a Dayak Obama

Future "Dayak Obama" in the making?

Every body is talking about Barack Obama’s election as 44th president of USA. From Asia, to Africa, to Europe and in the USA itself, newspapers, televisions, radio stations, big or small, rich or poor, hail the man’s victory.

For us in Sarawak especially the Dayaks what do we learn from his victory, the impossible victory for the black American in a country where the whites are the majority? Who would ever imagine of such a victory? And yet his victory has not only created history, it is also the first time in 60 years that the Democrats have scored unpalarelled successes in both Houses of Representatives. Obama’s victory is very inspiring.

Coming from various countries in Africa, the black Americans have been marginalized, suppressed and treated as slaves since the creation of USA as a nation. Although slavery was supposed to end in 1964, discrimination and humiliation by no means was over.

But tributes should be paid to one man, Martin Luther King, who inspires the black Americans with his “I have a dream.” The dream that America would one day rise up and live out the true meaning of creed. The dream that black Americans will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skins but by the contents of their character.

Like Martin Luther King, the Dayaks in Sarawak have a dream but we need someone like Barack Obama who can transform that dream into reality; because like the black Americans, the Dayaks have also suffered in the hands of injustices, treaded by the feet of marginalization and mired in the cruelty of poverty. Since the Brooke regime, the Dayaks have been subjected to divide and rule policy. They were and are pitted against one another; they fought and killed one another.

Like the black Americans, we also have a dream - that one day we will be able to reclaim our rights that we have lost such as native customary rights over lands; our rights to justice, equality, fairness, business opportunities, development, etc. We also have a dream - that one day we will be united under one political umbrella through which a Dayak can and will once again occupy the highest seat of the State government.

At long last the black American dream is fulfilled, even if it takes 200 years for its realization. For us Dayaks, 45 years have gone and our dream still remains elusive. But we must be patient and resolute. Surely one day a Dayak “Obama” will come along.

Tuesday, November 11

Masing’s outbursts confirm PBB a bully ~ ref Malaysiakini

James Masing’s outbursts over activities of a BN component member trying to claim the Batang Ai seat is understandable. Although he did not name the party concerned, it is a common knowledge in the constituency that he was referring to PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu) whose leaders have been active lately in the constituency preparing for a by-election. The incumbent state assemblyman, Dublin Unting is still lying at the Normah Hospital following a stroke since May this year.

What makes Masing angry is that PBB is undermining PRS influence in the constituency as well as showing no respect for Unting and his family as if they want him to die. PBB has identified a senior civil servant and a brother of a minister to be a PBB candidate. In his effort to introduce his brother, the minister has allegedly been distributing “ang pau” projects through a partyless State assemblyman, Johnichol Rayong.

“If you are weak, this is what PBB is doing to you. They have already hijacked PRS candidates in the March parliamentary election in the Lubok Antu and Sri Aman constituencies. They are planning to take away Batang Ai, Bukit Begunan and Balai Ringin come next election,” said Beginda, and accused PBB of a big bully. For that statement Beginda was rebuked and in the end he resigned from PRS to save the “embarrassment of my president”.

But why was Rayong involved? Simple: After being sacked from SNAP, Rayong has become partyless. He applied to join Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) together with Aaron Dagang, Jawah Gerang and Gabriel Adit, but was opposed by other members of the BN. Rayong then applied to join SUPP last year, but again his application was opposed by PRS.

Now he looks to PBB leaders like Alfred Jabu and Douglas Uggah to help him join BN in exchange for introducing the senior civil servant to the Batang Ai constituents.

But Masing has found out the truth. A few months back, Masing would not dare complaint. This time it is different; he does not want to be bullied any more. With the support of his supreme council members and party leaders, Masing puts his foot down, saying “Batang Ai belongs to PRS, so stay out”. The message is loud and clear.

Sunday, November 9

Alliance attempts to rid three Dayak leaders

Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) comprising Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), PAS and DAP are well prepared to take on the Sarawak Barisan government in the next election which may be held any time between 2010 and 2011. The last State election was held in May 2006.

One of the steps taken by the Alliance is engaging a Kuala Lumpur-based PR consultancy company to compile data on the 71 State constituencies. These data will be studied or analyzed in depth in respect of the trend of voting, the number of voters – women, men and young voters – their attitude, local issues, transportation problems, background of the incumbent representatives (their strong and weak points), potential candidates, etc.

A similar study carried out in West Malaysia months before the March election has found out to be useful in assessing constituency by constituency. Basically problems in a constituency differ from another. Thus, a different strategy will be applied.

For the Dayak constituencies, their main focus will be on Baleh which is held by James Masing, President of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Land Development Minister; Pakan held by William Mawan, President of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) and Minister of Social Development and Urbanisation; and Layar by Alfred Jabu, Deputy President of Parti Pesaka Bersatu Bumiputra (PBB), Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications.

The Alliance sees in the three leaders as the “stumbling block” to Dayak unity because they have to depend on BN and Abdul Taib Mahmud for their political survival. As such they are not able to articulate the interests of the Dayaks. Accusations against them by the Dayaks including their party members have appeared in intensity in various blogs.

In the coming election three candidates – one lawyer and two businessmen – have expressed their intentions to contest against Jabu in the Layar constituency and they have been seen more frequent in longhouses in the constituency trying to gauge the situation.

Jabu who has occupied the seat for more than 30 years has his popularity declined every time there was an election. And in every election there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people who always voted against Jabu. And what makes the next election even more interesting is that a few PBB grassroots leaders have secret talks with potential Opposition candidates to get “rid” of Jabu in order to create a vacancy for them to contest in later elections; because if Jabu continues to win, then they will never have a chance to contest. They have learnt from UMNO members who voted against UMNO candidates in the March election.

And the problem with Jabu, his adversaries say, is that he regards politics as a family affair: his wife is a Senator and his nephew a State assemblyman. Rumours have been circulated in Betong that his wife may be contesting in the coming State election. She is, they say, eyeing Balai Ringin where she is the PBB branch chairperson. Rentap, his son, may also be contesting. Now if all this happens, then there is no chance for other members of PBB to contest. Thus, the secret talks to get rid of Jabu have been mooted.

They asked: “What more Jabu wants?” They also alleged that he has every thing from timber concessions, to business contracts and oil palm plantations.

Unlike previous elections where Jabu was challenged by little known or novice politicians whose intentions were only to “kacau–kacau” (disturb) him, the next election will see him being challenged by someone of his equal in terms of money, logistics, campaign strategies and more effective with the support of the five Opposition State governments from West Malaysia. In this case, it will be five State governments against the State government plus federal government.

The Alliance is really serious to see that a new government be formed in the State. But are the voters – Dayaks, Chinese and Malays – ready for a change of government? Or do they still prefer to be ruled by the bullying BN?

Thursday, November 6

Beginda resigns from PRS

Resigns from PRS

The outspoken member of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Beginda Minda, today resigned from the party citing dissatisfaction as his reason.

“The party has deviated from its original objective to safeguard the interests of the Dayak community. The party is unable to protect the interests of the community as it has to listen to PBB,” he said, adding that the party did not agree with him when he accused PBB of bullying PRS.

Beginda made the accusation last month accusing UMNO and PBB of bullying smaller parties like PRS in the Barisan Nasional. In a follow-up, he called on Abdul Taib Mahmud, chief minister and Alfred Jabu, deputy chief minister to resign as they had no more fresh ideas to develop the State.

Taib has been chief minister for the past 27 years while Jabu has been deputy chief minister for more than 30 years. Apart from Beginda, nobody else in the Barisan Nasional dares to call on Taib and Jabu to resign.

Thus Beginda’s call put James Masing and PRS leaders in an embarrassed situation as PBB leaders exerted pressure for PRS to sack him. Beginda’s sacking should be given wide publicity.

PRS, however, decided to issue him a show-cause letter. “But before I receive the show-cause letter, I want to resign first,” he said.

Beginda called on PRS members who shared his dissatisfaction to resign from the party as there was nothing that the party could offer them. “All business opportunities, contracts and government posts have been taken by the big brothers in the Barisan Nasional,” he said.

Meanwhile, a dinner party is to be held on 15 November in Sibu where Anwar Ibrahim will be a guest of honour. Beginda and several grassroots leaders of PRS are expected to attend the function.

Let us promote Iban Language and Literature

“Language is the roadmap of a culture. It tells you where its people came from and where they are going” – Rita Mae Brown, a famous American author.

Like other languages, the Iban Language is an identification of the Iban race and culture. A common language in Sarawak, the Iban language is spoken by other Dayak tribes, Chinese and Malays. You will not be surprised to hear a Chinese talking to another in Iban in some towns like Kapit, Song, Sibu, Simanggang, Lubok Antu, Saratok, Kanowit, Bintulu and Betong.

Like other languages also, the Iban language is being polluted or adulterated by other languages. Also assaulting our culture and language are various influences of today’s global and ICT world as well as certain government policies. When its originality and purity is gone, the Iban culture is also affected. This is the stark reality. Yet many of us seem to be unaware of this trend or just could not be bothered.

During the colonial regime (1946-1963), the Iban language was recognized and even used during the Council Negeri meetings. The Borneo Literature Bureau was set up to help popularize the language through its Iban magazine called Nendak and through the printing of Iban books.

When Sarawak obtained her independence through the formation of Malaysia, the Borneo Literature Bureau (BLB) was abolished and in came Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) some time 1978 to take its place. The abolishment of BLB saw several hundreds of Iban books and magazines destroyed.

I remember several members of Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) led by Sidi Munan tried to salvage some of the books from being burnt at the DBP headquarters near the Printing Department, Kuching.

When Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) was formed in early 80s, one of its activities was to revive the learning of Iban Language in schools. A committee was setup together with officials of the Education Department to look into the standardization of spelling, text books and syllabus.

After several years of discussions, the government finally approved the teaching of the language in selected primary and secondary schools in Sarawak. But the lack of reading materials poses a major problem to the teaching of Iban. Even Iban dictionaries are a rare commodity.

However, the Tun Jugah Foundation is currently compiling an Iban dictionary encompassing words spoken by Ibans from Saribas, Sadong, Batang Rajang, Remun and others.

To further instill interest in the study of Iban Language, culture and literature such as renong, dungai, sangai, pantun, sabak, pengap, bejawang wai, etc it is, perhaps, a good idea to revive the defunct Society for the Advancement of Iban Language and Literature (SAILL). Set up in 1967, it died a natural death in the 80s due to lack of interest.

Its revival now will not only help to complement the works carried out by the Tun Jugah Foundation, Radio and Television Malaysia (Iban Section) and SADIA, but also help to promote it as one of the “lingua francas” of Sarawak.

After all, to quote Angela Carter, “Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation”. Sad, isn’t it if our children and their children do not speak Iban properly, do not know their roots and their culture?

Any comment?

Monday, November 3

Taib blames Dayak shifting cultivators for creating NCR lands

Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud must have forgotten there were some Dayak ministers, Dayak elected representatives, Dayak civil servants and Dayak farmers present at the Sarawak Agro Fest 2008 in Kuching when he condemned their forefathers for creating NCR land through shifting cultivation.

If he knew, he would not have embarrassed them the way he did when he opened the function last Saturday, 1 November 2008; unless, of course, he wanted to pass a message through them to their parents and their folks in longhouses and villages.

“You see, they (Dayaks) have two million acres under NCR lands just because of shifting cultivation. Apa itu?”, Taib said.

Almost all of the Dayak listeners, especially the Ibans, were jolted by the words used by Taib to hit back at the shifting cultivators. YB Francis Harden, assistant land development minister, and other YB Dayaks sat uncomfortably. Alfred Jabu, a senior Dayak minister, appeared to enjoy the criticisms.

Taib’s choice of words was not only a smack of arrogance, but also seemed to confirm Beginda Minda’s accusation that Taib was a big bully.

Since the amendment of the Land Code in 2000, the NCR lands have become thorny issues as the amendment not only declares all untitled lands including NCR lands as “State Lands” but criminalizes the land owners for defending their rights. Many have landed in jails.

According to the 2005 reports of Land and Survey Department, some 1.2 million hectares of land have been approved for oil palm plantations, the bulk of which is NCR lands. And by the year 2015, some 4 million hectares of land are to be planted with oil palm. Out of the total, about 1.5 million hectares are NCR land. By then there will be a few acres of NCR land left, if any!

Native land owners claim that their ancestral lands have been in existence for hundreds of years. Regarded as their life, now their lands have created nightmares for them and their children as they (lands) are slipping away from their grips.

Saturday, November 1

Dayak-based parties should form NCR land public complaints bureau

When the chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud introduced several amendments to the Land Code that affected Native Customary Rights (NCR) land in 2000, many Dayak State assemblymen spoke highly of Abdul Taib Mahmud. Some went overboard to heap praises on him.

Roland Sagah, PBB State Assemblyman for Tarat said that Taib was and “is the greatest defender of native land rights”, while the late Dr. Judson Tagal, SPDP State assemblyman for Ba’Kelalan (died in a helicopter crash) said the amendment to the land Code “is the jewel in the crown for the State Barisan Nasional government led by Taib” and would spell a new beginning in the development of native lands and a new era in the life of the natives, all because Taib had the moral and political courage to do it.

Another SPDP leader, Sylvester Entri Muran, State assemblyman for Marudi, said the government under Taib had made a “quantum leap by having foresight” in the formulation of the bill.

Today (eight years after the bill had become law), the amendments had not only become the bane of the NCR land owners’ life, but also their nightmares. Under the law, all lands untitled including NCR lands are State lands and as a result many NCR lands have been seized and declared State lands. Once NCR lands declared State lands, the lands are being leased to big companies for the planting of oil palm, after premiums have been paid.

Up to October 2005, more than 1.2 million hectares of land, the bulk of which are NCR land, have been approved for oil palm plantations. But the Natives who know their rights are challenging the government for taking away their ancestral lands. Near 200 cases of NCR lands have been filed with the court. The cases so far heard have been won by the Natives. This is a very encouraging piece of news.

One of the most damaging amendments to the Land Code is Section 5. Section 5 (a) (2) (i) is amended by substituting the word “acquired” wherever it appears in the subsection with the word “created”.

On the surface of it, the amendment looks very innocent. But if you go deep into and analyse it, it is very destructive to the owners’ customary rights over land. Prior to the amendment, the NCR land can be passed from generation to another generation, i.e. from father to son and his children’s sons, and so on. The land that has been acquired by any other means by the family always belongs to the family and its generations.

NCR land could be acquired through the following methods: through the feeling of virgin jungle and the occupation of land thereby created; by the planting of land with fruit trees; by the occupation or cultivation of land; by the use of land for a burial ground or shrines; by the use of land of any class for rights of way; or any other lawful means.

Emphasis should be given that by substituting the word “acquired” with the word “created” the customary rights over such land could be terminated, as only the “creator” would have the customary rights over such land. And after his death, the land will be reverted to the government if the descendents are unable to provide proof for such a claim.

With the amendment, the land that has been created by their forefathers ended with their deaths and the land will be reverted to what is commonly known as the State land. You can claim the land provided you are able to prove that your great grand parents created the land.
The onus is on you to provide the proofs. Very few, if any NCR land owners can prove that their great grand parents created the land. They can only depend on their Headmen (Penghulus and Tuai Rumahs) to be their witnesses, but then the Headmen have been warned by the government not to simply endorse such land as NCR land. Slowly and surely all the NCR land will be reverted to the government. In 10, 20 or 30 years’ time, the natives especially Ibans will lose their land. They cannot “create” rights now over any new land as this is also against the law formulated since January 1958.

What makes it worse for the Dayaks in particular is that their NCR land is not titled. The Dayaks have been asking the government to survey their lands so that titles can be given to these lands, but the government refuses to do it by giving so may excuses such as there is no money and lack of staff to carry out such surveys. But when the Dayaks see that the government has been issuing land titles to Malays now and then, they feel that they have been unfairly treated.

What are the implications?

The implications are many. But the most important one is that the Dayaks suddenly become illegal squatters as more than 5,000 longhouses have been built on lands that have not been surveyed. Any time the government wants them out from the land, the Dayaks will have no recourse to any law to protect them.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) has formed its own NCR land task force as it knows the seriousness of these problems confronting the Dayaks. But that task force is less significant as it means only for PRS. Perhaps, forming some sort of NCR Land Public complaints Bureau after the style of Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) Public Complaints Bureau may be more effective in dealing with NCR land problems. The affected landowners can seek help, advice, guidance, etc and etc. from the bureau that will not only study each and every case, but also act as a bridge between the people and the government.

No doubt SUHAKAM (Human Rights Commission) has been carrying out investigations on abuse of power, infringing on human rights, etc. against the landowners by the implementers of “politics of development”, but do parties like SPDP and PRS that claim to represent the Dayaks dare to form such a bureau and risk being isolated or even condemned by their big brothers in the Barisan Nasional? In other words, are they scared of being bullied?

News for bloggers

A group of persons met on Thursday (30 October 2008) in Kuching to discuss the possibility of forming Dayak Bloggers Association (DBA). If it is to be formed, DBA among others will:

~ coordinate all activities of Dayak bloggers;
~ help shape Dayak opinions on matters pertaining to the community such as unity;
~ act as a resource centre or a directory; and
~ promote professionalism in ICT, etc.

The following persons have been assigned to do specific tasks:

(1) Henry Joseph is to draft the constitution,
(2) Kassim Jeritan is to look into its design, logo, etc.
(3) Anthony Banyan is responsible for membership drive,
(4) Joseph Tawie is in charge of getting application form, registration, etc.
(5) Dr. Dusit Jaul is to coordinate all the above activities.

Another meeting will be held towards the end of November 2008.

Interested Dayak bloggers can contact the following persons:-

Mr. Anthony Banyan (019-9888480) and Dr. Dusit (012-8921106).

Any comments are most welcome.

Thank you.