Hadi was reported to have said that Pakatan Rakyat lost the Batang Ai by-election on 7 April this year because the voters did not know how to vote as they were still wearing loin clothes (cawat).
“In all previous by-elections the results were favouring Pakatan. Only in Batang Ai we lost because the voters did not know how to vote as they are still wearing loin clothes,” Hadi had said on the run-up to Manek Urai by-election recently.
Donald, who was ex-colleague of Masing in PRS said: “I would like to put the blame squarely on Masing who was once the state minister of tourism. He spent time and money travelling overseas promoting Sarawak by showing Lemanak Ibans wearing loin clothes in order to attract tourists to the state.
“In my visits to European countries, I saw with my own eyes photographs of Ibans wearing loin clothes appeared in their televisions.
“If you are using Iban culture as tourist attractions, who is to be blamed?” he asked and pointed out that Hadi’s remarks could be traced back to Masing who used the Iban wearing loin clothes as a tourist attraction.
Stressing that he did not condone any insults on any community by anybody, Donald said: “To me this is a small issue, but Masing used it to hide bigger issues where Dayaks have been short-changed.
“As a minister of land development, Masing should ensure that NCR lands are not taken away from the owners. These are the bigger issues that affect the lives and the livelihood of the Dayaks,” he said and hoped that one day he would not look back in later years blaming other people for the loss of NCR land.
He also questioned why Masing had not taken any action against his deputy Joseph Entulu who wanted to obliterate the word ‘Dayak’ as it implied the Dayaks were uncivilized, uncouth and low class.
“All these issues are much bigger than issue of Iban wearing loin clothes,” he added.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a concerted effort by the State BN particularly PRS to arouse anti-PAS feelings among the Dayaks in Sarawak as pro-BN newspapers keep on highlighting comments from Dayak leaders and politicians on remarks made by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
Just as Teoh Beng Hock’s death has been an issue by the Pakatan Rakyat against the government in the peninsula, Hadi’s remarks have been capitalized by BN especially PRS to arouse anti-PAS feelings among the Dayaks.
Since Hadi’s remarks were made public by Masing last Friday, one by one of the Dayak politicians came out to condemn Hadi and demand he apologise to the Dayak people especially Ibans.
Masing felt that such remarks reeked of PAS’ especially Hadi’s ignorance and arrogance, pointing out that his comments meant that the Batang Ai voters, the majority of whom are Ibans, were uncivilized.
“Such comments can stir racial tension in the country,” he said and added: “Calling Dayak voters uncivilized are uncalled for. It shows just how ignorant PAS is of the situation in Batang Ai. It is ignorant about the fact that the people there are well-educated and civilized.”
Masing advised Hadi to go to the longhouses and see the situation himself.
Malcolm Mussen who won the Batang Ai by-election on 7 April 2009 said that Hadi’s remarks were an insult not only to the Ibans, but Sarawakians as a whole.
PBB Deputy President Alfred Jabu who has returned to work after more than two months of sick-leave joined other Dayak leaders in condemning Hadi and accused him of being an “armchair” politician who did not know what was happening on the ground.
His remarks were not only damaging, but derogatory also to the people of Lubok Antu, added Jabu who said that any sensible person would apologise because such remarks were untrue and if he did not apologise, then the people knew what kind of a person he was.
Jabu said that if anyone was to go to Batang Ai, one would find every body there wearing normal clothes and that they would only wear their traditional attires during festive occasions.
Another PRS leader Mong Dagang labeled Hadi as a typical narrow-minded politician who should resign as PAS president who was not interested in other parts of Malaysia, except his own kampung.
PRS women chief Doris Brodie said that Pakatan Rakyat should forget about making any headway in Dayak majority constituencies, its leaders continued to talk like Hadi.
“They can forget about making their existence in Sarawak especially in Dayak majority constituencies as they are not ethnic-sensitive. On top of that, such remarks can stir racial tension,” she said.
Hadi’s remarks are sure to be used by BN leaders as an effective tool to frighten Dayaks from supporting Pakatan come the next election.
In fact the state BN had already used Hadi’s remarks to warn voters in the rural areas not to support the opposition. – The Broken Shield