Thursday, March 18

Balan Seling helps change Dayaks’ political landscape

KUCHING - Joseph Balan Seling, who had a very colourful background as a politician in Sarawak, was buried on Tuesday 16 March 2010, leaving behind a “love-hate” legacy. He passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 74.

Many still remember him as a man who had contributed in part to the course of Dayak political history and landscape that the community is experiencing now.

Coming from an aristocratic Kenyah family in Baram, young Balan was thrown into the political limelight together with Liap Kudu, Nelson Kundai Ngaring, Michael Ben, Dunstan Endawie and Edward Jeli at the time when the tide of “Dayakism” was at its height following the dismissal of Stephen Kalong Ningkan as Chief Minister of Sarawak in 1966.

Trained as a preacher for the SIB church in Australia, Balan returned to Kuching in the mid 1960s and his qualities as a leader were discovered by the leadership of Sarawak National Party (SNAP). His first taste of politics was in 1970 when Sarawak held its first direct election. He was selected for the Telang Usan constituency, one of the two Orang Ulu seats. At that time, SNAP was in the opposition after it was kicked out of the Sarawak Alliance in 1966.

In 1974 SNAP picked him again to contest the same seat, but this time more young and educated Dayaks joined him, including personalities such as Leo Moggie, Daniel Tajem, Jonathan Sabai, Dr. Jawie Masing and Joseph Samuel. All in all SNAP won 18 State seats, making it one of the strongest parties in the State.

Balan who spoke fluent English and Bahasa Malaysia and his team gave the Coalition government hell in the Dewan Undangan Negeri.

Recognising the important roles the young Dayaks in the party were going to play in the State and national politics, Prime Minister Abdul Razak invited SNAP to join the Federal and State Governments. He sent Ghazali Shafiee to meet with Dayak leaders. James Wong, who was Deputy President, was in Kemunting Camp in October 1974 following complaints by Rahman Yakub (Chief Minister) that he wanted to sell Limbang to Brunei.

Anyway after serious negotiations, on 1 November 1977 SNAP formally joined the government. Endawie who had taken over the presidency of the party was appointed Deputy Chief Minister III and Minister for Local Government. Moggie, Secretary General, MP for Kanowit and State Assemblyman for Ngemah, was appointed Minister for Welfare.

Balan Seling was appointed Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Community Development. In 1978, Moggie was appointed as a Federal Minister, while Balan Seling was promoted to full-fledged Minister for Local Government.

Endawie’s resignation as SNAP president due to differences with Moggie and Tajem opened a floodgate of troubles in the party. Both James Wong, deputy SNAP president and Moggie contested for the top post, resulting in the party splitting into two. Balan was among those who supported James Wong. The split led to the expulsion of Tajem who together with other State Assemblymen and MPs formed Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) in September 1983.

Balan was then appointed as secretary general of SNAP. In the 1983 election Balan again won his seat of Telang Usan.

But in the 1987 State election, which was called early due to a political crisis famously known as the “Ming Court affair” saw Balan together with Edward Jeli, Michael Ben and Geman Itam joining PBDS which then had left the Barisan Nasional. PBDS won 15 seats and its counterpart, Parti Permas won five seats.

With 20 seats, PBDS and Permas which formed an alliance known as the Maju group failed to dislodge Taib and his government. The Maju group then tried to buy over some of the “shaky” newly elected State assemblymen; and if they could get four of them to cross there would be a tug-of-war situation.

It was rumoured that RM4 million was made available. But their efforts failed. Instead five from PBDS leaf-frogged to Barisan and SNAP, one of them was Balan Seling. The others were Edward Jeli, Michael Ben, Sora Rosah and Geman Itam.

PBDS also later lost Bolhassan (Tatau), Gramong Juna (Machan) and Mikai Mandau (Batang Ai) to PBB.

Balan, Sora and Ben joined PBB, while Edward and Geman returned to SNAP.

Balan’s defection to PBB surprised not only PBDS, but also their supporters who condemned him for his “deeds of betrayal”.

Masing, who was then PBDS publicity chief, had said that there was no way these defectors could be disciplined, adding: “It is up to the voters to discipline the defectors. Their defections were the worst of gutter politics and people change their principle, their conscience at the snap of a finger.”

“Dayaks in this country do not deserve this type of politicians as their leaders. They moved out without discussing it with their grassroots supporters. So they moved as persons, leaving behind their supporters with PBDS,” Masing had said.

After he was dropped from contesting, Balan in 1998 was then appointed as a senator for a term; and he was also appointed as chairman of the Pepper Marketing Board.

Certainly Balan’s passing will be missed by many including his political foes and has been described as a big loss to the Orang Ulu community.

Deputy Chief Minister George Chan regarded him as a leader who put his people first and always looked after the community.

“That is his strong point and that was what he had taught us. All politicians should follow his example as he is the true epitome of a political leader,” said Chan.

Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Daud Abdul Rahman said that Balan was a strong supporter of PBB. He was a good leader. His death was a great loss not only to society, but to the party as well. He would certainly not easily to replace.

There are people who still remember him as the man who betrayed the principle and the cause he wanted to serve – the cause of the Dayaks.

Many of his followers and supporters still remember Balan’s words when he attended a function in Bintulu after the 1987 state election, when he said: “We have lost a battle, but we have not lost the war. We are ‘lanun’ (pirates) and we only retreat to sea.

“When I was in the government I climbed in my political career until I reached the top as secretary general of SNAP. But because of my conscience and my ambition for the people, I have come out to fight the people’s cause and to do this I have to start from zero in my political career, that is, just as an ordinary member of PBDS.

“I do not mind sacrificing my secretary general post in SNAP. If I can do that, I believe you all, as my supporters will also be able to bear with me. One day, we will form the government if we all have the same spirit,”
he had said.*

Yet on 14 July 1987 (about three months later), he forsook his ideal for a greener pasture when he defected to PBB taking along with him his seat of Telang Usan. Until today the seat is still “owned” by PBB.

His angry supporters accused Balan Sel(l)ing Dayak Orang Ulu to PBB.

“Certainly this is a black spot in his political history,” said a veteran politician, who was his colleague in the days of Sarawak National Party.

This is a legacy that he leaves for posterity, he added.- The Broken Shield.

* Reference page 156 of THE BROKEN SHIELD – The birth of Dayakism by Joseph Tawie.



Anonymous said...

Another dead frog. No big loss, sorry.

Banting said...

Heartfelt and deepest sympathy to the family of Datin Balan Seling.

So, the ` frog politicians ` was started by Dayaks in 1983? What were the motives? In dire of money, status, self interests, drunk of power and wealth or other reasons?

Did Masing ask the group of 5 SPDP if they had discussed their " departure " from SPDP`s terminal leaving for PRS for holiday with their grassroots supporters?

Jamal J. said...


Was @ Dato Seri's funeral @ SIB Church, Jln Laksamana on Tuesday 16, March 2010.

"The leap-frogged" mentality among the Dayak leaders becomes the political culture of Dayaks.

This culture is deep-rooted in "carrots and club" or "reward and punishment" strategy. Even the most "highly-educated DAYAKS of the day" were and still lured to this culture even to this day and it will be the best strategy to "chop Dayak leaders into pieces". IMPROVISED THE majority of the Dayaks and REWARD say 10% of the Dayaks to "admonished" the majority of the Dayaks - Kow Tim!"

The disparity between the "haves-and-the havenots" continue to widen. In economic terms, this is an opposite of "DE-COUPLING". This term hypothesize that as we move we should move in tandem but Dayak Politics are not. Look at comments in fb - we always go separate ways!

That was why SNAP was in disarray. It was noted that @ one time a very prominent wing of PBB (Bumiputera) has the cheek to utter a very "demeaning remark" - even the most stupid ... is far better than the most .....

The key issue among the majority of Dayaks boils down to Maslow Heirachy of Needs - "Basic Needs". We can identify a few Dayaks who had moved up - these are the people we should emulate!

Let the Dayaks acquire the mentality of the JEWS. The gathering of the Dayak "JEWS" would be a good to "break" the spell of "CAWAT" mentality or "TONGKAT" mentality.

Boss, can we get the data of the genuine DAYAK JEWS and come up such a gatheing?

Have a pleasant and blessed days ahead.

Jamal J.

Anonymous said...

We must all pray for Ong Tee Keat to win the MCA Presidency. He was the one who generously offered the Metro Tabernacle to use the MCA Hall for their Sunday Worship when other Christian Churches did not do the same. Only Ong Tee Keat and MCA cares for Christians. Every Christian must support and vote for MCA
The Sunday speaker was the senior pastor of the church (Metro Tabernacle) and after the communal prayer, he began with the absolute duty of the congregation to pray, protect, persevere and even pursue the truth. Wasn't it the MCA that opened its doors to the Metro Tabernacle church after it was torched?
And was it not the president, Ong Tee Keat who graciously opened the doors to the stricken church.
By that very act alone, the sermon went on, "all Christians, and right and fair minded individuals have a moral and spiritual obligation to hold this man fast in prayers for the upcoming party elections, which many say is a tough uphill task for the reigning president."
Read more here

Anonymous said...

The dayak's culture of frogging has spread to malaya. this is hardly the type of culture we want to export,

Balau said...

Mr. Anonymous March 20,2010 at 5.22 PM,

How much Ong Kee Teat contributed to the church? I only know, the federal government gave RM500,000 to church`s management.

Let MCA tackle its own problem, unless you are the President`s camp.

Anonymous said...

may God have mercy on soul of Balan Seling. One who you can take out from the jungle and not the jungle in him. That goes to you too Jabu, change now or join Balan that has no chance to undo what has being done onto the dayak NCR and etc you know lah.

Anonymous said...

If only those who judge and condemn can prove they are better or can do better/greater. Otherwise, claim yourselves just another talker cos talk is cheap and easy. So I'll do the same and join you lots cos I can't do any better.