Jetty and family will celebrate Gawai at their Kpg. Sungai Semabang, Simunjan. All are welcome to our humble house.
The Gawai of Goodwill
The visit was also to reciprocate the visit made by the Indonesian Dayaks to the SDNU Gawai on 15 May in Kuching.
We left Kuching at 10.30 a.m. and arrived at Pontianak at 8.30 p.m. after a tedious and tiring journey snaking through a narrow and winding road. On arrival at the newly built hotel, Mercure Hotel, which I was given to understand belongs to the Fullman group of hotels, we were received by our hosts. After checking in, we were entertained to a most sumptuous dinner of Dayak cuisine by the chairman of State Legislature, West Kalimantan, Bapak Vincent.
Guests from Sarawak and Sabah on arrival at the opening of the Gawai Dayak ceremony in Pontianak
Next day, we witnessed the opening of Gawai Dayak 25th anniversary celebration by the Governor of West Kalimantan Drs. Cornelis. Apart from us, there were top Dayak leaders, senior army and police officers, civil servants and other community leaders present at the ceremony.
It was a very colourful opening ceremony where young Dayak maidens proudly displayed their beauty clothed in their traditional attires and at the same time show-casing their “ngajat”. But the most breath-taking performance was done by two Dayak “Panglima” warriors, who after going into trance, started to do unthinkable things such as eating a live chicken and cutting themselves with razor-sharp parang ilang.
Two warriors demonstrating that they are knife-proof
To me and many others it was such a bizarre and scary performance to see.
Nevertheless, they say that the two were among the seven warriors who were most feared during the height of “Madura-Dayak ” clash 10 years ago in Kalimantan Tengah.
According to their story, the seven warriors were invincible and their parangs, like Chinese heroes in Chinese films, were only seen cutting the heads of their enemies.
Indonesian Dayak cultural dancers
The trouble with Madurese began when they became very aggressive and did not respect the rights of the Dayaks and seized their lands. The Dayaks could no longer tolerate the visitors. So trouble blew up between them.
According to them, the Dayaks in Sampit, Kalimantan Tengah were on the verge of surrender when the seven warriors from Pontianak came to help them. The Madurese were not only defeated, but hundreds of them were killed. That was their story.
By tracing these historical events, though unpleasant, I do not intend to play up this racial issue on this Gawai of Goodwill, but to perhaps learn a lesson or two from this tragedy for the good of all.
Now coming back to the gawai in Pontianak, I notice there are considerable and tangible changes among the Dayaks of West Kalimantan. I was here more than 10 years ago.
Today, some of the Dayaks occupy positions of authority in the State government of West Kalimantan with the governor who is like the position of our chief minister in Sarawak taking the lead. A Dayak Kanto, Barcunda Sturjaya, SH, MM is deputy manager, PT. Bank Central Asia Tbk and his wife Ir. Anna Veridiana Iman Kalis, another Dayak, is head of Economic and Development Bureau. The two are an example of how progressive are the Indonesian Dayaks nowadays.
West Kalimantan Dayaks started to have “freedom” 25 years ago during the regime of General Suharto. Under Soekarno, the Dayaks were suppressed, oppressed and marginalized and even treated like slaves. Their lands were seized by the government and given to Madurese under the government transmigration policy.
Now under President Bambang Susilo, the Dayaks have now recovered their own land where they have planted rubber, pepper, padi and even oil palm.
One thing that is very obvious is that the Dayaks of Indonesian Borneo comprising some 350 ethnic groups with a population of more than 14 million are fully united. They have now elected their own governor for West Kalimantan and another in Central Kalimantan.
Next day (21 May), Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan and Datuk Seri Daniel Tajem discussed with their Indonesian counterparts the proposed Borneo Forum, the objective of which is to strengthen the cultural ties of the Dayaks of Borneo.
The next meeting will be held in Kuching in July and to be followed by the official launch of the Forum.
The following was an interview with Dr. Kitingan. (The story was first published by The Free Malaysia Today on 24 May. It is reproduced here for the benefit of readers of the Broken Shield).
PONTIANAK: A Kadazandusun leader, Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan has called for greater cultural and social interactions between the Dayaks of West Kalimantan and Sabah and Sarawak as these will be the beginning of many things to come.
“These (interactions) will be helpful for the future,” he said.
Kitingan was speaking at a dinner hosted by Dewan Adat Dayak of West Kalimantan in Pontianak on Wednesday night.
Kitingan led a 25-member delegation from Sabah and Sarawak to the Pontianak as guests of the Gawai Dayak festival held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of its celebration.
Among those in the delegation were Datuk Seri Daniel Tajem and officials of the Sarawak Dayak National Union.
Apart from attending the opening of Gawai Dayak by the Governor of West Kalimantan Drs. Cornelis on 20 May, Kitingan and Tajem also attended discussions on the set up of Borneo Forum with their counterparts.
The forum which will be officially launched in Kuching later this year will be the vital link that unites the Dayaks of Borneo through culture.
In an exclusive interview with the Free Malaysian Today, Kitingan who is also the Forum chairman said their visit to Pontianak was very significant.
“Now we are connected and we feel we belong to one people. We need and agree to work together,” he said.
“Our visit here, I think, is very important motivation. It will be the beginning of many things to come,” he added.
On calls by the leaders of Dewan Adat Dayak for one Borneo, One Dayak, One culture, Kitingan said: “I think we all agree on that. The meaning is more than that.
“The immediate focus is on unity through culture, because it cuts across boundary. Our networking, friendship and the rest will develop from here,” he said.
Kitingan described the forum as very important to create one Borneo-wide vehicle to map-out what the thing we can do immediately, in the long term or in the in medium term.
“I think a lot more interactions and communication can be developed, and for sure we can link up economically through business and many potential opportunities of cooperation.
“We have culture, environment, the economy and the indigenous rights. All these will automatically develop from here,” he said, pointing out that the Dayaks of Borneo have rich culture that can be marketed to the world.
“It is important that we market our culture together,” he stressed.