Saturday, August 30

Dayaks must learn from Permatang Pauh voters

Is there anything we the Dayaks can learn from the Permatang Puah (PP) voters who gave a thumping victory to Anwar Ibrahim last Tuesday (26 Aug 2008)? Definitely the answer is yes.

Despite the UMNO/BN guns campaigning against Anwar Ibrahim, despite the various allegations including sodomy against him, despite the pouring of millions of ringgit of development funds for Permatang Pauh, and despite the threats and intimidation against the voters, yet the PP voters elected Anwar with a bigger majority – bigger than the majority secured by his wife during the March 8 elections.

In so far as by-elections are concerned, the party in power, in this case the UMNO/BN, has always had the upper hand, deploying every available means at its disposal including the use of government machinery to ensure its victory. Usually the BN wins in by-elections, and if it loses, it loses with a small majority. But this time around, the BN loses with a huge majority – 15,571 votes. So what does this indicate?

In past elections, the Dayaks, despite being marginalized, despite being the poorest community in the country, and having suffered due to the State BN policies, we Dayaks continue to elect BN candidates. Unlike the PP voters, we Dayaks easily fall prey to promises and happily receive a “reward” of RM20 and RM30 each to vote for the BN candidates, as we are “mudah lupa” (forgetting easily) the bigger problems that we are to face in the next five years.

If we are to continue with this habit and attitude come next election, then we Dayaks can never learn from our folly. For sure in the next State election, Sarawak will be the target of political tsunami that has wiped out BN from five States in West Malaysia. Now with Anwar Ibrahim being elected as an MP and possibly becoming the next Prime Minister, he has pledged to introduce the political tsunami in order to drown Abdul Taib Mahmud’s political dominance. But the question is: are we ready for the new political culture? Or are we going to be part of the tsunami in ending Taib’s political dominance?

For what you know, Taib may be the first person to join Anwar if he knows that Anwar is going to form the next Federal Government in the interest of “Negara kita, bangsa kita dan agama kita”. In doing so, Taib is not only saving his own skin and protects his family’s business, but he may also be given a special position in the Anwar government. If this scenario is to materialize, then we Dayaks again will be caught with our pants down and will be left behind – this time we will be left far, far behind.

Therefore in my mind, this is the time to strike when the iron is hot. Dayak leaders in PRS leaders such as Dr. James Masing, MP Joseph Salang, MP Joseph Entulu, and MP Aaron Dagang should seriously consider joining the Pakatan Rakyat and demand we be given more important posts in the Federal cabinet. As the saying goes: the early bird gets the biggest worms. After all, PRS under the present government is not being respected and has only a little voice. Failing to play to the gallery, PRS itself may also be drowned when the tsunami hits Sarawak.

Wednesday, August 27

Sarawak MPs joining PKR?

Is there any truth that some MPs and DUN members from Sarawak are defecting to Parti Keadilan Sarawak (PKR)?

This is the question that some political observers are asking when they found out that two MPs and one State Assemblyman in Sarawak were seen in the company of Anwar Ibrahim during the Permatang Pauh by-election.

One of the MPs is from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and the other is from Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP). The State Assemblyman is partyless.

It was also found out that the expelled PRS secretary-general, Sidi Munan and the PRS ex-deputy president Sng Chee Hua were also in Permatang Pauh allegedly seen in the company of Anwar Ibrahim. The presence of Sng Chee Hua and Sidi Munan who are aligned to Larry Sng, assistant minister and the “president” of the other faction of PRS gives rise to speculation as to the future of the assistant minister.

Incidentally, Larry Sng’s membership in the PRS and his post as assistant minister will be discussed by PRS supreme council headed by James Masing on 7 September 2008.

Anwar Ibrahim has been boasting that 15 MPs from Sarawak and Sabah will cross over to his party before 16 September 2008.

Is there any truth in this?

Saturday, August 23

Do we have "manok sabong" after Taib-post era?

In my last posting, I posed the question: Are we Dayaks ready for a change of government? And this time I am going to ask every one of us equally important questions: Who should lead us after the Taib-post era? Or be our “manok sabong” (fighting cock) to fight for our cause? Before going further, let me compare the Dayaks in the Brooke era with the Dayaks of the present day.

* “The Dayaks are noted for their honesty, humility, bravery and spirit of adventurism (bejalai). In wars, they are motivated by their battle cry – AGI IDUP AGI NGELABAN (as long as there is life, we fight). Their incredible courage during the height of communist insurgency in Malaya before and after it became independence in 1957, communist terrorism and the “confrontation” after the formation of Malaysia, had earned them gallantry awards.

Our forefathers were also the most feared tribes of Borneo successfully practicing headhunting and territorial expansion. The reasons for their successes were that they were united, brave and loyal to their community.

But nowadays we are all “ngeleput” and are losing those traits – the pioneering spirit, the spirit of expansionism and adventurism as well as the spirit of “beduruk, segulai, sejalai, sepenemu enggau penyarakup” (working and living together in unity towards a common goal) and the effects of this lack of those traits lead us to disunity, bickering and fighting among ourselves even for a trivial issue causing us to lose our numerical superiority, our political influence and our sense of direction. Indeed, we are more individualistic driven by greed and jealousy, the weakness of which is being manipulated by those who wish to see the Dayaks in a state of continued periphery and subjugation.

The current political situation offers a golden opportunity for any Dayak to prove himself as a leader. For example, when Anwar Ibrahim calls for the end of Abdul Taib Mahmud’s political dominance and regime in Sarawak, Dayak leaders should come forward to express support and a similar sentiment, because they know that Dayaks have become victims of unjust “politics of development”. Why must it be Anwar Ibrahim who wants Taib to go? He must have a lot of guts. And why the deafening silence from the brave Dayaks? Or is the present generation of Dayaks no longer brave?

But what should we do now to revive the spirit of bravery, the spirit of headhunting and the spirit of adventurism as espoused by our forefathers?

First and foremost, we have to put our house in order. “This should be our priority number one,” said Dr Dusit Jaul, a senior INTAN lecturer when commenting on my previous article.

“The question is who should play the leading role. In this, we no more can depend on the old generation of the Dayaks in the Abdul Taib Mahmud era. Those self-proclaimed Dayak leaders have ample opportunities to prove their worth to the Dayaks. You can see for yourself what have they have done to the Dayak causes at large,” he said.

In the days of “ngayau-mulau” (headhunting), a Dayak leader had to prove his leadership quality by conducting “ngayau” expeditions and returned home successfully with their war trophies and loots, and only then he would be recognized as a “manok sabong” or a “Raja Brani” (warrior).

According to Dr Dusit, a leader must have the ABC leadership - ability to lead, must be brave and at the same time competent. “Now how many of our Dayak “leaders” fit with these leadership qualities, not to mention the leadership qualities of the 21st century,” he said.

Currently Jabu is the most senior Dayak “leader”. However, he knows only how to praise Taib Mahmud and addresses him with the words “yang disayangi” (most beloved) not once or twice, but several times in his speech so much so that it causes embarrassment to the audience. Some of his enemies say that Jabu is not a leader, describing him as only fit to be a community leader (Tuai Rumah) or a discipline officer barking and condemning his “anembiaks”.

Dr James Masing, although highly educated, has spoilt himself after he brought the death of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) in 2004 in collaboration with Sng Chee Hua. Generally, the Dayaks cannot forget nor forgive him, even though he has realized his blunder and is trying his best to be recognized as a leader in the new party he formed.

Another Dayak leader is William Mawan. Many Dayaks distrust him because of his close association with Tiong King Sing and many have also questioned him over his personal behaviour. He is only good as a follower.

What about Joseph Salang, you may ask? Although Salang can be a uniting force between the hardcore members of the defunct PBDS and the members of PRS, he is new to PRS and being new he has been very cautious for fear of stepping on the toes of some of the senior leaders. He is being groomed to take over after Masing steps down, perhaps in the next State election. His quality as a leader is yet to be seen.

Other Dayak leaders in the present Taib era are not worth mentioned, as their performances are below par. They are the “Yes” men.

Although there are many Dayak intellectuals among us, so far no one has come out to show his colours the way the HINDRAF leaders do and who are prepared to go to jail fighting for their community’s rights. Until we find some one possessing the spirit of our forefathers, the Dayaks will not be able to free themselves from being marginalized and manipulated.

* Taken from a page in the volume two of "The Broken Shield – The Dayak Dilemma"

Monday, August 18

Are Dayaks ready for a change of government?

Abdul Taib Mahmud has been at the helm of the State Government since 26 March 1981 till this day, a record of more than 26 years unsurpassed by any record in any State in Malaysia. Sooner or later he will have to go. Either on his own wish or fate will intervene.

Now, the question I will like to pose is: are we Dayaks really ready for the post Taib era?

And this is the same question my friend Dr Dusit Jaul, INTAN Sarawak Senior Programme Coordinator asked me during one of our morning coffee.

Obviously we are not ready. We have been talking too much; we have been “belaya, belaya, baka mayau enggau chit” as a line of Rozalina’s song goes (bickering like a cat and mouse). We are not prepared to take over.

In a similar situation in the colonial days, we were caught with our pants down when Sarawak was suddenly thrust into independence in 1963, resulting in Dayaks playing in an uneven playing field, and worst of all, we could not agree with ourselves to come up with a united front. Our enemies took advantage of our disunity and pitted Dayaks against Dayaks. Eventually the Dayaks lost their grip on their political power and have not recovered until today.

“I am worried we Dayaks are not ready to take over after Taib has gone,” said Dr Dusit and added: “The Dayaks must do something now, if we want to play a leading role in Sarawak’s politics especially in view of the political tsunami that has wiped five States in West Malaysia.”

He suggested that a few Dayak intellectuals sit down together and discussed our strategies, our plan or even our vision for the Dayak community. In other words, this group would form the community’s “think tank”.

Currently, our Dayak-based parties, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) are talking about merger between the two parties. The aim is good as it (merger) is trying to unite the Dayaks into a formidable force and to ensure the Dayaks play a major role in the next government after Taib. But for now, they are talking hollow only as certain leaders and members of both parties do not want non-Dayaks to play a major role in the new set-up.

Some Dayak leaders, said a friend of mine from Sarikei, should learn from the tragedies that befell Sarawak National Party (SNAP) and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS), both Dayak-based parties due to the major roles played by non-Dayak members. While SNAP has been waiting for the Sword of Damocles to come down, PBDS has been guillotined and buried. PRS has been suffering from the same anomaly, while SPDP has only a peripheral voice. As for Pesaka, it means what the word means “property” of PBB.

“We must learn from the politics of free lunch,” my friend stressed, adding that there was no such thing as “free lunch.” Like Dr Dusit, he wants the Dayaks to find a way to unite the Dayaks including forming a new political party and joining Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in a group to be led by a prominent Dayak leader, some one in the personality of Datuk Sri Daniel Tajem.

In fact, the proponents of Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC) have been thinking along this line after the demise of PBDS. But State leaders like Taib Mahumud, Alfred Jabu, William Mawan and Dr James Masing are deadly against its registration as they know that MDC once registered is going to unite Dayaks who ultimately will play a major role in Sarawak’s politics in the 21st century.

Indeed it is dreadful to think of the future after Taib, if we are not ready to play a major role given the political situation the Dayaks are in now. For now, the Dayaks are not only watching as development progress and economic opportunities are by-passing them, but they also are losing their rights including their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land and even their longhouses are being destroyed to open the way oil palm plantations. Who are to be blamed?

Sunday, August 10

PRS supreme council split over Larry Sng’s expulsion

Supreme council members of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) appear to be heading towards a stormy meeting when they meet on Sunday, 7 September at the party headquarters in Kuching to discuss Larry Sng’s expulsion or readmission.

Some members have already expressed their anger when they received notice of meeting and saw on the agenda - to discuss Larry Sng’s readmission to PRS.

It has been widely predicted that the coming meeting would decide to expel Larry Sng from the party once and for all. The decision of the expulsion would then be conveyed to the Chief Minister together with the name or names of assemblymen to replace Larry Sng as assistant minister.

Now, after receiving the notice of meeting dated 5 August, which was signed by the party secretary general Wilfred Nissom, some members thought that the wording of the agenda could be a mistake, as every member knew that the next meeting was to discuss and confirm Larry Sng’s expulsion rather than to discuss his readmission.

Said one PRS supreme council member who refused to be identified: “The decision to expel Sng has been delayed a number of times and the supreme council members as well as PRS members want a positive action to be taken, as Larry has been a thorn in the PRS flesh.

“We are going to be very vocal at this meeting” he said, adding that the supreme council might be split over the issue. A number of PRS supreme council members contacted by the writer would object to Larry Sng’s readmission.

Meanwhile, SUPP is said to be reluctant in accepting Larry Sng and in swapping the Pelagus seat with the Engkilili seat. The exchange should be finalized by the end of September.

PRS on the other hand is desirous of getting the Engkilili seat and in fact has already identified a professional to contest against Dr Johnichal Rayong, the independent assemblyman who won the seat through the Sarawak National Party (SNAP).

Saturday, August 9

“Political tidal bore” to hit Sarawak?

Despite being marginalized, the Dayaks especially the Ibans continue to elect Barisan Nasional (and including the Sarawak Alliance) into government in every State and federal election since 1970 (the first direct elections for Sarawak).

Judging by the constant blockades or barricades against timber companies or oil palm plantations for taking away their “pemakai menua” and their Native Customary Right (NCR) land and the numerous court injunctions, and the miseries and sufferings as a result of being marginalized, it is evidently clear that the Dayaks are unhappy with the companies and the government.

But when come to election, they do not only forget about their NCR land being taken away and their sufferings, but also eagerly offer themselves as polling agents for the BN candidates, campaigning and defending the BN government at the top of their voices. What they do not realize is that by voting for the BN candidates, they are surrendering their lives to the BN and in fact signing an “agreement” for the companies to take away their NCR land.

Let me give you some examples. *In the May 2006 State election, certain Tuai Rumahs and their “anembiaks” not only did not vote for Datuk Sri Daniel Tajem of the Opposition in the Bukit Begunan constituency, they went also to an unbelievable extent stopping Tajem and his campaigners from entering their longhouses.

The majority of these voters are his relatives and almost all of these longhouses have been complaining that their NCR land and farm land have been taken away by the BN government for oil palm plantations. And yet they voted for the BN candidate after each voter was alleged to have been given between RM10 and RM30, and after certain minor rural projects worth a few thousand ringgit were promised them. The Tuai Rumahs were allegedly given special “allowances”. Thus, the longhouse folks failed to see the bigger problems facing them – the gross injustices, their miseries, and the sufferings they have to endure for the next five years, just because of the small amount of money. Isn’t this penny wise pound foolish or in its Iban equivalent “untung sekarung rugi seguni”?

What is strange is that the very people who voted against Tajem came to see him after a few months later seeking his legal assistance regarding their NCR land being taken away by oil palm plantation companies. Tajem listened to them pouring out their problems and asked them whether they had RM10,000 as a deposit and told them that his legal fee per day was no less than RM500. If they felt that he was charging exorbitant fees then they should look for a Chinese lawyer who was likely to charge them much higher.

They were shocked to hear such harsh words from Tajem, as they knew him to be always sympathetic to their problems. But not this time.

“Nama ngambi nuan nyadi lawyer kami kelalau embar Datuk?” ko sida iya nanya Tajem. Timbal Datuk: “Nadai meh rega lawyer sebaka enggau rega kita RM30.00 ke diberi Barisan leboh bepilih tu tadi.”

Now with such mentality of the Dayaks, can the political tsunami that has swept five States in West Malaysia become a tidal bore in Sarawak in the next State election?

Yes, if we want to see the tidal bore of which Sarawak’s rivers are famous for it causing political havoc to the State Barisan Nasional then we must be prepared now and the most important tool to victory is MONEY. As being practiced by Barisan Nasional, the slogan we also should adopt is “No money no talk”.

To win in any Dayak majority constituency, we must have at least one million ringgit to match the BN money in bribing the voters. In each longhouse, the Tuai Rumah plays the most crucial role and if you can win him over with the right amount of money, then half of the battle is won. Normally his “anembiaks” will follow him.

The next question is: Can Pakatan Rakyat provide us with this kind of money?

*An excerpt from the volume two of The Broken Shield – The Dayak Dilemma which will be published by end of 2008

Monday, August 4

Larry Sng to join SUPP?

By the end of next month, a definite action will be taken to expel Larry Sng from Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), a source close to the president, Dr. James Masing has revealed to The Broken Shield.

PRS supreme council will meet by first week of September to decide once and for all the expulsion of Larry Sng. This would be followed by a letter to the Chief Minister to inform him that Sng is no longer in the party and that he should be replaced as an assistant minister. The name or names of Sng’s replacement will also be included in the letter. Taib has to make a decision by September 30, the source said.

Meanwhile, discussions have been going on for some time between SUPP president, George Chan and Masing on the possibility of exchanging the Pelagus seat with the Engkilili seat. SUPP is to take over the Pelagus seat and to accommodate Larry into SUPP. PRS, on the hand, is to take over Engkilili.

Chan is still hesitating whether to accept the swap of Engkilili with Pelagus, as he is unsure his party will be able to retain the seat for the Barisan Nasional in the coming State election. But Taib has told him that with Masing’s support, winning should not be a problem in the Iban-majority constituency.

As for Masing, he is confident that his party will be able to capture the Engkilili seat from the independent assemblyman, Dr. Johnichal Rayong should he contest again.

The source said that Chan has also to make up his mind before the end of next month.

Sunday, August 3

Protem committee still pursuing MDC registration

3 August 2008

The protem committee of Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC) is still pursuing its registration with the Home Affairs Ministry and the Registrar of Societies, although one or two of the committee members have abandoned the MDC struggle, said Joseph Tawie, protem information chief of the Congress.

In a statement today, he said: “Those committee members who still believe in the objectives and struggle of the Congress will continue to pursue the MDC registration and will be approaching the authorities again soon regarding the status of their appeal and registration.”

He said that the committee had also received many queries and feedbacks from ex-PBDS members and supporters regarding the appeal and had assured them that the committee had discussed various options to be taken pertaining to the MDC registration.

Some even offered to serve and replace those who had abandoned the struggle and the aspirations of the yet-to-be registered party, he said and expressed disappointment over the unfair treatment by the authorities against the Dayaks who wished to form their own political party.


Minor reshuffle surprises PRS

As everyone was expecting Abdul Taib Mahmud to reshuffle his cabinet after the SUPP delegates conference in December, last Thursday’s announcement of cabinet reshuffle (31 July 2008), although a minor one, caught many cabinet ministers, politicians and the general public by surprise. And if disappointment can be measured by figures and numbers, Parti Rakyat Sarawak’s disappointment is probably around 90 to 100%, SUPP’s disappointment is in the region of 80% and PBB’s 20%.

PRS had expected one of its assemblymen to be appointed replacing Larry Sng as assistant minister. PRS had informed Taib in June that Sng was no longer a member of the party and it had sought review of his position in the cabinet. And that review should come after December.

Although it is Taib’s prerogatives to appoint anyone to sit in his cabinet, PRS insists that the quota “belongs” to them and Taib should respect it if he is sincere towards PRS in particular and to the Dayak community in general, which PRS claims to represent.

But whatever it is, Taib must have some reasons for keeping Larry Sng at the expense of antagonizing the Dayaks in PRS. For one, Larry Sng is not an ordinary assemblyman, whose father, Sng Chee Hua and father-in-law, Ting Phek King are both powerful and influential figures in Sarawak’s politics. Secondly, the junior Sng has substantial following among the Dayaks and Taib cannot simply ignore them. And thirdly, Taib is keeping Sng until the next State election which is a stone’s throw away.

Sng was expelled from the party after he and his father tried to topple Masing in a prolonged leadership tussle soon after the State election in 2006. The party was deeply split having two “presidents, two supreme councils and two headquarters.” Masing finally triumphed when the Registrar of Societies (ROS) recognized his power to dismiss six office bearers of the party on 1 April 2008. The power to dismiss was the bone of contention between the two groups.

For SUPP, it had expected to fill at least two “vacancies” after two of its assistant ministers were defeated in the last State election.

The Pesaka Wing of PBB was desirous to see that the PBB secretary general, Dr. Stephen Rundi was appointed at least an assistant minister in order to strengthen the Dayak wing of the party.

The minor reshuffle, therefore, must have been very urgent that it cannot wait until SUPP delegates conference in December. One speculation is that Taib is not happy with one of the ministers involved in the reshuffle following complaints from the ground that he (the minister) was only concentrating his efforts on his constituency or his community alone; Taib wants them to be the ministers for all communities.

Similarly, the chief minister does not want projects to be poured into constituencies represented by ministers, neglecting those without them or contracts to be given to their own supporters only.

The people from Sri Aman complained to Taib that contracts for government projects have always been given by this minister to his own supporters who come from outside the division, leaving none for the local people. PKR leaders have been picking up these allegations and collecting information before turning the details to relevant authorities. Taib does not want these issues to be capitalized by the Opposition in the coming State election. So possibly that explained the reason for the surprised reshuffle.
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