Monday, March 16

Where are the Iban Warriors In Politics?

Written by YB Encik Voon Lee Shan *

Rentap, the most famous Iban warrior in Sarawak

Iban people were traditionally brave people. They feared no one and were well known for their bravery. History told us that they also had good leaders, who were capable to enter into military alliances with one another and able to moblilize hundreds of followers under their direction for territorial expansion.

For newly opened region or territory during their head hunting days, their tuai menoa allocated settlement areas to their followers and their young men who displayed courage in the battlefield were entitled to called bujang berani or “brave bachelor”. In the old days, they were truly warriors and they led and were never wanted to be led by other people. So, they fought against the Rajahs.

Their bravery helped young Malaysia grew to what it is today. Malaysia needed them in early years and in time of peace, they still served the nation well. Iban were good trackers and their service in the Royal Malaysian Rangers was exemplary and many were awarded with bravery awards for their prowess in fighting the insurgencies. Their display of bravery was consistent with their motto, “Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban”.

In Rangers, they also displayed not only exceptional courage, but, also exemplary leadership and discipline.

Brookes Changed Iban Leadership

Things now changed. They no more led, but, were led by others through their leaders. Why and how could this happen?

One thing for sure about the Iban people was that, the Iban or Dayaks in general were good, honest and obedient followers. The Brookes were smart and when they ruled Sarawak, they appointed Iban warriors as native chiefs. It was through these native chiefs that Brooke’s rule became more peaceful and Sarawak’s territory then expanded.

The British who took over from Brookes also did the same thing and this strategy worked well to keep the Iban in peace with the government. Iban people lived simple lives and were never demanding and it was their culture taught them to respect and be obedient to their elders or tuai.

In the longhouses, their tuai who headed their longhouses were called tuai rumah. These tuai rumah were powerful figures and they provided the link with the government.

The anembiaks in the longhouses in return for their loyalty and obedience to their tuai rumah will get some subsidies in terms of fertilizers, some granite for their roads which normally were distributed to them as “election installments”. That is, these subsidies will only normally be distributed when elections were around.

However, the Iban could not simply get these subsidies unless their tuai rumah were obedient and loyal to the government. The BN government held them under 'political ransom' and the present system will continue to make them so.

Therefore, until today the system of tuai rumah has been maintained and given the few hundred ringgits as monthly allowances, these tuai rumah had then been instrumental in controlling and influencing their anembiaks to be obedient and loyal to the government.

With the exceptional loyalty as trademark and embedded as a culture, the Barisan Nasional government has until now since independence ruled Sarawak through Iban patronage. That also prolonged Pehin Sri Taib, a Melanau and a Muslim as the Chief Minister of Sarawak. With that, Taib may wish to perpetuate the Melanau dynasty which began from his uncle Tun Rahman, in ruling Sarawak, by making his son, Sulaiman as the next chief minister.

Kuala Lumpur followed Brookes

When Malaysia was formed in September 16, 1963, the federal government in Kuala Lumpur also followed Brooke. They knew, Apai Jugah was too influential among the Ibans and other Dayaks. They respected and were loyal to Apai Jugah.

So as not to rock the peace already established through Brookes’ rule, the federal government then appointed Apai Jugah as a Federal Minister. With Apai Jugah, the Iban just continued to get some subsidies. The Iban together with the Melanaus and Malays in Malaysia were Bumiputera, but, the Iban until today could not enjoy what the Malays could get.

Gone was Apai Jugah, the BN government perpetuates Iban loyalty to the government by absorbing Iban leaders and politicians into the government. These leaders were given posts and many perks.

The few leaders, like Jabu, Moggie, Masing, Mawan, Entulu, were said very rich. So, the story continues. The Iban never then led, but, was led through their leaders. What the Iban got until now were subsidies and not capitals for the development of the community.

The majority of the Iban will continue to be poor. While their leaders lived in big towns and cities could enjoy piped water and driving luxurious cars with oil palm plantations from Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands giving them perpetuating income and wealth, the majority of the Iban will see themselves poor and to live without proper water and electricity supply.

In return for their wealth they got from their positions in the government, these Iban leaders who presently are in the government will continue to tell the Iban people that only BN government could give the Iban subsidies in the longhouses.

This was of course true, but, the Iban did not realize that the giving to them subsides will continue to make them poor. It would be different, if Pakatan Rakyat takes over the government. Instead of subsidies, the Iban will get capitals to start their lives.

The Iban now has no political warriors who are capable to lead the community against the Barisan Nasional and against the dominance of the Melanau-Malays in Sarawak politics.

Ningkan an Iban from Betong who was supported by many Chinese tycoons in his days was too aggressive. His display of the typical Dayak arrogance and bravery was seen a threat by the federal government led by the Malays from UMNO, who then politically kicked him out of his chief ministership.

Ningkan who displayed exceptional political courage and leadership of an Iban warrior, Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban, was seen a threat to UMNO rule in Sarawak through Melanau-Malays. These Melanau-Malays were mostly Muslims, but, is not a large group in the state.

Had Ningkan not been toppled, Iban today would be under a better umbrella had enjoyed better lives. Maybe, it was and still is the policy of federal government to see that Iban should not become the governor and chief minister of Sarawak.

This was made more difficult in recent years after the amendment of the State Constitution because, it seems that to be a governor, the governor must be a Muslim and in the case of Iban, this would be something almost impossible as most Ibans are Christians.

Due to the amendment of the State Constitution, the Iban, like the Chinese, would also find themselves difficult to become Speakers of the Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN).

Peter John (centre), is he our modern Iban Warrior?
Picture Credit:

Iban Must Change

DAP and PKR are here to change the Iban lives, but, if Iban people refuses to change nothing much DAP and PKR could do. Iban leaders like, Jabu, Masing, Mawan, Sylvester Entri, Peter Nyarok and Francis Hardin, being senior Iban politicians could bring better change to the Iban community, but, it seems that they prefer to be led and not to lead.

They should be the Iban political warriors taking lead to bring the Iban to greater heights. They should realize that Iban being the largest race in Sarawak should lead and not be led by the minorities.

Never, at anytime I heard them speaking against any of the policies put up by the government. They lacked political courage to speak against the evils of the government and when they saw Taib coming to the Dewan Undangan Negeri, they all rushed towards him, trying to get Taib’s attention. Sometimes, I observed that when Taib saw them coming, Taib just shook their hands with them, but, with his face turning away looking at others around!

So if Iban people want to change themselves, they should no more be dependent on their present leaders. Instead, they have to take the lead themselves, throw away their present leaders and change the government.

The Iban people have lost its grip in power and the only way to overcome this is to change the government. So, the coming Batang Ai by-election will a testing ground for Iban Baru or New Iban. Whoever be fielded by the Opposition against the BN in Batang Ai, the Iban people, please rise up to the occasion to support the candidate for a change. He is your Iban Baru!

Good luck, my Dayak friends! DAP are with you!

14th day of March, 2009


* YB Encik Voon Lee Shan is a member of Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN) Sarawak, N. 11 Batu Lintang


Anonymous said...

The Ibans make up more than 30% of the population of Sarawak of 2.4 million.The Ibans since the Rajah days have always been regarded as very important to the Government at each and every period. That was why the first Chief Minister was an Iban and the second Chief Minister was also an Iban. However, because they have become so fragmented politically they lost this position to others who come from minority groups. And what has happened since? Those Iban leaders who have been brought under the wings of Rahman and then Taib showed themselves as more interesting in what they could get, positions and money, than looking after the interests of the Ibans.
This is what I think YB Voon Lee Shan is trying to say.For a Chinese to have to say that it is because he cares and feels for the Iban community and is pleading for the Ibans to get rid of the present leaders in the BN and to look for alternatives now offered by the various parties in Pakatan Rakyat -- PKR and DAP.
We cannot depend on the present elected leaders in the BN to help our community. They have no power. They want to help but they can't. Why? Everyone knows the answer.
So we get rid of the BN parties and replaced them with the Alternative - PR.The time to do that is now, and the starting point is Batang Ai.
I hope fighters like Jawah Gerang not Nicholas Bawin is selected to be the standard bearer for PKR.

Unknown said...

Sad to say and truly, there is no Iban warriors in politics. Yes, there lots of Iban so-called leaders in politics but leaders with their personal and hidden agenda only. These so-called Iban leaders beit YBs or Ministers are mere 'white elephant' in the Iban community. They need the Iban voters to keep them alive and they don't even lift their fingure to unite the Iban. They don't have any agenda to UNITE the Iban because they are greed for power, status and money.
Simply look at the present Iban leaders like Jabu, William Mawan Ikom, Masing and many more Iban YBs, they enjoyed their current status. They created more political parties to divide not unite the Iban.
To say 'Iban warrior in politics' is a wrong verse, because there is none.
To say 'Iban jokers in politics' is more likely, because they are many out there.
Jabu, William Mawan, Masing, Jospeh Entulu, Mong Dagang, Snowdan lawan, Jimmy Donald, Joseph Mauh, Stephen Rundi and many more Iban YBs are all JOKER OF THE YEAR.
He who is able to unite ALL Iban under one political party is the real Iban warrior.

Anderson Tamparuli said...

The Iban was strong and united during the pre Hahman Akop era, but totally devasted since after, especially during type mamoth regime. The strong and long arms of the West malaysian politician helped to suppress the Ibans behind the curtains of taip mamoth, to ensure the malays supremacy in the region.

I hope the caring arms of Unity Group from West Malaysia will ignite the fire iban politic for more bargain in fair treatment in modern politics.

Anonymous said...

We ibans have been docile for too long. For too long we have been living on handouts. About time we change our mind set and think like the chinese and melanaus. We need to learn to be crafty and shrew. Most importantly,we need to fight for the well being of the next generation. At the moment, the rich ibans living in the city get richer and the poor ones in the rumah panjai get poorer. We want a government that cares for the rakyat not to rip us and steal our NCR land for the benefit of a few unscrupulous businessmen. Lets give PR a chance at least once.

Anonymous said...

As much as I hate BN soooo much, I find that this article is entirely 'buttlicking' the majority of the disgruntled Dayaks so that they get rid of their corrupted leaders or 'stumbling' blocks for other politicians. Thanx a lot YB Voon for your deep concern, care and love, but I'd rather keep to myself some sense of scepticism, as from one point or perspective too, I smell in this article the same tactic used by the BN assholes to first get a grip on and then divide and rule the Dayaks..sorry, but healthy dose of scepticism does help in the long run, into not believing too much in or being too dependent on other people. If only you allow the majority of the angry Dayaks now to form their own party and pact with DAP and PKR, maybe you can easily convince the Dayaks. But somehow, I doubt that in the future you'll let us continue with our Dayaks pact, and I'm afraid that you'll start to divide the Dayaks, once your agendas have been achieved..if not by you, perhaps by the younger generations of DAP and PKR who might be arrogant and ignorant and who might think and perceive Dayaks involvement in policy making as a threat. I do not wish to conspire further, but this is how I see the whole thing..and how can you be certain that you all aren't gonna be like the BN corrupted mofos once DAP/PR is in power? I can barely respect people who talk with such level of confidence and certainty, coz I'm already sick of them..I'm sick of whatever type of whatever form..entirely sick..
and with arrogances shown by other communities towards the Dayaks.. telling you care in an article posted in the cyberspace does not's just like a 'touch and go' thing and I'm not as cheap as to trust every single word that comes out of a politician's mouth.. sorry, to tell you this, but perhaps we need just 'More Than Words' here.. if you really care for the Dayaks. Yeah, a Dayak can be a real leader on its own land since they are the majority (as you said), but NOT A PUPPET one. We are ready to vote our corrputed leaders out, but we are just annoyed and doubtful when the Opposition aka our ball-polishers wear a shirt with "I HAVE A HIDDEN AGENDA,PERHAPS YOU WANNA GUESS IT?" written on it. You may say that everything is crystal clear and we shouldn't be doubtful, but I'm one of those Doubting Thomases..sorry, I can't help it. Oh, one more thing..hopefully, you all don't behave like those Pigs in The Animal Farm..just like bunch of hypocrites, ok? as the Murphy's Law states " What can go wrong, will!". I'm done for now.. so, can we stop ball-polishing and rubbish-talking..and just do our work with less talking..actions are sharper than words as actions "speak" at least twice than talking...ok? duhh..

Anonymous said...

Thanks YB Voon for your piece.
You have a locus standi to ask the question of "where are the Iban worriors" because you are 50 per cent Iban yourself. I am sure your Iban relatives from your mother and Iban grandparents side are proud of you for championing the causes of the Ibans.

Anonymous said...

All trust worthy and dedicated Dayaks who have no financial benefits or gains by joining Pakatan Rakyat platform like those "warriors" who joined the DAP ,must be given full and undivided support to fight BN. It will not be good for the Ibans if they have their own opinions as to who is a better candidate in PKR to stand in the coming Batang Ai by-election.

If Jawah Gerang is not chosen for batang Ai, I am sure the PKR leaders will consider him for Engkililli and another person for Lubok Antu Parliamentary. Self discipline and whole hearted and undivided support for fellow comrades are very important to win every elections against the financial mights of Taib and BN Sarawak. Lets us not be divisive in our hearts and minds and lest be self destructive. Vote PKR whoever is the chosen candidate for ketuanan rakyat.

Anonymous said...

What Sdr. LS Voon wrote is part of historical truths.

ALCOHOLIC spirit among Iban youths is ever increasing.

It is not surprised if PKR lost inspite of its maximum preparations because of BN very fat war-chest and intensive distributions tons & tons of kotak "BN-made maggie mee" and the steady flow of IJOKOHOLIC ICT
(Ijok Campur Tuak)

One famous-singh-sponsered independent will join the fry.

The result of the by-election will be the real test whether Ibans/ constiuents of Batang Ai are still fools as they were and will be.

kadab kana

stingray said...

What YB Voon have said is absolutely true but to be even more truthful,it would have been better if this were said by a true Iban or dayak.But alas,none have shown any guts or bravery like Ningkan.He stood up against the Fed .Today The Iban are the opposite,not like those yesteryears.And that is why our white hair chopped them up into small groups and install cronies as their leaders who will only listen to him.This way all the dayak leaders will be properly leashed.
Many dayak leaders have been 'rid off' by white hair becos they don't subscribe to him idealogy. People like Leo Moggi ,Daniel Tajem etc are purged becos they show leadership which white hair find difficult to accept.
Today most of the dayak leaders are just robots, remote controlled and pre-programed by white hair.He have 2 'assistant' who will do all the dirty job for him.One is Jabu ,who will be the 'chef de mission'.He is in charge of all the dayaks problem from headache to constipation.He overrules whatever other dayaks party leaders said.He have absolute power.The other 'assistant' is George Chan.He rule on behalf of white hair over all the chinese.So you see white hair have the whole of sarawak in his palm.He will be fed with all the info that these 2 'assistants' gave him and at times he may get some info form some other sources.
So the dayaks must first deal with their leaders before they can deal with the gov't.First they must kick out these dayaks MPs and YBs who are cronies of the gov't,then vote in a new MPs or YBs from PR for a change.If these MPs or YBs can't perform,then chuck them out also.Only through this means,the dayaks will be a force to be counted.
All will be not lost if PKR takes Batang Ai.Let this victory be a start of the rise of Dayakism in sarawak.

NEIL said...

This time the dayaks MUST wake up.A victory in Batang Ai by PKR will say it all.The fate of the dayaks lies in their own hands,not anyone else.I truly hope they will seize this window of opportunity and take the bull by its horn.
PKR is the only answer to some ,if not all your problem.VOTE PKR!

Anonymous said...

bepilih ila, tan ka bala manok ngelaban bala yb bn. meda sapa menang.

Anonymous said...

Changed to PKR? Are we not back to square one by voting them?? There is no different between BN & PKR. Should have a strong Dayak & Orang Ulu's base party for Sarawak then I believe we can achieves the 'dominant' role of Sarawak. As long as those 'semananjung guys' around, be they BN or PKR or DAP, we are doomed.