Monday, August 2, 2010

Kampung Long Banga Not Forgotten - A tribute to Malaysian PM

Dear Friends,
Long Banga, being a far outpost village in Sarawak, closed to the international Malaysia-Indonesia border (Kalimantan province) really is not a forgotten place of late. This village, established around 1900 by a group of Sa'bans that left their Kelabit families in Long Peluan and latter followed by their Kenyah Leppo' Ke relatives, has been thriving under all circumstances since their settlement at this scenic location. From the pagans days till they embraced Christianity in the late early 1960s, from pure farming community till education changed almost all families into semi-agricultural and partly town-based till today, the changes are apparent at this remote place. This village was also used as a base by the Allied Army during the Confrontation in the mid-1960s.
Then, all of a sudden the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Seri Najib announced he is visiting the village in July, 2010. The excitement over this visit was sky-high and the villagers had work hard together with the primary school teachers (amongst the only government office available there) to ensure the visit was a memorable ones. The cooperation amongst the Sabans and the Leppo' Ke are exemplary. Their work ethics are good eventhough going through personal differences at times. The Kenyahs provides the artististry and details into the raw ideas and prowess of the Sabans. This is not only evident in their works but also in marriages...
When PM Najib arrived at this place on 22nd July 2010, the more changed for the better were expected. He announced a RM6million mini hydroelectric scheme and a RM1million access road to the village's airfield..
As his visit was witnessed by thousands of other Orang Ulu (mostly Kenyahs and Kayans) from various long houses down-river Baram, whom also don't want to be forgotten, PM announced the construction of the infamous 30+ year old 42km Beluru-Lapok road for RM100+ million.. What a relieved for all Orang Ulus..
But most importantly, we the Long Banga folks appreciate PM's visit to this outpost village, which shows his eagerness to know more about this country, even to the tiny community like ours. At least, he showed that he is willing to be at the remotest of the Orang Ulu area, as he told the audience, after consulting Dato Jacob Dungau Sagan, who hailed from a nearby village down-river Baram.
While addressing to the Orang Ulu folks for the first time at their remotest village in Long Banga, PM Najib jested that he also like wearing the 'tapung' for the first time...

We like to thank all the government agencies that made the PM visit a success and all Orang Ulus that came in droves until we could not house everybody at Long Banga, visitors overnite spilled-over to Long Peluan and Long Balong, both 20 minutes away by 4WDs..

Again, with the Orang Ulu's standard of hospitality, we were short of giving a 'name' for PM, but there were numerous 'forest produce' gifts from various community, he was also blessed with special prayer from Pastor Oda of SIB Long Banga, also a first time for PM, I guess.

Let's see how the government agencies responsible for the projects announced go about their implementation..

Monday, July 12, 2010

Many First Time Happenings

Dear All,

A first time experience is always genuine, exhilarating, may be devastating but that 'first time' will be remembered well in our life's span. We could quotes many first times here, but being an ardent sports fan (of all kind) there are a few first times happenings this week alone..

Golf - Eduardo Molinari won for the first time in Europe at the Scotish Open at Loch Lomond.. Paula Creamer, one of my favourites LPGA member, won the US Women's Open, her first major, at the Oakmont Course, the same place where Angel Cabrera won the
US Open last year. On a personal note, I too played at Kelab Golf Miri for DPTS Alfred Jabu Challenge trophy under the Dayak Golf Association's umbrella for the first time over the weekend. Lost badly though to fellow Dayak golfers..

F1 - Mark Webber won the Silverstone for the first time being a 'no.2 driver' as he mentioned sarcastically over the radio, also a first time such a jibe was made at their own team.

World Cup - The Spanish Armada won the title for the first time at the Soccer City last night and got the honour to place a star over their logo..waka waka, South Africa 2010 a world cup that will be partly remembered as a first time 'vuvuzela' being widely used..It is also the first time the top scorer with 5 goals, Thomas Muller of German, been chosen from a 5-way tie based on goals scored, assists and time of play..

Sports being so global now enable us to follow many games at a time and technology has brought these games to our living rooms within seconds..

Away from the global sporting world, there is a coming first time happenings at a tiny village in the 'heart of borneo' this month as well. The little village of Long Banga is due for a visit by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB DS Najib Tun Razak. This is a first time of a kind where the PM will be with one of the smallest indigenous community of Saban people, one of the remotest village in the State of Sarawak, Malaysia and so forth..

For the ordinary rural community living in the vicinity of the village, be they are of Saban, Kelabit, Kenyah, Penan and other ethnicity, this kind of visit is the best gesture form a person they highly regarded.. Surely, the experience of having the PM at our village will be remembered in our life's span. It will be engraved in the history of the tiny outpost village that host a community of less than 600 peoples.. Grateful will they be and they would not mind the hectic preparation that comes with it.. Being part of this remote community, we can gratefully proclaimed that it is a first time Long Banga been visited by the highest government office of the country.. and we could humbly plant a star sign at the site of the village on the map of Malaysia. So excited they are about this first time, they are praying hard for a safe journey, good weather and joyous moment for this occasion.

Officials reading this entry, who are going on this trip for the first time, please be assured of your well being and acceptance at the village..

Viva Espana..del Bosque the man...

Best wishes

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Long Banga - the hard facts


Long Banga appeared in tonight's Malaysian RTM1 panorama's program featuring the Maswings' twin otter planes flying destinations. As one of the few destinations for the 19 seater aircraft in the interior Baram, Long Banga village as well as the neighbouring Long Peluan, Long Lamai and Long Beruang benefited very much from this subsidized flights.

Before 1996, logging operations did not reach this part of the world and there is no other mode of transportation other than walking on foot to Lio Mato, which normally take two days for an average person, with an overnite in a jungle hut at Metapa.

From Lio Mato, a long boat ride to Marudi will take another two days with an approximate 2 drums of benzine for a twin 30 hp outboat motors. The returning journey normally takes 3 days upriver to Lio Mato with 3 drums of fuel. The cost is quite substantial, therefore only the rich guy in the village can keep those engines and boats at Lio Mato which will only be used once or twice a year. The trip is planned in such a way that more that 10 persons will travel downriver to share the cost of the fuel.

Then the government decided to open up an airport at Long Banga in early 1990s.. the original plan was abandoned because the flight landing direction is a bit tricky with mountains at both ends. The current completed ones is an extention or rather an improvement of the army's field used to land items from the Caribou 130 during the confrontation with Indonesia in 1960s and also the BEM missions therafter. Before MAS rural service commence (latter FAX and now Maswings) in early 2000, the completed airport was used by chartered flights. A Dornier or Skyvan is normally hired at a rate of RM5,000.00 for a return flight to Marudi, whereby the local trader fill the aircraft to the brink and any space left is for paying passenger. This only happens about 3 to 4 times per year and normally the teachers and nurses posted to the villages in the vicinity make the trips.

In early 1997 the quiet village is surprised by the arrival of logging operations. But the villages adapted fast to the changes and started to travel by logging roads to Miri for about 8-10 hours, depending on weather conditions. This has largely changed the livelihood in Long Banga. No more walking on foot for days excepting between local villages. Besides, trading items are not flown anymore, but by land trips that will cost around RM700-800 per chartered 4WD double cabin trucks (land cruisers). Anyway, that did not reduce the prices of goods at Long Banga estimated at Coca Cola RM3.00, Maggie Mee RM1.00, Tiger Beer RM6.00, Derek drinking water (small botlle) RM2.00..

When I went back in February 2010, a lot of physical changes happened. More houses are built by the younger generations with better design and added with the availability of cements that can be brought by land from Miri, makes better houses. A new church is built by the Kenyah's section of the village.

But still, travel by air is a blessing for the populace. Small in number though, the current three flights per week (Tue, Sat and Sun) well serves the people living and working there, very much. The government servants (teachers and rural clinic staffers) really need this service as most are outsiders, and fancy of checking their 'gaji' monthly at Miri or Marudi. With a one way subsidized flight costing about RM80.00 to Miri, there is very little complaints from the villagers.. they are often self-reminded of their yesteryear's hardship...
To fascilitate internal movements, the government has teamed-up with the timber company operationg in the area to upgrade the kampung road and built a new bridge crossing the main river to school.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Orang Ulu Cultural Symposium 2009 @ Miri

Hi There!

The last time I got to write here, the by-election in Batang Ai was still at the campaigning stage. Rightly, the BN won and our friend, Mussen is now a YB and no more in the state civil service.

During that particular election, the Dayak Iban Cultural Symposium was held in Betong. This time around, it is the "Orang Ulu's" turn to have the same agenda. I begin to think that this kind of events are just part of or an element of campaigning by the government of the day. It is being held, co-incidently, every five years and it involve a lot of community leaders, be it government appointees or elected into the various NGOs.

As a matter of fact, the land issues is still the the topic of choice and hotly debated. But we must remember this is a "cultural" symposium. The forum hardly get any representation proper from a cultural point of view beside some mentioned of orang ulu "fine arts" and artifacts worthy of heritage listing in a couple of papers presented.

The last part of it was the persuasion paper to get a localised version for the "orang ulu" called 'community-based reference' or self-lingo referencing into "LUNDAYA". This was hotly anticipated, whereby the chairperson of the session was non-other than the person who has helped formed the "Orang Ulu National Association" himself, YgBhg Datuk Wan Ullok. At the end, the participants are still far-apart in their acceptance of the term. One eminent person from the floor stood up to ask questions which one sounds like "adakah cadangan pertukaran nama ini ada udang di sebalik mee?". I responded silently like "they want somekind of legacy".

Personally, I believe that the notion is a waste of time, as some participants openly grouses there and then. It is just like wanting to change the name "mercedes to proton". One is already highly regarded all over the world but crying wanting to be a known locally in Malaysia only. No wonder the presenter of the paper, non-other than the organiser himself, our very own brother Datu Ose Murang struggled so much with his lingo, only helped so much by the pauses and interruptions of the other panelists whom were given time to speak on the issue.

Another fellow participant put it like this in Kayan "tiah ngalui basung anan pah.. pakai basung maring bi bu mengo' loh kah ihah, bu na' piah dahin tula loh kah na'a." - like changing shirt, still with the same armpit smell.

At the end, the cultural symposium is still worth an avenue for the Orang Ulu to expose issues and exchange ideas and thoughts. It would be best if more cultural and arts related matter were put up at the symposium and leave other matters like economy, business to other fora.

Resolutions resulting then, must be forwarded to the authority and followed-up to ensure this channel remain relevant. Otherwise, it will just be another waste of time and effort or simply and pre-election campaigning gimmick.

jangan ambik hati sangat tuyang...


Purely Orang Ulu.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sarawak politics - One by election BN can't afford to loose

Hi there!

I am not the political blogger but things of late is good to ponder upon, which persuaded me to write.

Yesterday was the nomination day for three by-elections, one each in Kedah, Perak and Sarawak. UMNO seemed to be so confidence that their recent "wings of change" in the party election would garner well with voters. The UMNO mass media stated out loud that the opposition is on the brink of break-up and so forth. We will wait and see, as Nizar responded to that, on 7th April 2009. Nizar is the ousted but celebrated Chief Minister of Perak.

At the Sarawak scene, the forever present CM Taib Mahmud led the ruling coalition to accompany BN candidate for Batang Ai, Mr. Mussen (as we know him). There are a few things that I would like to comment on this:

1. When there is a seat vacancy for BN in Dayak constituent, they will resort to pick up a serving government officer to stand in the election. This automatically deprived the Dayak of a representation in the agency he/she is leaving in order to enter the political fray. Fair to say, this move may be good for the individual chosen, whether he win or loose (like Alex Vincent - Balleh), but still a Dayak is lost from the ladder of the Public Service where he should serve till retirement for the good of his agency and the public they serve.

2. This election is different. It is the first time that Sarawak is openly accepting in the challenges posed by an organised opposition. Not like in the past where there is only this one or two independent candidate that withdrew at the very last minute for unknown reason. No wonder, the BN have to come in full force to Batang Ai and "pour out" more money in the area, hopefully not just empty promises, in the form of projects and grants. I heard the rebate for outboard motor owners in the area will only be paid after the by-election. May be Jawah Gerang will want to use this information.

3. If CM is correctly quoted, today's Sarawak's newspaper reported that there is a "Sarawak way " of campaigning and how campaign goes on now is very different from the past. I think the BN machinery has been using the same tactic for too long and the leaders are been there too long to realize that there are new ways to campaign. But what is the Sarawak way? No one can guess more better, as a newspaper columnist, Kaypo rightly put it "even if you put up a monkey as a BN candidate using the 'dacing' symbol, BN will win." I think people are being bombarded by "money politics" from all angles, be it promises of infrastructures, basic facilities, grants etc., those are all money promises. The notion that only BN goverment can bring development should be a gone case by now, as any party forming a government could utter promises sky high till the billions of money in their control is gone.

4. A by-election is for the ruling government to win. But if the opposition can take Batang Ai with all the issues against the current state government being played around the campaign, we can suggest that there is a truth in the issues and the BN couldn't take the opposition lightly anymore. As a show of strength, all along, the BN might is incomparable in rural constituents of Sarawak, but let us see if the Dayakism, as potrayed by some BN campaigners against the opposition, have some say at the end of the week. If BN loose this one, many more will be go down the wire but if the opposition lost, the BN will champing that the land issues is gone.

We wait and see what will happen after 7th April 2009.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Orang Ulu - Who really cares?

Dear Friends,

Recent Sarawak local news coverage on the so-called "Orang Ulu" (means UP-RIVER PEOPLES)community suggests that a group of "orang ulu" based NGOs called FORUM (Federation of Orang Ulu Assosiations Malaysia?) want a change of the term "orang ulu" to "LUN DAYA".

The news reports impressed upon readers that the big names and the community at large have "more or less" accepted the idea of a change of name, they called re-branding. It is believed the notion was promoted by the FORUM because the "orang ulu" potrays a backward community and the term may be a hindrance for their progress. The FORUM suggested that a change of name (or re-branding?) to reflect the real characters of the community is therefore, needed to have a better image.

As a member of Persatuan Masyarakat Saban, an assosiate of the FORUM, of which my brother is the current president, it may not be a really good idea to put down some comment on the issue, but there are some disturbing thoughts that i would like to put on record here:

(1) While visiting a former State Agriculture Director at his 2009 Chinese New Year celebration, he asked me of my 'race' and I obliged to say that I'm Saban, an Orang Ulu tribe. He responded by saying that 'this is my favorite peoples'. He said he liked it during those days, while still in goverment service, visiting the orang ulu places and enjoying the beautiful and diverse cultures they have. And he asked me, why do we want to change our name? He said ornag ulu is nice and established name.

(2) I do not agree with the involvement of politician in NGOs activities. If or so-called hardworking orang ulu YBs are sincere enough in highlighting orang ulu problems, lack of developments and opportunity to progress, use the right platform. Or otherwise, resign as YB and join the NGOs if that is your only ability. Working on NGOs platform like communal associations is merely degrading their YB title, whom should shout out loud for the plight of our poor constituencies in the relevant Dewan. And let the heads of the NGOs work on this kind of issues.

(3) What is the difference by a change from "orang ulu" to "lun daya"? For me, they are the same and it does not potrays a better thing. "Lun" can be associated with "Ulun" that can be traced to "slavery", in a worst case scenario. "Daya" is merely "ulu" in the Kenyah lingo and if you term in in Malay it can be weaken with "apakan daya". Therefore, a change in that direction does not serve any purpose for me.

(4) What is the problem with us being orang ulu? Come on! We originated from the "ulu". TITIK. But being from "ulu" does not stops us from being educated (eg. check Candida Jau on Facebook), owning businesses like Philip Ngo and Jun Wan or Jok Ding, leading goverment agencies like Robert Lian, becoming CEOs like DS Idris Jala, managers of multi-nationals like Mohd Medan, travel the world with a 'sape' like Cikgu Matthew, officials of golf clubs like Henry Lian and Dr Philip and the list goes on for many more accomplishments that we already have while being called "orang ulu". I don't see any problem or hindarance to progress in there. For that matter, I believe many more orang ulu youngsters are coming up to meet the challenges to being exceptional and sucessful, based of the standards set by the present generations without a "re-branding".

(5) Personally, "orang ulu" is just an easy description of my origin of which my tribe, Saban is part of, due the locality of our village, Long Banga in the upper-Baram, the great river. There maybe some "orang ulu" associated communities that are located down-river like the Bisayas and Berawans, but I believe being called one "orang ulu" does not down grade them, because in the olden days, the Chinese taukeys in the old towns of Kapit, Marudi, Limbang and Lawas will just called anybody, that arrived by boat for their yearly or quartely or few shopping trips, as "ORANG ULU".

I therefore, urge the current FORUM to look for other issues to work on and forget about this re-branding of the great Orang Ulu. May be our honorable YBs should do more to highlight problems and seek more development into our areas in the Dewan. Time to seek popularity by mingling around NGOs is over.

I may be wrong to say the above matters, and the way it is presented. Some orang ulu may be offended and dislike it that way. However, and I don't offer any apology. I may be arrogant here, but I do care about the basic concerns of our rural Orang Ulu that are real development, connection (road and telco) and recognition of land ownership. Not merely rethoric plus thousand of broken promises, we are tired of them.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Balik Kampung 2008

Two weeks before christmas 2008, the Saban Community Association in Miri initiated a 'Jom Balik Kampung' actitivity to coincide with their Saban of Borneo pre-christmas celebration. As an advisor to the association, I feel sorry for not being able to join them as I couldn't take leave at that particular time.
However, that is an exemplary programme to do and there are similar activities organised by a few villages in Baram during that period as well, eg. Long Atip.

At our personal level, my family chose to 'balik kampung' for Christmas in Long Bedian. This year has been a bit quiet for us and we did not plan to join any celebration whether its Harvest or Christmas. After our trip to Jakarta at the end of November, we decided to make it to Long Bedian with a driving trip to Miri and hoping for my brother-in-law Laing to drive us in his new Mazda 4x4 to Long Bedian. How plans would not materialise especially if things are not under your control, my in-law's car was involved in an accident before sunrise, the day we arrived in Miri 20th December 2008. They were on their way to send uncle & auntie to prepare rice for their cousin, Harry's wedding on the night of the same day, which we attended. Thanks God, no one was seriously injured in that wee hours accident.

At the crossroads, we got Julia's cousin, Richard to send us to Long Bedian on 22nd Dec 2008. It was a cloudy day but thanks goodness, no rain. The Lapok road is still as bad as it is and the journey to kampung is slowed mostly by this part of the road. There is improvement after the Lapok bridge for the Long Lama sector, and the ferry point really need improvement at landing, as well as keeping their own safety procedures intact. And Long Lama - Long Bedian through Temala is the normal logging tracks. The dry weather really helped and we reached Long Bedian at 4pm after 5 hours journey on a 2X4 Isuzu and we paid RM320 for the whole trip that include my parent-in-laws.

This is the second time our daughter Ruran been back to Long Bedian since 2005. She is now aware of all the good things in the village i.e the long house, sleeping under mosquito net, motorcycling the first time, river bathing, 'pah lung' - eat together at others home etc. Since we do not have our own vehicle this time around, we hardly move and just attended the various Christmas church services from 23-26th Dec and also being invited to 'pah lung' at other homes for dinner (3 times actually).

After Christmas we went swimming at Tenyok, the community resort place and had good times. The next day we just sit around at the long house and bought some souvenirs at the shops. I got a good bargain for a 5' rattan mat which is the Penan supply price RM50 as the item have not entered the shop yet and also RM10 for a skull of a honey bear. They asked what's the bones for and i told them its for display in office as am also doing wild life enforcement.
Photo shows Lapok at midday. No other vehicles can ply the roads without problems except 4WD... until when??

On 28th Dec 2008 we got a commonrail Hilux to send us back to Miri. All of us left the village together as my in-laws still got to complete their self-renovation works at their Miri house. We stop for snacks at Long Lama Bazaar. Not much change at this place for years, except the lesser frequency of express boats to Marudi. The weather was just fine and we arrive Miri after about 5 hours and paid Rm300.

It was a great experience to be back in kampung after so many years did not managed to do so. The photos we captured are duly uploaded in the Facebook (Tenmu Asan Family). We were also informed that Long Bedian will be hosting the religious "Irau" celebrations for SIB Apoh-Tutoh region in June 2009 and may make a trip at that time as well.

Our message here is to make it to our village whenever is possible as most of the elders there are lonely without seeing their kids and grandkids. Before we regret of not doing so, it is best to do while we are still strong and resourceful.