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.