This week has been quite taxing - physically, mentally and emotionally. After venting my frustrations on Air Asia's pricing structure for the Kuching - Sibu Sector, there was a lot of anxiety when the blogging community came under a lot of pressure from the print media which reported on the need to control the blog contents. Similiarly there were numerous protests against Israel's relentless attacks on Lebanon. To top that up more news on people picking on Khairy and also Prime Minister Pak Lah. Sometimes just these few things takes your breath away. Someone has to argue with someone or quarrel with someone. Our present Prime Minsiter and his son-in-law came under siege and they both responded in the most natural way using the media - all these can be attributed to the Zinadine Zidane's headbutt phenomenom. The message is simple - "Do Not Push Me Too Far". You argue, then comes the rebuttal, then there is a rebuttal to your rebuttal - in the end it ends up both parties headbutting one another.
Visitors to Sarawak
I needed the break from these headbutts out there. I was quite glad that I was assigned to go to Sibu for an official assignments. Nothing beats the relaxing and slow momentum of Sibu Town - a place where I grew up and where my younger day memories soothes the soul.
Click on the image above to get a view of the airplane
My travelling assignment to Sibu brought me to deliver Sarawak's Development briefing to the foreign Military Attache Corps in Sibu, at Tanahmas Hotel. They arrived in a giant aircraft (in the picture above - I believe its a Hercules transport plane). This would be my first International audience so I was pretty nervous at first. Furthermore it involved senior military officers and also their families (including children) so I had to take a different approach - more pictures rather than economic figures.
A section of the audience
Another section of the audience
Giving the briefing: (wishful thinking) "Ermmm... though Sarawak was under the rule of Rajah James Brooke, it would have been good if the Rajah had introduced the Premier League in Sarawak at that time, or Sarawak would have invented soccer and would have been a force to reckon with in the soccer world."
Bawang Assan Here I Come
The road to Bawang Assan, Sibu which is my Dad's 'kampung' or village is a 25 minutes drive from Sibu Town. I can't say its a longhouse because we do not stay in the longhouse. Unlike my Mum's longhouse in Nanga Beguang Song, which is not accessible by road, Bawang Assan has a tarred and decent two lane road which was constructed a few years ago. Before that it was only accessible via river transport also (about an hour's boat ride). The Foreign Military Attache Corps were scheduled to visit Rumah Austin Ngelai, a longhouse in Bawang Assan which is about 100 years old. Going back here was like entering a time capsule as it took me to my childhood years when my dad always brought me back during the holidays.
The Bawang Assan River - since the road was built, it has turned into a calm silent river
The Boat Stop (as in The Bus Stop): The express or river vessels would pick up and unload their passengers and goods here last time. Its a bit rundown now.
Rumah Austin - as it is now (walkway where I used to play and had fun with my cousins, uncles and aunties)
Rumah Austin from another angle
Posing with Uncle Ancho (in black t-shirt) and relatives
Meeting relatives - my late grandma and grandad's cousins preparing for the Foreign Military Attache Corp's visit
Handicrafts and pua kumbu baju burung clothes for display and for sale
Another display view of the items for sale
The Methodist Church as viewed from my grandparent's house
Gerija Methodist Bawang Assan: 1954
The church is still standing
View of my grandparent's house and also Uncle Antonio's house
The wooden walkways are accessible for Motorbikes
The wooden walkway between Uncle Antonio's house and ours
Grandad's masterpiece: Why I say that is because my late grandad built this house single handedly from iron wood (belian). That is what makes this grand house a sentimental piece. If anyone asks me to build a house like this now, its beyond me.
Uncle Antonio's house - the last time I was here which is a long time ago, it was not green
The small orange (limau) tree - when I was a small kid my late grandparents would always bring the limau fruits for me and my sister in Sibu when they visit us.
The old jars which once stored tuaks and rice
Inside the living room of the old house - I would be sitting there listening to my late grandparents telling me short stories
The large water jar that was once used to store rainwater where I would take my bath. Though I would usually go to the river some times and the lemonade bottles (cream soda taste) which was my favourite is still there till now
The dining room: The dining table where we would have our meals is still intact
The fireplace (kitchen) where my late grandparents would prepare our meals when we visit them is still in its original setting
While walking along the walkway back to the car i noticed the food ration at the edge of the walkway and was wondering whom it belonged to
At a distance I saw a small figure of a boy rolling a large drum barrel. I asked my dad what he was doing and I was told he was preparing the padi field for padi planting whereby the rolling of the drum to flatted the tall grasses (which would become natural fertilisers). usually the alternative way would be to burn the grasses
I went over to the boy with my shoes in the mud and started interviewing him. His name was Igai and he was helping his parents prepare the padi field for replanting. He was 14 years old. I asked him if it was hard job 9a rather silly question I know) and I was surprised at the reply "Enda lama aku nembu kerja tu, lima jam tau tembu" (translated: it means "No sweat, the field will be ready in 5 hours). In the hot Sun! Ask me to roll that and I will probably collapse of heatsroke in 30 minutes.
See how Igai does it: No Sweat - but look at the size of the field in the picture
The Sibu trip has a therapeutic effect in some ways. My interaction with the Foriegn Military Attache Corps, the short moments of slipping into a time machine when I was at Bawang Assan and talking to that boy named Igai came together like a vortex sucked into my head. I reflected on the briefings I gave regarding the success story of Sarawak in trying to achieve a Developed State. I had shown pictures of modern Sarawak and its modern infrastructures, discussed on our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), available business opportunities and many more. And here comes the picture of a young boy named Igai, helping out his family n the fields, when he should be in school, getting the education needed to give him a better life. I asked myself, how many Igais are there now in Sarawak? There is another 15 years to Sarawak becoming a Developed State and how will that change Igai's life when we reach there? These are questions for our people to answer - maybe for the Dayaks themselves to answer. Why I say this - let me share some excerpts (based on the official Dewan Hansards) of debate between YB Voon Lee Shan (Batu Lintang) with an Iban YB in the recently concluded Dewan Undangan Negeri Meeting.
Y.B. Encik Voon Lee Shan: ....there is a need to address persistent socio-economic inequalities constructively and productively or achieving growth with distribution ... the growing intra-ethnic income and inequality which validates that the NEP benefits the few who are rich at the expense of the majority who remain poor (edit).....look at our Dayak friends in the state, peda bansa Iban, especially in the rural areas. The answer that poverty is abundant in Sarawak is obvious. The NEP does not address sufficiently their poverty...... May please Dayak leaders stand up, help the Dayak people.
YB Iban response: Tuan Speaker, point of clarification. Could you just substantiate that the Dayaks in rural areas are poor.
Y.B. Encik Voon Lee Shan: I think you may know the answer yourself. The 2004 … (Interruption).
YB Iban response: I think you are making an allegation for that.
Y.B. Encik Voon Lee Shan: I am not … (Interruption)
YB Iban response: You are not a Dayak.
That remark by a YB whose name I choose not to reveal just shows what kind of attitude we have. I do not blame him or anyone else and I also thank all YBs who brought up the issue related to uplifting every Sarawakians standard of living. And since our wise Iban YB has put it that way, I would be hoping that he would be able to come up with some concrete plan for helping our people. "Its as if the Iban YB is implying only a Dayak have the right to talk about our Dayaks' poverty plight. Let's check out the facts given and dispel any untruths if any. If the facts are wrong, let us proudly show that we are right. If its true, lets work together to eradicate poverty then. Then, let's do something together with the other Dayak YBs and preferably the non dayak YBs. I appeal to all - do not use poverty issues as a weapon for arguments. No need for rebuttals and headbutts please when it comes to poverty issues. For Igai's sake, and the many Igai's out there - we will try our best to give our people their share in enjoying the fruits of a Developed State". I have to reiterate, I am neither against nor am I for any one on the poverty issue. Poverty is a common enemy and it knows no race, color or ethnicity. All the people's representatives - irregardless of political alignments or inclinations, let's not rebutt or headbutt our way to emptiness - let's unite when it comes to trying to ensure that no single human should be victims of poverty.