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Iban bloggers join in Batang Ai campaign

March 9, 2009


Tony Thien | Mar 9, 09 11:49am

[14 March 2009 update: see list of Sarawak blogs here, courtesy of Otto Steinmayer]

Campaigning for the April 7 Batang Ai by-election has taken on a new dimension as far as politics in rural Sarawak are concerned.

Party leaders and campaign workers have turned to the blogsphere to reach out to educated and urban-based voters and – through them – to relatives living in longhouses.

The bloggers had begun the ‘Battle of the Dayak Blogsphere’ even before the Election Commission set the date for nomination (March 29) and polling. The seat was vacated by the death of Dublin Unting Ingkot (left).

There are also at least four Dayak community portals, among which are Ruai Apai, Rumah Panjai and Rumah Dayak.

Of the 20 bloggers, about six have the most active blog-spots. These include Dayak Nation, operated by Sri Aman PKR branch leader John Cobbold Losoi whose site also features a video section.

Losoi, who is also a activist on native customary rights (NCR) to land and an oil palm smallholder, had unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary elections in the state last March.

Another Iban blogger is KL-based management consultant John Brian Anthony who, through Dayak Baru, has started a fund-raising drive in support of PKR in Batang Ai.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu Youth chief Fadillah Yusof, a federal deputy minister, has advised the public to be extra cautious “in dealing with such play-acting (by bloggers)”, according to a report in The Borneo Post today.

Anthony, responding to this, said his initiative in helping to raise funds is in the name of democracy.

“I want to educate the public on the real meaning of democracy. Elections should not be the time for the people to ask for money from political parties,” he was quoted as saying.

“If we like a political party and if it needs money to achieve certain objectives, then the public should be allowed to donate.”

Also active in articulating NCR and social issues affecting Dayaks is Joseph Tawie, a retired government officer, whose blogspot The Broken Shield gets between 500 and 1,000 hits daily.

Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and his deputy Alfred Jabu have been the main targets of criticism in the many blog postings.

Taib has been largely blamed for policies encouraging large-scale commercial cultivation of oil palm, logging and tree planting on land to which NCR have been exerted, while Jabu is seen as doing little or nothing to defend NCR.

Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians, including Lubok Antu MP William Nyallau, have repeatedly said that NCR are not an issue in Batang Ai and that all existing problems are being addressed by the state government.

Another blog-spot, Teropong Dunya Aki Andan run by Iban lawyer Henry Joseph, posts well-researched articles to highlight social and economic issues affecting his community.

Pro-BN blog-spots

The state BN has its own supporters among the Dayak bloggers. Among them is Tedewin Ngumbang (Borneo Warrior), who is closely associated with Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president and state Land Development Minister James Masing.

Once quite critical of the state BN, his postings are now in support of whoever the BN-PRS fields for the Batang Ai seat. Ironically, there is no love lost between him and Jabu.

A former police officer, Tedewin has apparently told friends and associates that he wants to contest against Jabu in Layar in the next state election.

Another pro-BN blog is Uchu Keling run by Miri-based blogger James Guang, who is fiercely supportive of Jabu and his policies and projects for the Dayak community.

In his latest posting, Guang talks about Jabu’s ‘immense’ contributions to the community through the establishment of the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra), which is tasked with developing NCR land of the Dayaks.

He claimed that many Dayaks have reaped benefits and dividends from oil palm cultivation through Salcra.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2009 3:25 pm

    BN pay people to vote for them. We want a new culture where people should contribute to parties that champion their issues and ideal.

    If a Party buy people support (votes) then that is the root cause of corruption in our country. The party who buy these votes would have to find a financial source and that include “abuse of power and corruption at the highest level”.

    If the people donate their money to a Party – then we would have a Party that must be very careful with any abuse or corrputed practices.

  2. steven permalink
    March 9, 2009 3:51 pm

    As a mixed dayak(father-indian/mother-bidayu)my heart bleeds for what has happen to the dayak people after the white sultan/rajah left sarawak in the hand of some new colonial masters.Dayaks have lost their Prime Minister post/Chief Minister post.As a result their language/religion(christinity)has been downgraded even when they are the majority in Sarawak by the new colonial masters.

  3. March 9, 2009 9:47 pm

    How much of this Iban blogging is reaching the rural areas? Are there any indirect channels for those people without direct access to the internet (e.g. word of mouth, print-outs, neighbours’ or market town computers)?

  4. March 10, 2009 6:22 am

    visit and see what the BN government have done for the people of Sarawak.

  5. March 10, 2009 9:26 am

    Poverty at home forced many Dayak to move to urban areas. Many took the opportunity to pursue education and start a salaried working life. But job is scarce.

    In effect, about 60,000-70,000 Dayaks move to West Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and work in Offshore oil platform around the world. Many of these Dayak have access to internet.

    These Dayak internet user do support their families and relative in interior Sarawak by sending them money for food and sibling education. Thus, they become a big influence in the decision making structure of their family in the interior.

    Dayakbaru for example has been printed out, photo copied, translated into Iban language and distributed to rural folks by Dayak (teachers, gov’t servant, plantation workers,those working overseas and coming back for annual break from their job. who resist discrimination of the indigenous people (Dayak) and marginalization of Dayak through politic.

    The magic of Dayak blog is – many turn into hard copies.

  6. steven permalink
    March 10, 2009 12:57 pm

    I agree with JOHN POSTILL that just blogging in the internet will not have much effect on the DAYAKS who are largely rural voters.Neverthless i am happy a lot of this articles which are hotly debated among dayak intellectuals are translated into iban and distributed among the rural dayaks.Another effective way is by distributing this hard copy in churches or chapels.

  7. March 10, 2009 1:03 pm

    Thanks Steven. Perhaps I should clarify that I wasn’t really implying that these Web contents aren’t reaching the rural areas, it was just a question to those who are on the ground as I haven’t been back to Sarawak (where I did research among the Iban in 1996-1998 and 2001) since a short trip in 2004, and in 2004 I didn’t have time to visit rural areas.

  8. January 6, 2010 1:00 pm

    Hi John,

    No poverty at all. Fyi, betong town has already build with a wifi hot-spot and the coffee shop has a build in wifi – you can eat and suff! Back in Entanak i dont have a wifi because it was a short trip. Spending time with Ini and aki. I was there for a mth last year for my work project. Btw, I don’t think you remember me. My grandfather is Penghulu Thomas Dundang 😉

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