Friday, April 22, 2011



When the White Rajah, James Brooke of Borneo, treated the Ibans as pirates, Rentap, an Iban leader, led a rebellion against him and managed to secure Skrang and Saribas. Brooke retaliated with bigger cannons and drove Rentap to Pakan, where the Iban warrior later died in 1863.

Rentap is a Malaysian hero. His battlecry is Agi Idup, Agi Ngelaban! which means ‘I will fight for as long as I live’.

Mutang Urud, Peter John Jaban, Clare Rewcastle Brown, Bruno Manser are Sarawak’s modern-day freedom-fighters. They are today’s equivalent of Rentap.

There are others like them, whose names we do not know but whose work is just as important and as dangerous. All are trying to free Sarawak from the oppressive rule of its Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
In the 19th century, Brooke used money from the spice trade to purchase bigger cannons to fight the Iban rebels.

In the modern day context, Taib’s billions which he made from logging, was poured into Sarawak’s hinterlands to buy votes and to pay people like the Election Commission, to look the other way.

Taib is smart. He didn’t stage-manage ‘wins’ in the areas where DAP has a strong presence, as that would raise too much suspicion.

However, let’s not be too quick to judge and blame the rural voter who voted BN. After all, BN has had a lifetime of brainwashing people who now, cannot ‘think’ for themselves or be empowered to improve their lives.

When your lands are snatched from you and you scratch a living earning RM10 a day or less as a labourer, RM50 (the current going rate to buy your votes; it was RM20 at the last election) is a princely sum.
When your tuai rumah tells you to vote BN because he fears the worst, and when thugs threaten you, who are you to know any better?

When you’ve seen your life and your livelihood go downhill, or when you are told there will be no development if BN is not voted in, the poor Iban suddenly feels that the community’s well-being rests with him alone. The responsibility is enormous. He has been manipulated by BN but he does not know that.

Living in exile

The reports of vote rigging, ballot boxes being swopped and blackouts during counting are serious. Bersih and other activists as well as local election/political observers were barred from entering Sarawak, because Taib was up to no good.

Mutang, Peter, Clare and Bruno have been instrumental in giving Sarawakians hope. They highlighted many of the injustices in the Land of the Hornbills.

In their own way, they have rallied people in the longhouses, kedai kopis, warungs, pasars and offshore rigs, and prompted them to question Taib’s rule: “Why should Taib continue to plunder Sarawak?”

In the 80s, Bruno Manser highlighted the problems faced by the Penan and one day, he disappeared from the jungle.

Fast forward to 2008, and the Penan women who are raped by loggers have yet to receive justice. The rapists work for companies belonging to Taib’s cronies and remain free to this day.

How many have heard of Mutang Urud? Today, he lives in exile in Canada. He was arrested and placed in solitary confinement by Taib in February 1992 for running the Sarawak Indigenous Peoples’ Association (SIPA).

On Dec 10, 1992, Mutang spoke before the 47th UN General Assembly in New York about the plight of Sarawak’s indigenous peoples. Last month, in Canada, he led the protest march against Taib’s corrupt regime.

Clare Rewcastle Brown is the founder of Radio Free Sarawak and author of Sarawak Report. She was born in Sarawak and lived there in her early childhood. She has through her investigative reporting, detailed Taib’s illegally obtained wealth, his corruption and also abuse of power.

Sarawak Report illustrated Taib’s greed and how he snatched the lands of countless local communities. Taib plans to double the area of oil palm plantations and flood the country with new waves of 12 more unecessary dams.

Clare knows that Sarawakians will show courage and determination to change their future, despite intimidation at the polls. Besides providing information, Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak have given Sarawakians a platform to list their concerns.

Peter John Jaban is the voice behind Radio Free Sarawak. Peter comes from the same longhouse as Alfred Jabu and graduated in Communications from Florida University, St. Petersburg. Peter was once a civil servant in the Sarawak Land and Survey Department.

With access to various papers in the Land Office, Peter was shocked by Taib, chanelling billions of ringgits into companies which he and his family owned.

Peter attempted to warn the rakyat through the Sarawak Dayak Assoication (SADIA) but Taib was too powerful and Taib’s secrets were never exposed.

Ever since Taib discovered that Peter was the voice of Radio Free Sarawak, attempts have been made to sully Peter’s character. They claimed Peter was sacked from his work, and portrayed him as a drug dealer and a philanderer.

Back in 2006, Peter offered his resignation to contest in the elections of May 2006. He was never sacked. Unfortunately, Peter was double-crossed but later became an activist and started a local pirate radio station, in Kuching, to expose Taib’s corruptions. In 2008, Peter worked as the chief co-ordinator of the Free and Fair Elections in Sarawak.

In 2010, Peter left for London to continue his struggle.

Modern-day Rentap

People who speak out against the Malaysian government are detained under any one of four oppressive laws – the Internal Security Act, the Emergency Ordinance, the Dangerous Drugs Act and the Restricted Residence Act.

Peter could not risk being incarcerated because the fight to remove Taib had to continue, even if it meant Peter would never see his family for a long time.

True to form, Taib’s thugs have targeted Peter’s family and children. Peter’s business permits have been withdrawn and anyone dealing with him has been put under intense pressure to sever all ties.
Many who fought for Sarawak, are now forced to live in exile or live in fear of being incarcerated – so they keep quiet.

However, Sarawak’s modern-day Rentap – Peter John Jaban, Mutang Urud and Clare Rewcastle Brown have vowed to continue the struggle to free Sarawak from tyranny and oppression.
The ordinary people of Sarawak may have been robbed of their right to vote on April 16. 

But, agi idup agi ngelaban

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist

Source   :