Joseph Sipalan and Wong Teck Chi
May 8, 10
May 8, 10
Limbai Semakau looks out to the Igan river, wistfully thinking of bygone days of plentiful catch and a decent income.
He beams with pride when he tells of a village fact – it is one of the few villages in Sarawak that never fears crocodile attacks.
“They don’t bother us, we don’t bother them. In the 46 years of my life, there has never been any case where someone lost a leg, or had it fractured badly or was pulled down. We can dive in the water with no fear,” he said beaming.
Recounting the village legend, Limbai explains that both villager and reptile are safe there because of a pact of mutual protection made a long time ago between their ancestors.
“It may or may not be true, but it’s a nice story,” he says, as he and a few villagers work to complete a special podium in time for a visit to the Iban village by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus J Ongkili tomorrow.
Limbai admits it stands as mere folklore, but points out that their crocodile story is one small thing the villagers can hold on to in facing their daily struggle to simply stay alive.
Fleeting dreams and drinking water
He and his family of five children, as with over 100 families living in eight longhouses in Kg Nanga Tutus, have no electricity or potable water despite being just a 45-minute boat ride away from Sibu town.
Steady employment nearby is a fleeting dream, and after the water in their Barisan-Nasional-sponsored water tanks finish, they will have to drink from the murky waters of the Igan, a large tributary of the Rajang River, until they collect enough rain water to refill their tanks.
A villager working with Limbai adds on the side that things haven’t changed all that much for them despite the many election promises of a better life.
“Every time an election comes along like now, they (BN) ask us to help them but after they win they disappear. We support the BN, but the BN is not supporting us.”
This was the same argument put forward by the tuai rumah, or headman, of one of the longhouses which was at the time hosting a visit by Communications, Culture and Arts deputy Minister Joseph Salang Gandum.
“We have supported you (BN) all this while, so we hope that you can support us.”
Limbai points out that the older generation are set in their support for BN, but sees a big shift in support among the village’s youths towards the Pakatan Rakyat.
And this is what the Pakatan is hoping to capitalise on to boost their support base among the Dayaks.
PKR election director Fuziah Salleh said the young Iban electorate are crucial to their target of getting 40 per cent of the Dayak votes in the May 16 Sibu by-election.
Indebtedness is the name of the game they are fighting against the BN, she says, on top of the alleged money politics strategy that seems to have a choke-hold on the Dayak community.
“The BN makes them feel indebted (by providing development), and if the tuai rumah says he supports one party the whole longhouse will go along with it.
“Our hope lies with the young voters, because they have broken out of that culture.”
But the challenge comes in actually getting the young voters, many of whom work either outside the state or overseas, to come back and vote, something that Fuziah admits is a major handicap for the Pakatan.
With Gawai coming only in June, she said many of the young voters would have planned their trip back to coincide with the annual Dayak harvest festival.
She suggested that the young voters reschedule their trip home to make it in time for the by-election and stayback long enough to celebrate Gawai when it officially starts on June 1.“I hope they can come back earlier.”