1Malaysia inspires Penans to progress
Posted on June 24, 2012, Sunday
MIRI: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia is inspiring the Penan community in Ba’ Balau in the interior of Baram to move forward with other communities in the country.
“We acknowledge that we are very far left behind compared to other communities,” settlement headman Tebaran Siden told thesundaypost during Petronas’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme for several Penan settlements in the interior of Baram recently.
Also present was Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.
Tebaran said their nomadic lifestyle and habit had hindered their progress.
“We now know that education is the key that could bring development and change,” he added.
Tebaran admitted that another stumbling block was parents pulling their children from school so they could be in jungles to collect fruits during fruit seasons. And some parents couldn’t bear being parted from their children for a long time.
Such attitudes make the children themselves careless about education as they want to be one with the nature, and close to their parents, hence the large number of dropouts.
“This has to be stop as we cannot continue living like this,” said Tebaran, who pledged to get parents to emphasise education.
He said education was now free together with other forms of assistance for school-going children.
The Penan community at Ba’ Balau are sending their children to study at Long Seridan, a two-hour journey from the settlement.
Parents request for young children to be accepted in pre-school in Long Seridan but were turned down as there is no boarding facility for young children.
The headman has, therefore, asked Dennis for the settlement to be provided with a kindergarten.
Their past nomadic lifestyle is a problem for their children to be registered in schools and receive government aid.
“Many of us are still without birth certificate and identity card. Most child births are not registered in hospital or clinic as most are born in the jungle, making it difficult to have birth certificates,” he said.
The nomadic lifestyle also makes it difficult for the government to distribute assistance to the community.
The community led by Tebaran has therefore decided to cease their nomadic life style to permanently reside at Ba’ Balau. A timber company operating in the area has built a longhouse for them and a bridge to cross the river.
During the visit, thesundaypost noted a big change taking place in the community: there were quite a number of individual houses in the area, a church complete with pastor’s house (Borneo Evangelical Mission), a sepak takraw court and fruit trees and vegetables in the compound.
Tebaran said they still depend on the jungle for meat and other produce though they rear chicken.
They have asked for the rubber planting scheme to be extended to the settlement.
“The government is our only hope to bring changes to the community,” said Tebaran who pledged the community’s support for government and private sector initiated development programmes or activities.
“We did not see any development after instigations by human rights organisations, supposedly fighting for our rights, to go against the government and companies by erecting blockades. They want us to continue living the nomadic lifestyle of the past, but we want change and not to be left behind,” said Tebaran.