A Bidayuh home away from home

A baruk at the DBNA Activity Centre in Kampung Bidayuh Lusut.

MANY Bidayuhs venture outside their villages and homes to work and build their lives in another city, state or even country. They can be from Bau, Serian, Padawan, Penrissen and various parts of Kuching Division.

But for the Bidayuhs in Miri, they have found a place to call home — Kampung Bidayuh in Lusut, Sungai Dalam, less than 20 minutes from the city centre. It is led by 69-year-old headman Jimmy Nyahen, a retired policeman.

Of the various ethnic groups that migrated to Miri, only the Bidayuhs managed to create a village there for themselves. It all started in 1993, when Jimmy and four of his friends explored a jungle area in Sungai Dalam to see if they could set up a kampung.

“I heard from a friend there is a piece of land in Lusut that could be turned into a kampung. So my friends and I went to check it out. There, we met a Chinese man called Ah Hua, who had been living in the area for about eight years. He had a garden planted with various types of crops.

“He told me he has TOL (Temporary Occupation Licence) from the government to build his house and that made me even more confident to start a kampung at the place,” Jimmy told thesundaypost at his house in Lusut.

He recalled going to the Land and Survey Department to enquire about the status of the land his friend told him about and see if he could set up a kampung on it. At the department, he learned the land was, in fact, vacant state land.

“The officer told me if I really wanted to start a kampung on the land, I have to make an effort to do it properly. And after 10 years, the government may consider gazetting it as a kampung.”

In 1995, Jimmy and his friends cleared some areas on the land to build their houses. There were only five of them living in the area at that time but since they wanted to do it properly, they formed a village committee and applied to the Land and Survey Department to give the land kampung status.

Jimmy said between 2006 and 2007, they followed up on the application with Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong.

“Dato Sri took us to meet with the then Land and Survey Department superintendent and we were informed our application had been received and was being processed.”

He remembered the officer at the department assuring them the application would be approved within three months but they only received the greenlight in 2010. Subsequently, a total of 27.5ha was allocated for the kampung.

“We were happy because we could then apply for facilities such as a proper road, electricity and water. Before that, all expenses for use of a village road were collected from among the families in the area. Some gave RM20, some RM50, while those who could afford gave RM100. We used the money to build a road into the kampung.”

Jimmy said they relied on contributions from fellow villagers to survive before the kampung was given allocations by the local council and the Public Works Department.

“I got my water supply in 2004. At that time, the application for this facility was made with the TOL certificate, granted to me when I built my house at Ulu Sungai Dalam, Taman Tunku, Miri. So before I moved in, I already had water.

“As for electricity supply, it had to be implemented as a private project in 2005. Only nine families managed to get electricity through the project as the charges were RM2,400 per family. The others could not afford it.”

Road and electricity projects

In 2010, Manyin, then Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications, approved an RM17 million road project for the whole of Lusut.

He also approved an RM350,000 electricity project for Kampung Bidayuh, benefitting 58 families. The projects were implemented from 2010 through to 2013.

In 2011, former Minister of Rural and Regional Development Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal approved an RM100,000 allocation for the construction of a community hall in Kampung Bidayuh.

Sibuti member of parliament Datuk Ahmad Lai Bujang topped up the amount with another RM100,000. Kampung Bidayuh finally got its community hall to hold cultural and festive events, among others.

In 2013, Jimmy requested for a Kemas kindergarten to be built in the kampung and it was immediately approved.

“Now we have more than 30 children, including those from other Lusut areas, attending the kindergarten,” he said.

According to Jimmy, there are now over 1,200 people from 205 families registered as residents of Kampung Bidayuh. Of the number, 85 are Bidayuh families, while the rest are of different ethnicities.

The Bidayuhs living in this kampung are originally from Serian, Bau, Padawan and Penrissen. But the majority are from Serian and the person who started the kampung is also from a village — Kampung Temong, Tebedu — in Serian.

“I informed the families about Kampung Bidayuh and invited them to build their houses and live there. I used various ways to reach out to them, including through the Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA). At that time, the land was free for them to build their houses. We did not sell the land, we just invited them to join us to build a kampung. But years later, some sold off their lots and left,” Jimmy said.

According to him, they did this because of rumours the village was not recognised by the government. He pointed out that it was all idle talk with absolutely no truth to it.

Community members collect starch for linut as well as sago worms.

Help from Tok Nan

Between 2013 and 2015, Jimmy continued to follow up on their ‘kampung status’ application as the villagers were still waiting for solid documentation to verify the land had been officially gazetted as a kampung.

“In 2014, we approached the former Chief Minister, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, for the area to be gazetted and confirmed as a new kampung. He immediately approved our request, based on an in situ project under the chairmanship of Ahmad Lai Bujang.

“The gazette certificate was issued on May 3, 2016, on the instruction of Tok Nan, officially recognising our area as a kampung,” he said while expressing his gratitude to the late Chief Minister.

After the issuance of the gazette certificate, Jimmy and five other headmen in Lusut wrote to Tok Nan, requesting the government survey the area and issue land titles to the villagers.

The villagers were supposed to have received their land titles in 2016 but it has been delayed until this year. The villagers have also been following up on the matter with Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“Our request for land titles has been processed by the Land and Survey Department and since January this year, the department has been surveying the perimeter lots,” Jimmy said, adding that 1,237 families in the whole of Lusut have been registered for the land titles and of the total, 86 are from Kampung Bidayuh.

With a place to call their own, Jimmy said the Bidayuh community has been celebrating various cultural events and festive occasions such as Christmas, New Year, Gawai Dayak and even Malaysia Day in Kampung Bidayuh.

He said a sub-branch of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) has been set up in the kampung, chaired by the deputy village headman Pitos Rikaw.

The Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) Miri also has its Activity Centre there to hold programmes for the Bidayuh community in the area.

(Seated from left) Sikien, Pitos and Jimmy with some members of the village JKKK after a meeting at the DBNA Miri Activity Centre.

Official appointment awaited

With the gazettement of Kampung Bidayuh, Jimmy is requesting the government to officially elevate him to a ketua kampung as all this while he has been functioning in that position without official sanction.

“I have been carrying out my responsibilities as a ketua kampung in this way for quite a while. People come looking for me whenever there is a death or whenever they are problems or anything concerning the kampung.

“I also attend courses, briefings and meetings required of a ketua kampung. But since I don’t have official documentation, I am not entitled to any government allowances. All expenses are out of pocket.

“Actually, I don’t mind helping my own community. I consider it my contribution to them. But being a pensioner, I can’t afford to carry on like this and hope the state government will realise my predicament and give me an official appointment letter.”

Jimmy said he was told earlier he would be officially appointed once the kampung was gazetted but till now, he is still waiting for his appointment letter, adding that all the necessary documents had been submitted to the government representatives for the area.

He pointed out that all six headmen, including himself, in Lusut have not been officially appointed but they still have to discharge their responsibilities without any allowances.

The others are Ketua Kampung Rose Ganing of Kampung Lusut Jaya 1, Ketua Kampung Martin Lisen, Tuai Rumah Jembu Bangga of Kampung Lusut Jaya 3, Ketua Kampung Peter Lilin of Kampung Lusut Perpaduan, and Tuai Rumah Benson Sujang of Kampung Lusut Jaya 5.

Transit point

According to the Kampung Bidayuh Lusut village security and development committee (JKKK) adviser George Sikien Sunow, the main purpose of Kampung Bidayuh is to serve as transitionary venue for Bidayuhs, especially those unable to return to their own kampungs to celebrate festive seasons such as Gawai Dayak.

“So we provide them a place to stay and celebrate. Here, they can make friends and meet members of their community who are also living far from their original kampungs. This place is also for Bidayuh visitors to Miri.

“We can bring them here and show them our Bidayuh Village outside our hometowns — either Kuching or Serian. So we can say this is Bidayuh Village is a home away from home for those of us who cannot go back to our kampungs to visit our families or celebrate festive occasions with them,” noted Sikien, who is DBNA Miri adviser.

The Bidayuhs have celebrated various events in Kampung Bidayuh since it was established. In fact, all the residents there, irrespective of race and religion, have always worked closely together to ensure all the kampung activities are carried out harmoniously.

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