SIBU: Sibu Foochow Association member Joseph Tang was shocked yesterday that his dialect clan still does not have its own burial ground after having settled here for more than a century.
He said members had been ‘borrowing’ land of other organisations for their burials, adding it was understandable in the beginning because their forefathers were poor.
He said the Hokkiens, who arrived decades earlier than the Foochows, had reached out in goodwill and friendship to let the dead of the Foochows be buried in their cemetery.
“We appreciate this friendship of the Hokkiens, but after a century there is no excuse why Sibu Foochow Association still cannot bury their own dead.”
Tang said it was high time the clan association set up their own burial ground, and this coming Sunday is the crucial time to endorse this in the clan election.
He said there were currently two teams fighting to control the association, and the team led by prominent businessman Datuk Lau Cheng Kiong had made it clear it would set up the burial ground at Mile 25, Oya Road on a 60-acre land.
Tang said he was pleased Cheng Kiong’s team would also highlight efforts in the community’s education development.
“In fact, these basic needs were among the reasons our forefathers had set up our clan association — to care for the well being of our people. But after 100 years, we are still lacking in these basic needs. I am shocked.”
Tang said he had read Cheng Kiong’s election manifesto and these must be the points on which clan members must base their decision when they cast their votes this Sunday.
He said he had yet to read the manifesto of the other team led by Albert Lau.
He said Albert has been quiet on this, adding if he made his manifesto public, he would also analyse it for the benefits of all.
In the nomination on Monday, Albert submitted 42 candidates for his Team A while Cheng Kiong submitted 43.
There were four other ‘independent’ candidates.
The election commission had announced a total of 89 candidates would fight their way into the association’s 43-member committee for the next term of office.
In the press conference yesterday, Tang elaborated that the Foochows, mainly peasants, settled in Sibu in 1901.
“More than a century on, we have done well.
Is it excusable we still cannot shoulder our basic needs? Has the Foochow Association diverted from its social and welfare roles?”
Tang said matters in Foochow Association were not all about karaoke, feasting and drinking.
He said it was not wrong for clan leaders to receive guests from China, set up public relations with the government and the ministers and host tours to China, “but we have more important duties handed down by our forefathers.”
He said Foochows make up more than 70 per cent of the Chinese in Sibu, “and to tell others we cannot bury our dead is something ridiculous”.
He said the Foochows are hard working, determined and capable people, and they have built a reputation in the country for their undertakings.
Foochows also had a proud history of being a community invited by the then Sarawak Government to open up land for agricultural and economic development, he added.
“Many other dialect clan members came here on their own for commercial reasons.”
On education, he said it was sad the clan association had not been helping poor students.
He agreed the proposed efforts of Cheng Kiong to set up an education foundation for this purpose.
He said the clan association was being set up for the benefits of the whole community.
He appealed: “Do not make it an organisation for personal gains. Elected leaders should also not abuse the power given to them by the people, and most importantly, don’t let some ‘towkeys’ control you from behind”.
Tang joined Sibu Foochow Association more than three decades ago.
“I was introduced into it by the late Temenggong Ting Lik Hung. Until today, I remain a member.”