MIRI: It was an inspiring evening for over 600 guests, mostly Kelabits, who gathered for an appreciation dinner to pay tribute to their living hero, retired police Sub-Inspector (SI) Ngalinuh Bala, and several other unsung heroes of the Kelabit community at Pullman Miri Waterfront here on Saturday.
The guests, who were decked in their respective medals of decoration and appeared jovial the very moment they entered the dinner hall at 6.30pm, are from all walks of life, including those who were or are still serving the country as soldiers and policemen or their next-of-kin, from near and far.
The grand ceremony that was steeped in tradition, organised by Rurum Kelabit Sarawak (RKS), marked a truly significant event for the Kelabit community as it was an avenue for them to salute and honour Ngalinuh Bala, recipient of the Darjah Kebesaran Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa – SP (Grand Knight of Valour), the highest federal award which can be presented in the country, as well as other unsung heroes from their community who have fought for the country.
“About 300 Kelabits had been in the service, past and present, of the security of our country which is about five per cent of our total population of 6,000. Thus, we are indeed proud that our small community has contributed significantly to the peace and security of our beloved country.
“We (organising committee) have also discovered numerous medals and awards bestowed to many individuals from the Kelabit community. We salute and record our highest honour to all Kelabit ‘perajurit’ and especially tonight in the likes of national hero SI Ngalinuh Bala,” said RKS president Dr Philip Raja.
The grand appreciation dinner was officiated by Deputy State Legislative Assembly Speaker Datuk Gerawat Gala, the Mulu assemblyman, who also presented Jasamu Dikenang’ certificates as appreciation to the deserving recipients. He commended the organising committee for their hard work and dedication in making the event a success.
“On behalf of the state government I would like to convey the greatest respect and utmost appreciation to SI Ngalinuh for his service to the nation. We must remember that today’s prosperity and harmony are due to the sacrifice of our heroes in the past against communist threats and confrontations,” he emphasised.
In his officiating speech, Gerawat urged the Kelabit community, especially the younger generation, to emulate the heroism shown by the former ‘perajurit’ and heroes of the community in protecting the state from threats of foreign powers.
“Heroism is not just about oneself but it is more about looking after others’ welfare, protecting others from harm or from death even.
“Whilst we have every right to pursue our individual ambitions to achieve our best potential we must also not forget our community who should also benefit from our achievement. We must learn to give back to our community,” he said.
Commenting further, Gerawat said despite their very basic education, the Kelabit ‘perajurit’ managed to rise up through
their ranks through sheer dedication, hard work and determination.
“They (perajurit) did not have the privilege to pursue higher education compared to us now.
“Hence, it is a challenge for each and every one of us, especially the younger generation who among you will become a towering personality not just amongst our community in the state but in the nation to take advantage of better education and opportunities.
“Whatever you do, you have to demonstrate excellence as that is the only way for a small community like ours can stand to be counted amongst the many other communities. This is a challenge we must think seriously about,” said Gerawat.
He also hoped the courage and leadership shown by Ngalinuh would inspire the Kelabit community, especially the younger generation, to achieve success in the challenging environment today.
“In this context, I hope the Kelabit community will continue to strive to achieve success in the areas of education, economy and social and at the
same time continue to look after each other as we work together with the other communities in the process of nation building,” said Gerawat.
At the event, Gerawat announced Minor Rural Project (MRP) grant of RM10,000 for RKS to run their activities.
Among the activities held during the appreciation dinner were singing performance by Adinawati Bala who delivered mesmerising rendition of Sheila Majid’s ‘Lagenda’ and Michael Bolton’s ‘Go the Distance’, poetry recitation by Vough Sinau, reading on the events in the life of Ngalinuh Bala as well as the traditional ‘Nebang’ in honour of Ngalinuh.
The event ended with the attendees entertained by a group of bagpipers who had earlier escorted the distinguished guests into the dining hall, and group photo sessions.
Among those attending the dinner were Eastern Field Command commander Lt General Datuk Stephen Mundaw, former Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohd Jamil Johari, Sarawak Commissioner of Police Datuk Azman Yusof, Miri police chief ACP Lim Meng Seah as well as RKS advisors Datu Ose Murang and Dato Isaac Lugun.