By Joseph Tawie
KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister and long-time Betong assemblyman Alfred Jabu Numpang is a true-blue Dayak who has served in the Barisan Nasional for the last 37 years, but is said to have done little to help the poor in his community.
Earlier this year, FMT reported that Layar in the Betong constituency was among the most neglected sites in Sarawak, with a majority of the longhouses without water, electricity and roads.
Jabu’s responses to the community’s pleas and his inactions over the years have deeply disappointed the Dayaks and, to some extent, himself.
According to Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU), Jabu is “helpless” and this was evident in his outburst during his winding-up debate in the State Legislative Assembly recently.
SDNU, which has more than 100,000 members, is the biggest Dayak’s non-governmental organisation in the country.
Citing some evidence of Jabu’s helplessness, SDNU deputy president John Brian Anthony said: “Jabu badly wanted to be recognised as the man who led the Dayaks out of poverty.
“Just a few days ago, he even attacked DAP for being the stumbling block to the Dayaks’ progress in Kanowit.
“But the landowners have come out to rebut Jabu, saying that after 15 years they have not received any dividends.
“They even stated they are taking legal action against the joint venture (with oil palm companies) and will pull out of it,” said Anthony, who is also the chairman of Dayak Consultative Council, a think-tank that is advising DAP on how to tackle Dayaks’ problems.
Anthony also asked why agricultural training centres (ATC) set up to train Dayak youths in the state have been closed for the last 10 years.
“They (government) gave no reason for the closure. In the same period, the state Barisan Nasional government went on a rampage to grab and rob Dayaks of their native customary rights (NCR) land.
“It almost seemed that the BN government had closed the ATCs on purpose so that the Dayaks would not progress in the commercial agriculture,” he said, adding that during the same period seedlings, farm chemicals and fertiliser subsidies were also cut.
Anthony recalled that no new rubber trees were planted and no padi planting schemes were initiated.
“There was never any real attempt… they (the government) never tried to improve the Dayaks’ lot,” he said.
When Penan girls and women were raped and cried for help, he said that Jabu, who was the minister responsible for the welfare of the Penan, did not come out to help.
Instead, Jabu insulted the community by saying that it was the Penan’s culture of having early and uncontrolled sex, Anthony said.
“All these are said not as a campaign to hate Jabu, because that is the last thing we should do to a Dayak leader.
“This is the feedback (we got). He can still help himself and the Dayak community as a whole,” said Athony.
‘Cannot stay in job forever’
However, Anthony said that Jabu has done good things for Betong.
“But as deputy chief minister, is it not his duty to help develop Sarawak (as a whole)?
“Or is Jabu so humble and simplistic in his thinking that he cannot produce good ideas for development?” asked Anthony.
He added that it was common knowledge that Jabu refused to listen to the ideas of others.
“He feels that if those are not his ideas, then such ideas are bad,” he said.
But Dayaks looked at Jabu’s projects such as the planting of “Kepayang” trees, rearing of fish (“terubok” and “empurau”), canning of rambutan and planting of wild vegetables “as jokes only”, he added.
Anthony advised Jabu not to “sell” his soul in order to gain a good life at the expense of his own people.
“We cannot stay in the job forever. When we step down and without a powerful office behind us, the Dayaks will spit on our face for all the injustices that we have inflicted on them,” he added. – FMT