Many may wonder why the Bidayuh traditional Village Elders, also known as Ketau Kaum or Tua Kampong(TK) are described as “meek” and other derogatory terms. In the old days, Tua Kampongs are elected by the residents of the village on one door one vote basis. It follows the tradition of one door to provide only one person also to do any community work now called “gotong royong” especially to cut their footpaths, etc annually. The total costs of all the pigs and or chickens used during the year for all the Gawai and rituals are divided equally and each door will contribute one share each.
Normally, only the real achievers who had earned the respect of his fellow villagers will be asked by the majority to take the post of Tua Kampong to represent them when confronted by outsiders or the Government of the Day. At the same time the next individual will be elected to be the Second in command and his title is called the “KOMITI”.
The Tua Kampong is the leader who also become their judge and jury in any disputes or misconduct occurring in his village. He is also the counselor for those in need. He helps to settle land disputes or inheritance, etc. His word is their law.
Clever talkers who are selfish and relatively poor almost never get elected. Of course a “gila, gila’ person as alleged by the YB for Tasik Biru will never get elected to become a Tua Kampong. For a person to say so, he is insulting the whole of the Bidayuh Community and especially the village so alleged. It is an utmost disrespect to the community to be branded as having a Tua kampong who is “gila, gila”.
Wisdom is earned and is accorded by the observers, not by the person himself. Being elected a TK is always a personal mandate and based on personal merits alone. Every village will want to have a wise person to mediate in their chores and problems. The longer they serve as the village elders, the wiser they get. This is why no traditional village will elect a new TK while the serving one is alive. If he is unable to do the work in certain areas, his Second man in charge known as the “Komiti” will do those chores on his behalf. If he cannot perform cetain rituals or ceremonies, the expert also known as “Tukang Gawea”, “Pinguguh”, “Pinginang”, or any other person with the necessary knowledge will perform those specific functions. It is these type of co-operation and understanding which keep them alive despite of all the challenges facing the Bidayuhs in the past, present and the future.
However the TK remains to be the overall leader of the Village. Now politicians also want to utilize their leadership for their political convenience. This is alien to them till Malaysia Day and now. It should not been done as no village will agree to join a single political party. Involving the “Judge and Jury” will immediately split the village. We have seen IBAN longhouses splitting into shorter and newer ones because of politics. There are several villages in Bau District where they cannot work together like the good old days because they have current and former TKS.
To charge them as non-performers is the unkindness cut BN politicians can do. What are things they are supposed to do? Just reporting to the District Office once a week is to be part of their performance output. It is the biggest “BULLSHIT” which the present administration wants them to do. What is the hell they are suppose to do, just to know about BN YBS schedule? If that is their job, then the YBS or BN must top up their allowances with their own fund and not the Taxpayers’ money. Remember all Tua Kampongs have families to feed and making it compulsory for them to attend to all BN politicians all over the district is pure slavery at RM 450 per month. In fact, one the “sacked” TK told me that he is now happy, because now he can attend to his pepper again and free to do what he wants and is determined to fight BN in the coming State Election. I must thank the BN YB for that.
Look folks, if you think becoming Tua Kampong is a big deal, just remember my father who started with being the most successful person in our village. He had a “belian detached” house when I was young, then changed to Zinc roofing when others were still using “attaps”. We had a lot of jars, baskets, brass trays, etc but when I came back in 1974, almost everything were gone. He must have given them away as souvenirs, etc. Even our big Dragon jar was gone. Luckily for him he was not “sacked” by politicians or the District Office till his death at 82+ in 1986. However he would be asked by the District Office to become an adjudicator in difficult cases. The honor and respect accorded to him must have made it easier for me to enter the political arena as till to-day I refuse to smoking and drinking as “baits”. His only worry about me going to politics was that I am non-smoker and not a drinker, as he said, “how am I going to talk to the people?”. But thank to the honor and respect he had earned all those years helped me to win anyway.
To ensure that Sarawak will have a better future, the Government of the Day ought to leave the Tua Kampongs to do the business of looking after the welfare of their villages without political interference or instigations. Non-performance, obsolete, old age and “gila gila” should not be the excuses for bending them to obey politicians’ command and wishes.