My father was a Village elder from the Japanese Occupation till his death in 1986 at the age of 82. He was the “Komiti” when TK Kobut of Blimbin was alive. Yet he did all the job of the Tua Kampong when the Tua kampong was not around or was “too old” to do the job without undermining to replace him. Still villagers were happy then, there was no petty thefts, no rapes, or whatever social ills which are now daily stories for all newspapers. There were no fences or locks necessary then. The people can leave their homes without worrying about anything. There were semblance of order and self respect prevailing as everyone valued honor and righteousness. Yet neither the Bible or the Koran was ever read to “civilize” any individual. However all it takes for Law and Order to prevail was the existence of the swift “Bidayuh Justice” and the fear of the CURSE, aptly called “TULAH”.
“TULAH” is more than a loss of Karma or sin which can be forgiven or re-earned. “TULAH” once incurred will be there forever. The traditional Bidayuh children were taught to respect anyone older than himself for fear of being cursed. They were taught not even to go behind their backs or touch their heads otherwise one may get the curse. Respect for the Elder is one of the tenets of the Bidayuh way of life. There are many other codes of conduct which must be observed to enjoy a long and blessed life. Cheating and lying are total “NO, NO” to a Traditional Bidayuh. Now of course they are taught to cheat and lie everyday to get ahead by the concept of “Malaysia BOLEH”. “TULAH” is no longer the FEAR as MONEY and POWER are now “KINGS” in the Malaysia new way of life. For example, Money and power can also bring about forty Honorable Members of Parliament for an instant “STUDY” tour to Taiwan and Hong Kong where two members though complained that they were allegedly given only RM 1,000.00 in Taiwan and another USD 1,000.00 when moving back to Hong Kong after being threatened by the Typhoon there despite an earlier promise of a bigger sum.
Now with better education and the “new” religions, the peace enjoyed prior to Malaysia and Independence is more or less gone in almost all the Bidayuh Village. Drunkenness, immoralities, laziness, individualism, and other undesirable traits have taken over. Everyone seems to forget the strengths of the old Bidayuh character which encompasses more than the TEN COMMANDMENTS of Moses. There is no longer the fear of “TULAH” as long as one has the money with which he/she apparently can buy forgiveness, etc…. One can also inflict any form of actions as long as it can be justified or rationalized. When you have power, you can use it any way you see fit irrespective whether it is just or not. As it is often said in management terms, ” THE BOSS IS ALWAYS RIGHT”. It is clearly seen in TUN Mahathir’s journey in life so far. When he was in power he used ISA, OSA and whatever to stay in power as one could not question him,because “HE WAS RIGHT”. When Anwar did, he slammed him with Corruption and Sodomy charges, sending him to prison and out of his way. Now he left UMNO because the present UMNO leaders “won’t allow him to meet and address members to “screw” his new BOSS, Pak Lah, who is now “MUST BE ALWAYS RIGHT”.
While Malaysia progresses and the competition for the limited resources intensifies, the Village Elders are still expected by his followers to look after their welfare and adjudicate in their quarrels or disagreement. They are expected to help them when they are in troubles. They are expected to help them when they are sick or are in need. This is why they always elect some one who are helpful and rather well off. Now they are also expected to be involved actively to keep BN in power as clearly stated by Jabu to-day in front page of BORNEO POST. JABU is of course right as he has the Power.
One of the Tua Kampong who was forced to resign said, “How can I go on doing the YB’s bidding? When there is no money, he asked us to do things on gotong royong basis… but when there is money he asked his men to do the things on contract basis…”. Another Tua Kampong who terminated told me he had campaigned hard for BN.( Of course, BN lost the village votes to me thus in Nansian’s term “non-performance”). One Tua Kampong who was terminated as he is possibly alleged to be “old and sick” was really happy to be terminated as “after over thirty-five years helping the Government”, he is now free to attend to his pepper garden which he has to neglect before because of his frequent “official duties”. All he really needs to function well was a Hearing Aid as he is hard of hearing. Of course, BN cannot afford to provide “hearing aids” for Tua Kampongs. Hopefully PR government can.
My poor old friend, Tua Kampong Kopak of Bunga Rampai was also terminated apparently because of old age. Pity that the Government cannot afford to allow him the dignity to serve till he dies like my father. I am pretty sure that Bunga Rampai would not achieved full development status by just getting rid of Tua Kampong who “no longer able to function within govt machinery must go: Jabu” headliner in Borneo Post to-day. I am pretty sure BN won Bungai Rampai votes in the last Parliamentary election. Termination is of course justified because there is not such thing as “gratitude” nowadays.
Thus the dilemma of village elders now whether to serve or not to serve…. either way you will get sack anyway as long as the “assessment by the DOS and SAOs” are unfavorable … “nothing political, said Nansian as there are four ways to lose TK’s job”…. blah …blah….
To avoid this dilemma, STAR, once in power, will instruct the Administration to stay away from interfering with the internal affairs of the villagers. They will be encouraged and supported to look after the disciple and order in their respective villages without political fear or favor. The natives rights and customs will be enhanced to bring back the good old days of the tranquil villages which will be modernized but are not harassed by competing interests, especially moral decadences and petty politics.