Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kampung Semban @ Bengoh Dam Sarawak

Kampung Semban @ Bengoh Dam Sarawak Borneo

‘This Land Is My Home’

Nestled atop a mountain in Bengoh, Padawan sits a Bidayuh Biatah village called Kampung Semban.

To reach Kampung Semban at 1000 feet above sea level, one takes a six-hours’ trek through jungle trails passing bamboo groves, paddy fields, pepper vines, rubber trees, durian orchards and umpteen bamboo bridges, amidst cool breezes and the gushing waters of the streams and waterfalls.

At the summit, one is rewarded with spectacular views of the golden sunrise over the magnificent Bungo range, the billowing clouds forming a feather canopy over the valleys and with the fresh mountain air rushing into one’s lungs, Kampung Semban is indeed a place close to heaven.

The Bidayuh Biatah have been living in this mountainous region for generations. The crowded ancestral graveyard lying next to the kampong is testimony to the passage of time.

Every day at sunrise, early morning sees the village menfolk scaling the hills to till the soils and hunt in the jungle while the womenfolk collect firewood, jungle produce and edible insects such as ants. Rain or shine, this is the only life they have known.

In the evening tranquility, womenfolk string bead necklaces and weave rattan bracelets, menfolk tune and play the bamboo xylophone. On occasions, menfolk will take out the percussion gongs and the womenfolk in traditional garb will perform the eagle dance.

Time here, indeed has been dancing the slow waltz over the last few hundred years.

And what is so special about Kampung Semban ladies is its remaining treasure of seven ladies with brass rings on their legs and arms, the eldest more than 80 years old, the youngest more than sixty years old. During their time, a baby girl had to start wearing them from a very tender age if she hoped to get her hand asked for at a marriageable age.

Just lately the government has started to construct the Bengoh dam, a good few hundred feet below Kampung Semban. Development has come a-knocking on their door. When Bengoh dam is completed, life for the village folks may change for the better, or for the worse.

One thing is certain: if the people of Kampung Semban who know of no other place to call home are persuaded to move, life will have to restart from the beginning – a new place to build a home, a new area to begin a new farmland, a new resting place for the ancestral bones.

Through this ‘politics of development’, they are persuaded to relocate, and with this displacement they risk waiving their rights to the traditional lands which their forefathers braved battles and sacrificed heads for territorial claim to farm, live and die in a place they wish to call ‘home’ for themselves and their offspring.

Their future lies in the hands of the government that promises that they are not to be left in the lurch in the name of development.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The Sarawak Club CSR Programme

Facebook and Twitter have fused technology and social interaction in a radically different approach to how people live, play and work today, co-creating influence and value.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, and more famously known as the world’s youngest billionaire at the age of 26 with a personal worth of US$7 billion, said in a CBS interview, “I think what we have found is that when you can use products with your friends and your family and the people you care about, they tend to be more engaging. It includes not only what you do and what you like but people you know and what they like and the companies you interact with”.

Recently, The Sarawak Club, in collaboration with Lina Soo and SEACEM (Southeast Asian Centre for e-Media) presented a talk on social media to explore how Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized communications to transform the very way we conduct our social networking, reinvent our business model and pursue our causes. The speaker, from Kuala Lumpur, Mr Sean Ang, is executive director of SEACEM who travels around the region to speak on the influence, value and reach of e-media, and also on the challenges in ICT posed by social media networking platforms.

The Sarawak Club is Sarawak’s oldest social club, and possibly the oldest in Malaysia, established in 1873. The forum is an intiative to kickstart the Club’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programme where part of the proceeds from the sale of wine and tapas are channelled towards the Club’s Community Chest for deserving causes and charities.

Mr Richard Wee, deputy president of The Sarawak Club officiated the event.

Workshop: ICT And Cyber Violence Against Women

Information Communication Technologies (ICT) is a double-edged sword. Whilst ICT has created unlimited opportunities in social networking and business, at the same time abuse of the Internet and mobile phone has brought new forms of bullying and harassment against women. ICT has become the ideal platform to publish indecent information to exploit, embarrass and harm women. This violence against women which includes cyber harassment and defamation threatens the privacy and security of women which is taking on alarming proportions by the day.

In January 2011, Lina Soo in collaboration with Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor organized a women’s workshop in Kuching to create awareness of the threats and threats of ICT and to strengthen strategic use of ICT to combat this burgeoning problem. Practical skills on social networking applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogger formed part of the programme to empower the women participants to create safe digital spaces that protect every woman’s right to participate freely, without harassment or threat to safety.

There is a need for women to work together to alert our governments to develop effective regulation and policies to ensure the privacy, security and safety of women in ICT.