Hunting pigs in the forest

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Commentary

Sarawak is a democracy and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB) has every right to use any symbol including a pig, as its mascot for the upcoming 14th general election (GE14).

The question now is whether such a move is wise.

As reported by Bernama, PBDSB information chief Bobby William explained that the reason for the party to choose a pig as its mascot was because of a significant historical event in 1924, during the Kapit Peacemaking ceremony at Fort Sylvia which was attended by various Dayak tribes, a pig was slaughtered to mark the historical unification of the Dayak community and put an end to “ngayau” or the head-hunting tradition.

He added that according to the Dayaks’ belief, a pig was an intermediary between them and their “Petara” or creator. Stressing that the decision was based on the customs and traditions of Dayak ethnic groups, he called for the acceptance of the mascot with an open heart.

After reading the news, one could not help but ask, is it true that the pig is a symbol of the Dayak community which includes the Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu and many other smaller, minority tribes such as the Sihan and the Sekapan?

From reactionary comments to the news, it seems that not all the tribes within the Dayak community agreed to it. A Bidayuh reader raised his objection, claiming that the revering of a pig may perhaps be an Iban tradition but was not a Bidayuh one.

And a fact-finding conversation with a Dayak well versed in native traditions confirmed that the pig has never been an animal much respected by the Dayak, not even Iban. In fact, there are other animals which are more significant to the Dayak community.

“The kenyalang (hornbill) is high on the hierarchy and highly respected. Then there is the crocodile and the snake. These are animals revered by our community. Then there is also the mythical animals of the dragon and phoenix.

“The pig to us is only food and an animal for sacrifice. To identify ourselves as pigs, is PBDSB trying to say that the Iban people are to be used for sacrifice?” said the educated Iban.

For PBDSB to choose the pig as its mascot, there is the undertone of an attempt to be provocative even though the party might have no such intention.

For Sarawak, PBDSB would not face much criticism or objection in its use of the pig as its mascot because Sarawak, after all, is a very open society. However, one wonders if its adoption for such a purpose will backfire on the party.

All this while, we have witnessed what is happening in Peninsular Malaysia and tried to learn not to make the same mistake.

Reacting against Peninsular Malaysia political trends that are advocating Malay supremacy and Muslim extremism, the Sarawakian community as a whole, especially the younger generation are now looking forward to a Sarawak that is open, inclusive and fair.

We have come thus far through intermarriage, friendship, education, living side by side, working together and our inherent culture of upholding harmony and peace. We are proud that we are unique because we are racially colour blind and religiously, liberals.

PBDSB has been well respected because of its agenda to fight for Dayak rights and interests in a moderate and humble yet brave manner. Public sympathy has been with the party because those in the party are just everyday folk who have the courage to fight hard for Dayak rights such as land, education and fair treatment.

It has been advocating Dayakism but it never defined the content. And if the party is moving towards arrogance and total disregard of other communities, it will not be able to go far.

If Dayakism to PBDSB means Dayak supremacy, its struggle is no different from UMNO in Peninsular Malaysia, which is championing Malay supremacy.

Then the party has missed the forest for the trees in terms of the direction Sarawak is heading in. Even in the long run, the party will not rise up because it will only be supported by a handful of Dayaks who are extremists. — DayakDaily