‘Putrajaya started it first, we’re just following their practice’

By Nigel Edgar

KUCHING, Oct 22: Marudi assemblyman Datu Dr Penguang Manggil may not agree with the idea of banning community leaders from attending functions or programmes not sanctioned by the state government, but he argued that the state government was only following what had been practised by the federal government.

He said such a practice, which even included state elected representatives, had been practised by Putrajaya for a while already. Under the ban, local assemblymen and state government officers were not allowed to be invited to Sekolah Kerajaan (SK) or Sekolah Menengah Kerajaan (SMK) functions.

Responding to the statement by state Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Chong Chieng Jen yesterday ,where he said the state DAP was looking into pursuing legal action against the state government for issuing a memo prohibiting community leaders from attending functions by bodies or organisations not sanctioned by the state government, Penguang advised Chong not to do so as this would inevitably split the local and rural communities.

“That is the worst thing to do,” he told reporters at Bangunan Baitulmakmur here today.

On Minister of Works Baru Bian’s suggestion that community leaders should be appointed by way of “randau ruai” or some sort of election among the local communities, Penguang commented that community leaders should not be generalised as such.

He said community leaders such as Tuai Rumah or longhouse headman had been chosen and appointed by the community themselves all this while.

However, Penguang explained that Penghulus, Pemancas and Temenggongs had to be appointed.

“Because you have one Temenggong per race per division, Pemanca you have for one race per district, and Penghulu you have one penghulu representing a community per area or per region, you have to be very clear that you cannot just generalise community leaders just like that,” he said.

Penguang emphasized that if every community leader is to be chosen by the community themselves, quarrels might occur, which would split the communities.

Penguang speaking to reporters at Bangunan Baitulmakmur in Kuching today (Oct 22).

“This happened in my area before, where there were two or three ‘Tuai Rumahs’ in one longhouse. So, by doing what Baru proposed, you are going to split the people, ‘gaduh’ (quarrel). You are creating factions within the longhouse.

“Because under the terms and conditions of this ‘Ketua Masyarakat’ and ‘Ketua Kaum’, it is very clearly stated that they have their role as the link between the state government and the people. They are the voices of the people and at the same time disseminate the policies of the state government to the local people,” he said.

Penguang also pointed out that in some communities, the “Adat Maren” practised by the Orang Ulu might be outdated.

He said this was because with the “Adat Maren”, village headmen were chosen from the highest caste. The only issue with that kind of appointment would be that the voices of the lower castes might not be heard effectively, or the headman might not be liked by the lower castes or even the majority of the community itself.

“We have tried that in our area, where we have the headmen who are from the higher caste. They cannot control the community. Their voices were not being heard; but to me, I’m not questioning that ‘adat’, but I think circumstances have changed and times have changed. Those ‘Adat Maren’ before may not necessarily have the capabilities or capacities to do so anymore.

“For example, children from the lower caste. Now the children have grown up, and they are all graduates. Some are professors and some even doctors.

“These are the right people who can lead and know what is going on, and not just influenced by any negativity (caste/position in the community),” said Penguang. — DayakDaily