By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Sept 13: Not everybody can become a maren uma in the Orang Ulu community as he or she must be elected by the people in the longhouse in accordance with the council of elders, said a Kayan community leader Pemanca Umek Jeno.
Additionally, he reiterated that only the marens or aristocrats are eligible to be elected as a maren uma.
“We have a steep adat (tradition) to observe insofar as the appointment of the maren uma is concerned. And as far as the Kayan is concerned, we have a council of elders who provide the guidance in choosing the maren uma,” Umek told DayakDaily here today.
He said the adat has been observed by the Orang Ulu community since time immemorial and it has served the community well.
“Therefore, we disagree with the federal government to introduce the Village Community Management Council (MPKK) as it will disrupt and interfere with our adat and will definitely will divide our community.
“The appointment of the community leaders should be best left to the people at the grassroots level to decide and the federal government should respect us on this matter,” he said.
Umek also took the opportunity to express his hope that the Sarawak Government could provide some incentives to the rest of the Village Development and Safety Committee (JKKK) members.
“Currently, only the maren uma, ketua kampung, tuai rumah and kapitan are given the allowance. But we hoped that members of the JKKK too should also be paid certain amount as they too contribute to the wellbeing of the community as our work as a team,” he said.
Umek also urged the Sarawak Government to give some incentives to the community leaders such as the penghulu, pemanca and temenggong certain amount of incentive or pension after they have served their community for more than 10 years.
Apart from the Kayan community, the Kenyah community also is also guided by their adat when the appointment of community leaders are concerned.
Kenyah Pemanca Tony Kulleh said the adat that guides the appointment of community leaders in the Kenyah community has worked smoothly all this while.
“Even in those days when the maren uma were not paid, the marens, who are the leaders in the community have been tasked to look after the affairs of the community,” he said.
Tony said the commoners called “the panyin” naturally reject such tradition as they know that it is against the adat for them to lead the community.
“So, I hoped that the federal government will respect our system and adat because in every community there is a system that guides their wellbeing. Say for instance in the Malay community, there is a sultan, the noblemen and the commoners. So too, in the Indian community, there is a caste system.
“So, the least the federal government can do is to respect our adat as enshrined in our State Ordinance. This they must respect as it is part of our autonomy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bidayuh temenggong of Kuching Division Temenggong Austin Dimin said the Bidayuh like any other communities in Sarawak has its own adat.
“Our ketua kampung have been elected by the villagers themselves and their appointment is apolitical. Like myself, I’m apolitical,” he emphasized.
In the Bidayuh community he added, a bilal (undertakers) will not be allowed to become community leaders. Only the aristocrats are elected to lead as community leaders.
“Although the particular adat is not strictly adhered to now, the people are still governed by the adat Bidayuh,” said Dimin.
Sivarasa said the idea was mooted after the federal cabinet decided to revamp and rebrand the JKKK to MPKK in June last year.
Recently, at the Sarawak Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Branch Annual General Meeting (AGM) opening dinner here (Sept 15), Sivarasa had said that the mechanics of the appointment of community leaders in Sarawak will be worked out by the ministry, and is expected to be revealed some time in January next year.
Since then, the proposal has been heavily criticised by Sarawak leaders. — DayakDaily