Saturday, January 22, 2011

Roused Borneo spirit reshaping politics?

There had never been a period in our past during which the people of Borneo had collectively experienced a discernable Borneo consciousness. After all, Borneo never really became a singular entity, even when the Brunei Empire had its golden age from the 15th to the 17th centuries, when its hegemony extended to the whole Borneo and northward into the Philippines .

People in the west coastal areas of what is now Sabah referred to this period as the Tana' Brunei (Brunei rule), and had not made reference to Borneo . Brunei's control was nominal with the various native groups having little recognition of this dominion largely toothless empire. In fact, riverine communities who came within reach of Brunei tax collectors coming upriver by canoes, had much scorn for the Abais (Brunei people).

The closest we had come to being ‘Borneo’ was when Sabah and Sarawak were referred to as "the Borneo states" within the context of Malaysia . But even then, our consciousness were varied, being focused on our respective communal identities, or at the widest, our respective state's priorities, hence the 20 Point Agreement for Sabah, and the 18 Point Agreement for Sarawak. There was still no palpable Borneo spirit. But after 47 of losses of rights, of disenfranchisement (in part due to the manipulative politics of federalism, orchestrated earlier on in Sabah by the sleight of hands of Syed Kechik), Sabah and Sarawak had shared a common concern of being common victims.

The term "Borneo states" which excluded Brunei and Kalimantan, took a different meaning, this time with a strong tinge of discontent and a desire for restoration of the lost rights. Not coincidently, somewhere in the mid-2000s the idea of the Momoguns being part of a larger Borneo grouping called “Dayak” started to gain currency with the awareness that through this new definition of racial grouping, the Momoguns, the Kelabit, Ibans, Bidayuhs, the Lundayeh (or Lunbawangs) and so on would have greater national and international clout. The Borneo spirit which had been germinating then sprouted quietly into a definable form.

And not coincidently too, the deep-set neo-colonialist tendency within the national Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) manifested in numerous actions which convinced members of PKR Sabah and PKR Sarawak of the need to reevaluate the viability of the PKR deal.

Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, then PKR's Vice President assigned with the task of strengthening the support for the party in the two Borneo states, consequently solidified the rapport between leader of Sabah and Sarawak, and took the sprout of the Borneo spirit to flower with the unifying forces of Borneo Heritage Foundation, Common Interest Group Malaysia , and Borneo Dayak Forum. Now, under the United Borneo Front (UBF), the Borneo spirit has taken on a fuller bloom.

But what indeed is the Borneo spirit? At the modern political level it is the desire of the Borneans for self-reliance, to take control own destiny, to forge the Borneo identity, character and concept of governance which is built on self-determination, rights and autonomy.

The ultimate socio-economic aim of the Borneo spirit is, of course, the achievement of the vision of the territory standing up to the global community as a region blessed with the Malaysian franchise, possessing a solid territorial integrity and prides itself in being socially vibrant, industrially dynamic and technologically innovative, hence prosperous and influential.

With our resources and with the elimination of corruption and patronage politics, and the institutionalization of full meritocracy (like what they have done in Singapore and Hong Kong) there is no reason why we cannot be an economic powerhouse comparable to the world's best.

But at the poetic, subliminal level, I see the Borneo spirit in the breathing of the rainforests in the hills and mountains, in the mists covering the mountain range, in the Kinabatangan and the Rajang, and in the traditional longhouse.

I see it in the cacophony of nocturnal sounds from the highly organized chaos of the vast rainforests. The Ecology of the primeval environment teems with visible and invisible life that, emanates a language of the power of the incomparable creator. I see too the Borneo spirit in the mother tongues, ancient songs and dances of the peoples of the vast island, in the beatings of their hearts and awakening of their minds to worlds beyond their borders, of inseparable ancientness woven into their psyches, of fond desires and multicolored dreams no outsiders can ever fathom.

I sense the sounds of pulse of patriotism in the plumes of hornbill feathers on the traditional hats of the Ibans and the Muruts, in the measured dance steps, rhythms and melody of the kulintangan, sompotons, and gongs, and the sharp beautiful melancholy of the sapek. I see and feel the Borneo spirit in the peoples' loving but hungry eyes, in their pensive faces, in their tattoed torsos, all still reflecting the prowess of ancient heroism. Truly, anyone hoping to capture the Borneo spirit must first comprehend and pay reverence to these desires and dreams bequeathed from bygone days. Borneo will move genuinely only with its own native spirit and not when the spirit of foreigners and alien motives are forced on their unique character.

For why else is the Borneo spirit now moving, and flowering to full blood-red bloom under the compelling ideology of the United Borneo Front. Some old political setups are forced to reshape their leadership structure and adjust their ideologies.

The immediate fallout is. Of course, Sabah PKR, which took the surprising step of appointing a political unknown to be its State Liaison Chief. The decision is a milestone in political regress as it forces many political seniors and veterans to line unawkwardly and incredulously behind a young and untested and ill-equipped general.

What made the PKR President decide on this apparently self-defeating misstep is difficult to comprehend. And in the confused reorganization of the house. widespread disillusionment rules. with more than a few Divisional Chiefs preparing to pack up and abandon ship on top of those who have already left to join UBF. And it's been said that a past leader and his close lieutenants are being set aside, causing another huge, debilitating split.

It will be interesting to observe what will further develop from the unbelievable situation.
Meanwhile the stirred up Borneo spirit awakened the Sarawak National Party (Snap), from its extended rest.

Snap is now actively with its President, Datuk Edmund Langgu ak Saga and other leaders regrouping to take up on the new challenges and prospect for a Borneo revival. Also, two prominent NGOs the Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU), the Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association are now members of UBF. Other personalities like PaulRaja, Dr. John Brian, Nicholas Bawin Anggat, and Datuk Daniel Tajim (Jeffrey's counterpart in Sarawak ) have long taken their seats on the UBF bandwagon.

Significantly, Baru Bian Anthony, a well-known land rights lawyer, as the Sarawak PKR State Liaison Chief, had declined the appointment as PKR's Vice President, an important post reserved for Sarawak . He had been reported as having expressed dissatisfaction over the party leadership and many read his declining the post as a pre-cursor to joining UBF.

Will the major events in Sarawak in 2011 be involving the Borneo spirit, which will chart a new political course? After all the infectious spirit has been let loose, like the proverbial cat that had escaped from the bag. And it is no small or tame spirit; it is hopping and scampering to set wheels and winds into motion on the political landscape, forcing redefinitions, awakening political animals from their slumber, and compelling fence sitters and the indifferent to see that their places in the Borneo alliance has been opened wide.

The Borneo spirit is now an undeniable political reality, which is turning the Borneo states into an exclusive territorial entity, to become another nerve center of the new and better Malaysia of the future. (By Raymond Tombung)


  1. Actually, what's being expressed by Raja Petra in Malaysia Today's No Holds Barred "Many talk about the third force but very few understand its meaning" basically trying to enlighten the Sabahan and Sarawakian that they should support the respective local parties as the real 3rd force and kingmaker, not BN or PR. And this is what YTL of SAPP has been reinforcing since SAPP exit from BN.

    Wake up fellow Sabahan and Sarawakian!!

  2. It sounds like Anon 10:47 PM above know RPK and YTL better than themselves :-) or still live with imagination!
    In the end of days end result will still the same a political struggle of power and crony more than rights for Borneo after years.
    Why draw up such a conclusion so quick here.Haven't you learnt that one local party had done so in and out of BN in history!!!
    It is not government in place but true and all in-house business whichever.Younger sabahan must not follow such bad example from their older politikus.

  3. T. Raymond, enough talking, let's re-group all the kadazandusuns and fight for Borneo cause....use your writing power to inform everybody about UBF...

  4. It is not a bad thing for Sabah to hold the balance of power. After all, we have been badly treated by our colonial master in KL for far too much and far too long.

    Traitors and running dogs are the ones who put their interest far ahead of the well-beings of general Sabahan.

  5. During Mahathir days, even if u win the whole Sabah, nothing much can be done, KL doesn't need you to form federal government, and they screw u like hell if u pandai-pandai. Anon 1:09 PM said it too well that a local party jump in and out of BN.

    The difference now is, does BN need Sabah to form federal government?

  6. writing power to wake all those majority kadazandusuns up for change?
    learn 1 thing about rural development even in west west world whereby those 'asli' cannot even walk miles instead without filling Ron97 or mordern transport like their ancestors!
    One day ...even today many wander in city but in years to come may see they become working servants for PATI or 'Asing' boss in their own lands.Starring and look into the eyes of your HG or those many politikus heads but do not blame other 'minority' in Sabah!Your people never willing but always be tempted to change another way by hop-out and hop-in,right?

  7. Harap rakyat Sabah dan Sarawak akan membuat pilihan yang betul.

  8. Majority of Sabahans and Sarawakians are still not aware of what is happening in the the political scene. They need to be exposed.

  9. everyone has their own choice. The important is to choose a party that can bring development and will protect our rights.

  10. penduduk Sabah dan Sarawak kena membuat pilihan yang tepat agar kepentingan mereka terjaga.

  11. Orang Sabah perlu membuat pilihan yang betul bila PRU-13 menjelang.

  12. It's not an easy task to be a Sabahan. We have to endure the pain of ' sharing ' with illegals.

  13. Masih banyak kelemahan yang harus diperbaiki.

  14. Some of the political views should be taken seriously.

  15. Perselisihan politik memang menjadi asam garam namun jangan memperkecilkan pihak lawan.

  16. How to reshape the politics in Sabah?

  17. Rakyat saja yang mampu menentukanya.