Hornbill Unleashed

November 8, 2011

Films and Freedom

Pak Bui

The Freedom Film Fest received an enthusiasic welcome when it came to Kuching and Miri during the last weekend of October.

This is the fourth year this excellent film festival has come to Sarawak, showing challenging films about human rights, politics and democracy, sexuality, religion, indigenous people’s issues and society – far more intriguing films than the standard commercial drivel in our cineplexes.

The five films screened were free, in more sense than one. The festival was open to all Sarawakians, and all were welcome, with only a collection box going around.

The crowd in Kuching were mostly young, bubbly and courteous. There were around 300 people packed into the narrow conference room at the Harbour View Hotel.

Many of the participants – for they  weighed into debates and discussions, and were not simply a passive audience – were college students, from all ethnic groups.

Driven from their land and robbed

The ‘sensitive’ subject matter of the films included the failure of empty promises by BN politicians to poor Bidayuh communities in Bengoh.

The film also examined the failure of PKR to offer a credible candidate as an alternative to BN’s lies and corruption in Bengoh during the April state election.

The Bengoh villagers were eventually driven from their land, and taxpayers were robbed of public money.

This dam is a shameful project, ostensibly planned to supply clean water to Kuching until 2030, but is in fact clearly designed to divert the flow of taxpayers’ money into the bank accounts of cronies of the BN chief minister in tax havens abroad.

The film-makers, represented by Joachim Leong, had trekked for many hours with cameras to visit villagers displaced by the dam.

The film pointed out the material hardships the villagers faced, and the broken BN promises of a resettlement area with modern amenities.

At least 20 families have built their own resettlement village upstream, ignoring the government’s promise for a resettlement (one that remains unbuilt, until today).

The cameras followed these villagers’ hike uphill, carrying their own planks and building materials, to a plateau with astoundingly beautiful views over the misty hills.

These families have been threatened by the BN that they will not receive ‘development’, in retaliation for their defiance.

But these villagers know only too well that the BN had promised ‘development’ to Batang Ai and Bakun communities, but had only delivered hardship, dependency and bitter disappointment.

A boost for participatory democracy

The film noted that PKR’s candidate for Bengoh, Willie Mongin, had not even visited the Bengoh villages during the election campaign.

BN’s Jerip Susil, on the other hand, had made plenty of promises to the communities by flying in on a helicopter.

In hindsight, the real surprise of the Bengoh election was not that Jerip won unexpectedly, but that such a weak PKR candidate managed 4447 votes!

During the discussion that followed, DAP MP and state assembly representative Chong Chien Jen admitted Pakatan needed to vet young, untested candidates before the upcoming general election.

YB Chong then answered a question from the audience on Pakatan’s readiness to form the next government, at federal and state, by pointing out the alternative budget and land reform policies laid out by Pakatan in Sarawak.

Observers of Sarawak politics will recognise that our political development will take years to produce true participatory democracy.

We need better education of our voters, and better access to information for all Sarawakians, including the rural electorate.

The Freedom Film Fest is a small step on this journey, but it is certainly a boost for participatory democracy in Sarawak.

The interest from the audience in the films, as well as the discussions in between films, was a sign of change, albeit slow, in the political awareness of our young, regarding democracy and freedom.

True freedom is not the liberty to do as we please, or live the ‘lifestyle’ we choose.

True freedom entails education, difficult choices, and sacrifice. It also requires us to decide how to use these hard-won freedoms.

The Freedom Film Fest tries hard to make us think about these issues. We ought to welcome it every year, and more.




    Pak Bui: ” True freedom is not the liberty to do as we please, or live the ‘lifestyle’ we choose.

    True freedom entails education, difficult choices, and sacrifice. It also requires us to decide how to use these hard-won freedoms.”

    There is no truer statement said in the volumes of words written by many writers and bloggers.

    Those of us who are educated and better off than the majority of our fellow Sarawakians have a responsibility to the uneducated, misinformed and misled compatriots to assist in liberating them from their oppression by those in power.

    Perhaps we can say Joachim Leong made good use of his education to make a film that has opened our eyes to the big world beyond the limits of our little cities and towns and our own minds. This is in itself a great exposition of the cruel things inflicted on our compatriots by the UMNO PBB BN re-colonizers of Sarawak.

    The film reveals the beauty of our country Sarawak and is contrasted by the sufferings of its people inflicted by an UGLY REGIME.

    This short film has been acclaimed by many who have seen it. In time this may be considered a Sarawak “classic” comment on the plight of the people who have been plundered of their land and thrown out to fend by their own resourcefulness.

    The beautiful face of our land has also been vandalized by those who victimized the Bengoh people with the stripping of the timber land and building dams which do not benefit those who need electricity.

    The question is how can we claim to have any “freedom” when our country is now locked into the new colonial creation of “Malaysia” which has extended UMNO power over all of us by Britain in 1963?

    We have remained no more than colonial subjects ruled by UMNO proxies in the PBB BN for 48 years.

    In a month’s time on December 8 it will be the 50th Anniversary of the 1962 anti-Malaysia Brunei Independence Uprising.

    Those who have read the history or remember the events will know this was an anti-British colonial uprising led by the Brunei People’s Party and supported by the underground independence movement in Sabah and Sarawak.

    While the British could powerfully suppressed the rebels they made an important statement for all the people of Brunei Sabah and Sarawak they called “North Kalimantan”. This is that they wanted freedom from British colonial rule and did not want to be re-colonized in the neo-colonial creation called “Malaysia”. They wanted an independent “North Kalimantan”.

    This was the ideal for a new independent state free from foreign colonial rule and plunder. We are still far away from being independent in any way except Brunei which did not become part of the new colony and Singapore which was expelled from “Malaysia” in 1965. They have real freedom and independence from foreign rule. We do not.

    Many of us young and old from all racial background have now seen through the fake “independence in Malaysia” from their own experience. The Brunei patriots and also the underground independence movement in Sarawak were correct in opposing the incorporation of Sabah and Sarawak into “Malaysia”.

    In Sabah the movement for independence has re-ignited and Sabahans are leading us in Sarawak. Sarawak saw the historic struggle in the jungles from the 1960s to 1980s with the people’s war for our freedom and independence . (One wonders if those in power cleared the trees as a strategic denial jungle cover to the guerrillas while making money from this).

    What ever the method, ways and means to achieve independence, the basic issue remains that both Sabah and Sarawak have been re-colonized. We do not have any independence in “Malaysia”. This is shown by the loss of any self-determination in our country’s affairs and exploitation of resources including the people. This is dictated to and determined by Kuala Lumpur which has benefitted from the plunder of Sabah and Sarawak resources.

    So before we can enjoy the freedom to be ourselves as Sarawakians we must take the first step to free ourselves from the colonial yoke of UMNO rule.

    Only when we are free and in control of our affairs can we start with the re-construction of our ravaged land and improving the lives of the people.

    We must take back our country!

    Comment by SARAWAK PATRIOTS — November 8, 2011 @ 3:19 PM | Reply

  2. Those rural folks (and some of the urban folks )in Sarawaks have very narrow and limited world view.They cannot think critically for themselves. They have been brainwashed and they fear Government just like they fear God. So, it is very hard to change their mind. They are hard wired to trust BN.

    Comment by RC — November 8, 2011 @ 11:31 AM | Reply

    • Daily brainwashing session for 30 mins by TV3 Buletin Utama at 8pm!

      Comment by Ujang — November 8, 2011 @ 12:24 PM | Reply

  3. […] Films and Freedom — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:03 AM […]

    Pingback by Bengoh film turned heads in Kuching! « Sarawak Indigenous Community News — November 8, 2011 @ 4:58 AM | Reply

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