Hornbill Unleashed

August 23, 2013

Are rural Sarawakians naïve and stupid?

Filed under: Human rights,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 3:44 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

Pak Bui

“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter,” said Winston Churchill the writer, war-time leader and unreconstructed elitist.

I have subjected many rural voters to my rambling conversations in the past. Most of these discussions would be parochial, involving concerns about local issues. You can imagine it would be difficult to hold a conversation about world current affairs, if you had little access to newspapers, and none to the internet.

One such memorable discussion was with a group of friends, members of a village development and security committee in one of the poorest parts of Sarawak. They had lodged police reports against their ketua kaum or village chief, accusing him of corruption.

This was not a rash decision. As you might guess, life in small villages, with the daily routine of meeting the same faces that you meet, demands tolerance, and some conservatism.

The village chief, my friends told me, was an inept gambler, and had embezzled money from the village development fund, and even the office at the small airstrip. As a result, a construction project for the cmmunity had run out of cash, leaving the half-raised walls of the building as a transparent monument to poor leadership.

Unfortunately for the village, the ketua kaum was closely related to a senior civil servant. The police reports gathered dust. Written complaints made to the old Anti-Corruption Agency were followed by documents sent to the new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. The clichéd bureaucratic phrase “no further action” cannot be applied to their inertia: there was no movement whatsoever from the very beginning, to warrant any “further” action.

Logging blockades and live ammunition

The logging blockades, set up all over Sarawak by Dayak and Orang Ulu over the past three decades, also demonstrate the rural communities’ commitment to natural justice and solidarity. They may not know much about the mind-bending leakages from the Port Klang Free Zone or 1Malaysia Development Berhad, but they understand the concepts of corruption and theft.

A few dozen villagers at each blockade take turns to stand behind branches and small trunks laid across logging access roads, to defend their native customary rights (NCR) land. Some natives have laid down their lives to protect their land and forests for future generations.

Young Penan men have related to me the surreal and terrifying experience of the Police Field Force using live ammunition, firing over the heads of the unarmed men, women and children standing behind these flimsy barricades. They remember the crack of small arms fire and the bullets whizzing above them. Acts of violence by the security forces and the logging companies have been well documented, for example in the Not Development But Theft report.

It is ironic that our small minority of indigenous people – the Penan, Orang Asli, and other rural communities – possess far greater collective knowledge and wisdom in the life-giving art of nurturing our environment, than all the university graduates in Malaysia put together.

Political parties, with their cosseted leaders surrounded by sycophants, come and go. These rural people have continued to safeguard their environment – which also happens to be our environment – despite and relentless beatings, arrests and punishment from sleazy politicians and companies. They have experienced many defeats, and rapid deforestation, but also notable victories through NCR court cases.

Ignorant, selfish online attacks

Sarawak PKR chairperson Baru Bian has spoken out against the ignorant, selfish online attacks on Sarawakian and Sabahan voters following the GE13 contest.

Urban voters and MPs, the power base of Pakatan Rakyat, must take interest in rural communities. MPs and political parties must engage rural voters in discussions over the pressing issues of our time, instead of top-down, paternalistic instructions on “development”.

Gerrymandering and malapportionment, economic liberalisation and the TPPA negotiations, religious and racial hate-mongering, corruption and policy capture, incompetent and divisive education policies, global warming and environmental degradation, and health care finance reform affect all Malaysians, not just those twitterati who are internet-savvy and familiar with the jargon.

It is only too easy, and too common, for well-educated politicians and professionals, from all ethnic groups and political parties, to dismiss these rural folk.

People with limited formal education can understand these issues, with careful explanation and visual representations. We cannot build a national future together with social media and idiotic slogans such as “Vision 2020” or “Endless Possibilities”, that are irrelevant to more than ten million rural Malaysians.

Most of our rural population are simple, but not simpletons. They are not xenophobic and violent, unlike the stereotype of the American redneck. They are not the brutal savages described by Steven Pinker or Jared Diamond, in their controversial books The World Until Yesterday and The Better Angels of Our Nature.

Our rural communties have rich cultures, well-respected traditional customs or adat, and intricate oral histories. They are hospitable and peace-loving communities, and ready to engage with other communities.

Are we ready to engage with them? The urban-rural divide is the greatest, and most shameful, schism in our society.

We should remember that many of those rural people at the blockades have exemplified the courage of the civil rights movement, of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. They are not the “average voter” that Churchill had such contempt for.

They deserve the full picture, and all the facts. Our national politics and economy would benefit greatly from engaging them whole-heartedly.



  1. the question is, how can u live if everyday you are threaten and bullied by this so called goverment agents…rural folks are mainly consist of older and aged person..once they heard that their youngster will be denied any job or funding..automatically thy have to cross the ‘ unbalanced scale’..as a parent will u darken ur young future…felling hopeless n denied..

    Comment by baak pangak — August 26, 2013 @ 8:50 PM | Reply

  2. Even the LEARNED can be MISDIRECTED and misled, what more the less educated people in the longhouses and kampongs.

    Comment by kocokoco — August 26, 2013 @ 9:28 AM | Reply

  3. Endless possible ways and means to plunder the nation and milk our economy dry! Endless possible ways to escape from prosecution after commiting corruption, power abuses and even brutal murder with the use of C4 . Of course Altantuyah ‘s murder was a fiction as immigration record never recorded her coming in and leaving the country!

    Comment by Sabrina Abdullah — August 24, 2013 @ 2:56 PM | Reply

    • Without any immigration record showing her arrival and departure, the naive Atantulyah must have “destroyed” it for the simple reason that she loved this country so much so, that she decided to “stay” on for a long long time. She ought to be now “living” with her dream lover, happily ever after. How about the 4c which was mentioned and supposedly used in the scene? According to my finding, sherlock of bolehland, it must have been dropped from an american spy’s plane which was on a secret mission over the land. The pilot must have carelessly pressed on the wrong button. With this, we must form a commission of investigation. All stones must be turned, in order to get to the TRUTH.
      By my above intelligence, investigation and findings, that was why all the suspects were acquitted and free. No body was responsible for her “disppearance”, but herself, for the motive best known to her or ghosts know.
      Now, everybody or somebodies can “live happily” and “sleep soundly” without the haunting of any vengeful spirit.
      According to the chinese calendar, this is the 7th month, when the grievous ghosts from the hell are free to roam the world to carry out their unfinished businesses, due to their untimely passing on. So the guilty ones, watch your back ….waoloa aa ha ha…….

      Comment by sherlock — August 24, 2013 @ 11:59 PM | Reply

  4. The general view is that those in rural (thus natives) are naïve and stupid. There are many from rural now working and residing in towns. I am a case in point. I seldom read Utusan Sarawak or Utusan Borneo. My favourite would be this Hornbill Unleashed. My views are thus influenced by online news – Insider, Malaysiakini , Suara Sarawak and Sarawak Report. Many of my friends have followed suit. Some are still naïve, just like those in big towns. I am quite insulted if I am branded as naïve or stupid. The rural natives are not stupid as shown by many blockades by the Penans and Orang Ulu preventing giant companies from encroaching. BN almost lost in Baram remember?

    Comment by robinhood — August 24, 2013 @ 7:14 AM | Reply

    • BN did lose in Baram, but there were plenty of reasons listed in the election petition for the election result.

      Comment by Analist — August 24, 2013 @ 4:55 PM | Reply

  5. If one had observed the voting pattern in majority of rural constituencies, one would have noticed that from 8.00am to 12.00 noon, the number of votes cast were less than 50% of the total registered voters and majority of these “early birds” were Opposition supporters or voters who wanted to vote out the corrupted, ineffective and incompetent UMNO Baru controlled BN government who could not even provide basic amenities and infrastructural development to these rural constituencies. How the hell did rural constituencies record a voter turnout of between 75% to 80% when majority of the new voters and younger voters did not come home to vote? The main culprits were the returning officers, polling clerks and dishonest polling agents from Pakatan. The corrupted and dishonest polling agents representing Pakatan had worked in cohort with the returning officers to help BN to cheat by allowing stuffing in ballots of registered voters who did not come home to vote or had not voted in previous elections. Such cheating took place usually one hour before closing time.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — August 23, 2013 @ 6:04 PM | Reply

    • BN’s “endless possibilities” and unseen hands help BN secured more than 10,000 majority votes as instructed in majority of the rural constituencies especially in Sabah and Sarawak. If Najib can assure Baginda Razak and the two policemen who were initially convicted of murdering Altantuyah not to worry and that everything would be fine, election fraud and cheating are just small matter to the corrupted regime .

      Comment by Irene Kana — August 24, 2013 @ 8:00 AM | Reply

      • Malaysia is fittingly a land of endless possibilities due to the elite regime’s miss-governance since independence. It is time to replace it with a more accountable democratic government, one that is a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Apparently Najib was passed over when Mahathir chose Badawi instead of him was due to his flamboyancy ie. his alleged involvement in Altantuya murder ?

        Comment by Genghis — August 24, 2013 @ 11:14 AM | Reply

      • Malaysia is very fond of slogans. I think these ideas are from consultants hired by Najib. These consultants and think tanks are paid handsomely. These consultants are also his cronies.

        Comment by robinhood — August 24, 2013 @ 12:13 PM | Reply

  6. The Court of Appeal today freed Special Action Unit officers Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar of the charge of murdering Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu.

    Yes, we are treated as stupid fools all these years.

    Comment by FT923 — August 23, 2013 @ 3:38 PM | Reply

  7. Rural Sarawakians are practical lots.
    They voted for BN as BN could serve their basic needs.
    They do not care about corruption.
    Simple as that.

    Comment by Wijadi — August 23, 2013 @ 3:13 PM | Reply

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