Ibans can forgive Adenan over the joke, but not forget it

COMMENT: Adenan Satem’s efforts to gain political support of the Ibans since he took over the reins of the state government two years ago are likely to be jeopardised by his joke allegedly insulting Iban women and the Iban community.

The chief minister recently jokingly advised Prime Minister Najib Razak to find an Iban woman to be his wife in view of his constant visits to the state as well as to enable him to learn the Iban language.

Criticised by members of the Iban community and several Dayak non-governmental organisations, Adenan was forced to apologise for the joke.

Ibans regard the joke as an insult to their honour, pride and respect of the Iban women.

What made it more damaging is that the joke was made before Najib and a large gathering of VVIPs and their wives.

Everybody present laughed.

The joke was aimed at heaping praises on the prime minister for his frequent visits to the state, but the Ibans felt slighted by it.

The anger was clearly evident when the issue was uploaded onto the Facebook and social media; it became an explosive issue, attracting hundreds if not thousands of adverse comments against the chief minister.

Opposition politicians and several NGOs took the opportunity to join the chorus of “anti-Adenan” comments and demanded an apology.

A PKR women leader Nurina Umoi Utut described Adenan’s joke as “racist and having sexist connotations”.

She said that it was in bad taste and disrespectful, not only to the Iban women, but to the Dayak community as a whole.

“Being an Iban woman, I would like to register my disappointment on the joke. We Iban women are not commodities for sale even though the majority of us are economically deprived,” she said in a statement.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia (JOAS) said it was appalled at Adenan’s suggestion.

“The chief minister’s comment was truly an insult to Iban women, the Iban people and the Orang Asal,” said Romuald Siew, JOAS vice-president.

Expressing similar sentiments, another influential NGO, the Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association, asked why Adenan should refer to an Iban woman and not others.

“Does he think that the Iban women are cheap and can be easily traded off like commodities?” said SDGA deputy president Noelle Lily Morse.

DAP member Thomas Tegong Laka commented that it had been Adenan’s habit to make fun at others, especially against the Ibans.

“The Iban ‘miring’ rituals are a case in point. When he begins his speech, Adenan starts off by saying, ‘Oh-ha, oh ha!’

“In Iban, ‘oh-ha, oh-ha’ is the beginning of a lemambang (bard) chanting the miring rituals calling for the presence of their gods.

“These words are sacred, and cannot be uttered anyhow,” he said.

Thomas said that when the bard said those words, there must be plates of offerings to the gods.

“Without these offerings, the gods may be angry and may devour or cast spells on him,” he said.

Adenan knows that the Ibans do not really like him following the Balai Ringin NCR land case in 1985 when he defended the government’s decision to give land belonging to the natives to non-Bumiputeras.

In defending the decision, he allegedly insulted the native landowners by accusing them of being “land grabbers, land plunderers”.

These remarks were recorded in the Hansard of the State Assembly.

After he was appointed chief minister, Adenan has been trying to please the Ibans.

He knows that the Ibans play a critical role in BN winning the election as they form about 30% of the state’s population of 2.6 million people.

He has travelled to longhouses to assure Ibans that he “is the chief minister” for all Sarawakians, including them.

He had sought more than RM1 billion to carry out rural transformation programmes to uplift their economic well-being.

The Ibans believe him.

But following the recent joke on Najib getting an Iban woman as his wife, the Ibans may now think differently.

They can forgive, but not forget.

The following are some selected comments from FB accounts:

Philip Tinsoi: Let us Dayak be united so that other races do not look down on us.

Frederick Laiu: May be in their hearts, they think that the Dayak Iban can easily be made fun of.

Lawrence Remang: As a leader he should know not touch on sensitive issues of other races as this can create ill-feelings among the people.

Anthony George: Learn Iban language does not mean you have to get married to them. Stupid!

Anne Samuel: As an Iban woman, that joke is tasteless and rude, and be uttered by someone like the chief minister. We are happy that he can converse in Iban, but that the content of the joke should not belittle the race.-The Ant Daily

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