The Dayak Judas - Dr James Miring

For this year 2011 Good Friday, let us all Dayaks and Christians alike step back to remember some of the most dubious and treacherous Dayak JUDAS of all: Dr James Miring.

Accept reality, group tells CM
Sarawak Tribune, 12 March 1987

KUALA LUMPUR – The group of 28 elected representatives of Bersatu yesterday welcomed Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir’s advice to the Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, that the present crisis be handled within the bounds of the State constitution.

Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir was reported as having told the Chief Minister this on Tuesday when he met a delegation of Barisan Nasional leaders from the state at Seri Perdana.

The group also described as “unwise” the calling of a snap state election to solve the crisis.

A spokeman for the group, Dr James Masing of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS), said that “in the period of political turmoil, uncertainty and the emergence of polarisation in the state, there is no guarantee that issues detrimental to racial harmony and stability will not be brought forth during an election campaign”

Dr Masing said this in a statement issued at a hotel here which is the group’s temporary base in the city.

The statement was issued after one of its delegations met Umno Youth head Anwar Ibrahim.

Dr Masing said the group wanted to “get down to the business of the government without delay, for any further delay is bound to afffect the welfare of the people.”

He said that since 28 of the 48 state assemblymen had expressed their loss of confidence in Datuk Patinggi Taib, the Chief Minister was constitutionally bound to tender his resignation and allow the group to form a new government.

He reminded the Chief Minister of the meaning of Article 7-1 of the State constitution which states: If the Chief Minister ceases to command the confidence of a majority of the members of Dewan Undangan Negeri, then unless at his request the Yang di-Pertua Negeri dissolves the Dewan Undangan Negeri, the Chief Minister shall tender the resignation of the members of Majlis Mesyuarat Kerajaan Negeri.”

Datuk Taib and company must accept this because this is what the State constitution provides. The Chief Minister should not cling to power when he knows for certain that he has ceased to command the majority support in Council Negeri. If Datuk Taib truly cares for the people of Sarawak, then he must resign forthwith,” he said.

“Bersatu does not wish to wash dirty linen in public nor involve in mud-slinging because this will only bring about bitter recriminations and will not help to solve the problem. We want to get down to the business of government without delay for any further is bound to affect the welfare of the people.” he added.

He said Tun Rahman has denied an allegation that Tengku Razaleigh and himself are the prime movers in the move by Bersatu. “This allegation is part of Datuk Taib’s effort to pit Bersatu against the Prime Minister,” he added.

The Bersatu group and Tun Rahman fully support the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, he said.


Masing pleads ‘not guilty’ over indigenous displacement
Malaysia Kini, 21 March 2009

Sarawak Land Development Minister James Masing told a tv news channel that he has absolutely no guilt over the displacement of indigenous people caused by the construction of hydro-electric dams in the state.

“I don’t feel guilty. I feel that is the correct way of doing it. I don’t have any guilt feeling for trying to help my people,” said Masing on the Al-Jazeera’s 101 East programme Thursday night. [Watch 10-min video]

Host Fauziah Ibrahim had asked Masing if he felt guilty, as a person of indigenous descent, over indigenous people being displaced to make way for economic development.

During the programme, Masing defended the construction of dams, such as the massive Bakun hydroelectric dam and the proposal to build 12 new ones, because the state government was preparing for the future.

“Sarawak has enough energy as it is today. But we must look 20 years down the road. By that time we may not have enough energy. You know very well the cost of fuel (is escalating),” he said.

Masing defends CM

Masing also defended the involvement of Cahaya Mata Sarawak (CMS), a company owned by family members of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud in the construction of the dams.

“The dam constructions are done to legal tenders. The lowest tender gets it. It doesn’t matter if CMS or somebody else. It must be done on tender basis.

“That is very transparent. The international community can take a look at it… it is an open book for everyone to look,” he said.

When Fuziah pointed out that there are numerous cases in which projects were given to companies linked to Taib without open tenders, Masing said: “I was not aware of it”.

Fuziah replied by that the Similajau aluminum smelting plant was given to CMS while the construction of several bridges were awarded to Titanium Management Sdn Bhd, which Taib’s eldest son Mahmud Abu Bekir holds substantial interest in.

‘Everything was transparent’

Even with evidence presented before him, Masing maintained that these awards were given fairly and in accordance with the law.

“We have rules and laws… If there is a decision made by people who have vested interest, there are laws which does not allow it. It is illegal for people in authority to give authority with vested interest.

“All these things have been done through open tenders. They are transparent,” he said.

“In the case of the aluminum smelter, there were a few companies that were asked to bid for it. I know. And the best company gets it.

“Unfortunately, it was given to a company where the authority has some interest. But it is done legally,” he added.

‘I’m a friend of the chief minister’

Meanwhile, Fuziah also scrutinised Masing over his links to Taib. Masing admitted that he was an “ally” to Taib, but gave a less outright answer when asked if he was Taib’s “crony”.

“I don’t think (so). Crony means friends. I am a friend of the chief minister,” he said.

On whether there was “crony capitalism” going on in Sarawak, Masing replied in the negative because no one has been brought to book over such matters.

“I don’t think so. If there is, those who deal in it would be dealt by the law. Until today, there is nothing. One must assume there is no cronyism as such,” he said.

On who would keep the chief minister and his family accountable, Masing said the electorate would.

“I believe the voters in Sarawak are a very intelligent group of people,” he added.

S’wak minister draws flak over Penan rape
By Keruah Usit, Malaysia Kini, 9 Dec 2009

Sarawak Land Minister James Masing has come under fire for his scornful dismissal of claims that Penan girls and women have been sexually abused by employees of logging companies.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, broadcast on Dec 7, Masing said: “I think this is where we get confused. I think… the Penan are a most interesting group of people and they operate on different social etiquette as us… a lot this sex by consensual sex.”

BBC correspondent Angus Stickler then quoted Mary, a young Penan teenager, as saying that she had been dragged from her room, beaten unconscious and raped, after she had hitched a ride to school on a logging truck.

A federal government task force had confirmed in a report on Sept 9 that girls as young as 10 had been raped by loggers. Like Mary, some have borne children as a result of rape.

Masing, however, told the BBC: “They change their stories, and when they feel like it. That’s why I say Penan are very good storytellers.”

His remark is typical of the Sarawak government response. The official line has been to deny the rape of Penan girls and women by loggers, and to smear the Penan as primitive and promiscuous liars, while declaring that logging is a form of development.

The Sarawak government has asserted that logging brings roads, even if they are poorly maintained, to remote native Dayak communities.

However, the same roads have led to numerous reports of sexual assault on local Dayak, including Penan, girls, by logging company drivers and employees.

Masing’s slur of “changing stories” may be a reference to the police report lodged by a Penan rape survivor, ‘Bibi’, who withdraw her allegation.

But the Penan Support Group (PSG), a civil society coalition, pointed out her alleged rapist, Ah Heng (called ‘Johnny’ in the task force report) had escorted her to make the retraction. It said Ah Heng threatened and intimidated her into changing her story.

The PSG have criticised the police for closing their investigation into the sexual abuse, although the police had a representative in the task force.

The Bruno Manser Foundation (BMF), a NGO based in Switzerland that works for the Penan in Sarawak, has called on Masing to issue an apology.

The BMF had highlighted the sexual abuse of Penan by loggers last year. This sparked ocal media coverage and led eventually to the high-level task force investigation.

Masing’s changing story

Masing is unlikely to comply with any request to apologise. He is a leader of the Dayak-based Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), a splinter group from the Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS).

The PBDS nearly took over the Sarawak government in 1987 from Abdul Taib Mahmud, the most tenacious chief minister in the history of Malaysia.

Masing was PBDS vice-president and a stalwart of the opposition against Taib’s leadership of the state Barisan Nasional (BN) at the time. With a doctorate in anthropology, Masing was one of the most articulate political voices expressing the anger of the majority Dayaks, over the loss of their land to logging and plantation companies.

Following a crushing PBDS defeat in state elections in 1991, the party was broken and returned to the state BN. Masing was instrumental in dismantling the PBDS. He set up the PRS in 2003, claiming to represent Dayak people in the state BN.

Since then, he has been vilified by the Dayak communities fighting for their customary land rights all over Sarawak. The Penan, numbering some 15,000, are one of the ethnic groups included under the Dayak umbrella.

Masing is a highly qualified anthropologist. He understands the false dichotomy between ‘them’ and ‘us’. He has been trained in the cultural sensitivity required of all ethnographers and, as such, should serve as a Dayak spokesman for the Sarawak government.

Instead, he has become a vociferous defender of the Sarawak government’s abysmal record of deprivation of the Dayaks’ native customary rights (NCR) to land. He has transformed into the nemesis of his previous identity as a proponent of Dayak rights.

Sarawak’s political rivalries have thrown up public announcements and graphic descriptions of how its ministers allocate timber licences to family members and friends. They in turn lease the licences to loggers to extract timber. The logging companies – and their benefactors – have grown fabulously rich from their concessions.

Under the Sarawak Land Code 1958, natives are entitled to claim land they have used under customary law or adat. The Federal Court has affirmed the natives’ customary claims in celebrated landmark decisions such as Nor Nyawai vs Borneo Pulp Plantation Sdn Bhd, and Madeli Salleh vs the Government of Sarawak.

Regardless of court decisions, the logging companies, oil palm plantations and hydro-electric dam construction corporations have bulldozed these NCR claims aside. The state government claims all land without title is state land, even if NCR claims are pending.

Frustrated by the failure of the law to protect their communal farms and forests – and with landmark court cases ignored by the executive – Dayak communities have set up many blockades against the logging and oil palm companies.

Yet Masing continues to deny the widespread hardship among rural Dayak. He was disparaging about the Dayaks who fought for their land rights.

“You’re looking at state land. That land belongs to the government,” he told the BBC.

“But you cannot condone people who are squatters who are in areas where they should not be. If it is indeed their land, the law of the land will take care of that.”

KERUAH USIT is a human rights activist – anak Sarawak, bangsa Malaysia. His ‘The Antidote’ column, which appears in Malaysiakini every Wednesday, is an attempt to allow the voices of marginalised people to be heard all over Malaysia.

The bitter Parti Rakyat Sarawak row
By Stephen Tiong, MalaysiaKini, 26 January 2011

Those who do not know about the sour relationship between Sarawak land development minister Dr James Masing and assistant minister in the chief minister’s department Larry Sng would just brush it aside as an insignificant matter.

Masing, president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), has been insisting that he doesn’t want Larry to defend his Pelagus seat in the coming Sarawak state election.

Larry won the state seat on a Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) ticket in 2001, defeating the BN, and successfully retaining it in 2006, this time as a PRS candidate.

The two are no strangers to each other, for both are from Kapit and their families know one another, though they are not “close”.

Masing was one of the PBDS leaders responsible in the late 1980s for admitting Larry’s father, Sng Chee Hua, into PBDS. PBDS even amended its constitution to become a multi-racial party, just to accommodate the senior Sng and other non-Dayak people.

Many PBDS members strongly objected to the admission of the non-Dayak, especially Chinese, into their party. Their argument was that the Chinese were politically and financially strong, and could overwhelm the less financially and politically mature Dayak members.

Nevertheless, the amendments to the PBDS constitution were adopted at a triennial delegates conference (TDC), with party leaders promising that the financially strong Chinese would help the poor and less educated Dayak members.

Money politics comes into play

However, this did not turn out as promised. Money politics, for the first time in the state, came into play after PBDS opened its door to the non-Dayak. Its objectives and struggles became second fiddle to money politics.

Money politics also divided the party into camps.

Many left the PBDS, seeing it as no longer championing its objectives and principles. The others joined camps that took care of them, or joined one that they were comfortable with.

Serious cracks in PBDS surfaced in 2000, when Masing challenged Daniel Tajem for the post of deputy president.

Tajem and his supporters, including Sng, swept all the posts contested.

Leo Moggie, then federal works minister, won unopposed as party president.

Masing’s camp suspected that Sng’s money enabled Tajem to win victory. Deeply hurt by the defeat, Masing was reported to be very angry with Sng.

Had it not been for Sng’s money, Masing believed, he would have beaten Tajem.

Soon after the 2000 PBDS delegates conference, Chee Hua dumped Tajem to join Masing’s camp, hoping to seek a political fortune.

As a reward for the cross-over, Masing in 2002 recommended Larry (right), who was only 24 years old then, to be an assistant minister, by-passing state assemblymen like Mong Dagang (Bukit Begunan), John Sikie (Kakus), Gabriel Adit (Ngemah) and Stanley Ajang (Belaga).

Much later, commenting on his recommendation that Larry be appointed an assistant minister, Masing said: “I have been very kind to him because I put him up as an elected representative in the first place, and then as an assistant minister. I have been kind to this young man…”

Masing said Larry was chosen in recognition of his father’s contributions to the party and the Dayak community.

The secret formation of PRS

And when PBDS was hit by an from internal crisis, Masing and Sng secretly formed PRS.

Mong, who is also PRS Youth chief, said both Masing and Sng hatched the formation of PRS when they knew that PBDS was about to be deregistered.

Exactly on the day PBDS was deregistered, on Oct 21, 2004, the Registrar of Societies registered PRS as a political party, after which Masing took charge as its president, with Sng as his deputy.

Forming PRS was as far as the two could work together.

Soon after, they did not see eye to eye on many issues affecting the party. Masing, in one of his press conferences, complained that PRS secretary-general Sidi Munan listened more to Sng than to him.

When quarrel between the two became serious, Masing sacked six principal office-bearers, including Larry, Sidi, information chief Wilfred Nissom, treasurer Clement Eddy, deputy treasurer Sng Chee Beng and deputy information chief Ernest Chua.

Masing then appointed Nissom as the new secretary-general, with Larry as information chief. However, Larry did not accept the post.

In an immediate response, Sng and his supporters, including son Larry, censured Masing for “acting against the interests of the party”. Sng was then declared acting president, causing the PRS to have two supreme councils.

Masing had his own supreme council, with Sng presiding over the other. When Sng stepped down as the leader of his own supreme council, Larry took over.

Like his father, Larry refused to recognise Masing as party president. He even called his own delegates conference which “elected” him as party president.

The leadership crisis in PRS ended only when ROS recognised Masing as its legitimate president. The ROS also ruled that Masing was legally correct in sacking the six principal office-bearers.

It was because of the sacking that ROS issued a show-cause letter to PRS, asking it to explain why it should not be deregistered for contravening its own constitution.

“Grassroots strongly objected to Larry’

Despite the recognition by ROS, the bad blood between Masing and Larry continues till today.

The highlight of the quarrel was the sacking of Larry from the party in 2008, after Masing said he had obtained “strong feedback” from the grassroots.

The grassroots had strongly objected to Larry’s presence in the party and they wanted him kicked out.

Masing wrote to Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, officially informing him that Larry was no longer with PRS, and had, thus, was partyless.

Based on a series of events leading to the sacking of Larry from PRS, the sour relationship between Masing and him is seen as a continuation of the quarrel between Masing and Sng.

Larry is a third generation politician from his family. His grandfather Sng Chin Joo was a councillor with the Kapit District Council, as well as a nominated MP for Kapit after the formation of Malaysia.

Following Chin Joo’s footsteps was his son, Chee Hua, who used the PBDS platform to contest the Pelagus seat and served for two terms, from 1993 to 2001. He was replaced by Larry from 2001 onwards.

When reporters asked Masing about Larry, he said: “He can contest any where he wants to on BN ticket, but not in Pelagus. The seat belongs to PRS, not to Larry.”

Pressed as to what he would do if Taib insisted that Larry be picked to contest in Pelagus, Masing replied: “I consider that as an attempt to destablise me.”

Will Larry contest as a pro-BN independent candidate in Pelagus? Or will Masing eat his words and allow Larry to contest again?

Only time will tell.