Thursday, September 10, 2009


There is a price for everything ... we pay for what we want in life or what we think would improve our lives. I was deeply moved and saddened by the following article from The STAR date today:

Centuries-old heritage in Balui valley to be submerged next month

Date : 10th Sept, 2009

BAKUN: An important chunk of Sarawak’s ancient history in Bakun in the heart of Borneo – depicting epic battles between the warring tribes during the head-hunting era and the numerous uprisings against colonial masters – will be buried underwater from next month when the Bakun dam reservoir starts to take in water.

Come October, the Balui River will be dammed and the entire Balui valley measuring 64,000ha (the size of Singapore) will be slowly drowned under 210m of water, and with it, a history that dates back centuries.

Bakun community chief Penghulu Saging Bit told The Star that the region is home to some of the most fascinating history of the Kayans, Kenyahs and Penans.

“The Kayans had for centuries lived in longhouses that measured more than a kilometre long each. There are more than a hundred families living next to each other in the longhouses,” he said.

“That had made it difficult for enemies to invade because any invasion would trigger an immediate and concerted response from the more than 1,000 people living in each of these massive longhouses.”

The Star last week visited the Bakun region and found that people from these unique longhouses belonging to the Kayans, Kenyahs, Ukits and Lahanans have already moved to the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme, located some 50km away from the dam.

Their new longhouses in the resettlement scheme are built by the government using modern designs.

Belaga Catholic priest Father Sylvester Ding said the region had wonderful treasures of oral history, some of which were never recorded in written text.

“There were epic battles between the Ibans and the Kayans that lasted days, with thousands of heads of these warriors being chopped off all over the Bakun region during the head-hunting period.

“There were many famous warriors, kings and princes from these tribes who had originated from Bakun. Some of their descendants are still alive today,” he said.

“This region is also important in the pre-independence history of Sarawak. It was here that the Orang Ulu had put up strong resistance against Raja Charles Brooke during the natives’ uprising against British colonialism.

“Thousands of Kayans were killed when the British army invaded Bakun. The British had huge cannons that can flatten an entire longhouse with a barrage of shots,” Father Ding told The Star.

The Bakun region was also an important venue for the Sarawak natives to organise guerilla warfare during the Second World War against the Imperial Japanese Army.

The natives then turned their firearms against the British after the war, and eventually they helped to liberate Sarawak from British rule and gain independence via the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

Bakun dam developer Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd is in the midst of salvaging as much of the endangered plants and animals in Bakun as possible, but sadly, the physical history and ancient historical sites will be beyond salvaging.

They will be lost forever when these ancient venues are submerged.

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