File doc KNIGHTulu3
First draft Jan 29, 2009;
Edited Jan 30 (complete makeover);
Edited Feb 02 (language toned down);
In the tube today:
- Malaysia loves Orang Ulu
- News report by Malaysiakini
- Orang Ulu but not orang ulu
- The issue with Orang
- Orang Ulu vs Lun Daya
- Orang Ulu me
Orang Ulu is a term nearly all encompassing but it is ‘too hot’ for the rest of the Malaysians. They cannot display a correct attitude before the name. The rest of the country wants us to change the name. - Christhoper K. Knight
Malaysia loves Orang Ulu
By Christhoper K. Knight
The question: Do you know Orang Ulu?
The answer: Orang Ulu what? What’s that? (*Laughter)
I remember that night in Kota Tinggi, Johor in 2002 when I dined with executives from Tourism Malaysia who forced me to discover the painful truth about Orang Ulu.
As a travel writer for a magazine, filling in for James Ritchie who declined the assignment at last minute, I accompanied a group of Sarawakians to visit places of interest in southern Malaya. Toward the end of the weeklong tour, we finally met up with the Johor-based tourism bosses at a dinner hosted by them.
To their question, I told them I was not Chinese. They said I must be from the Philippines. Wrong again. I told them I come from Sarawak my tribe is Kayan my race is Orang Ulu – to simplify.
I thought they had poor knowledge about the country’s society. So I gave them some ‘tuition’ on Sarawak people. They already know Dayak, Iban and Bidayuh but they didn’t know Kayan, Kenyah or Kelabit. I told them the three tribes, along with other smaller tribes, come under one umbrella term known as Orang Ulu, by which name they are collectively referred to when mentioned in the same frame with Iban and Bidayuh. These three groups are moulded into what is collectively known as Dayak.
After some time they started to get funny and offensive. Someone uttered Orang Utan and the gang burst with laughter. After learning the Orang Ulu women grew long ears, someone said the husband could get his hand entangled in the loop during sex making – he even tried to demonstrate the scene in his imagination. The childish choir went hysterical again. I was completely unprepared for such reaction from a band of men I thought was gentlemen. Refusing to create a scene in the respectable restaurant, I shook my head and brushed off the sarcasm.
But one of them caught up with me again in the restroom. Struggling to keep from laughing, he asked how to distinguish between Orang Ulu and Bidayuh. I told him I cannot distinguish between Orang Ulu and Bidayuh but HE CAN distinguish between Orang Ulu and Semenanjung people. He asked for it.
I said it to his face: Orang Ulu are handsome, you’re ugly.
I think I know why they treated me that way that night. They were disappointed because it wasn’t a James Ritchie, instead a rookie me, who covered the all-expenses-paid tour programme. Even if that was the case, couldn’t they spare my Orang Ulu pride?
If I could return the same hostility to the men in the Johor restaurant, now that I have been trained in racism and had been forced to understand minority ethnics have little say in this country, I would say this to those rascals: Malaysia loves the Orang Ulu.
Believe me when I tell you the only thing ULU about the Orang Ulu is the name Orang Ulu. In other aspects of life, the Orang Ulu has advanced into Malaysian civilization at much faster pace than most Malaysians have. We lack in one department though – we don’t have serial killers. We used to be a fierce force of headhunters, with combat skills second only to none, but we spare the modern Malaysia from our raiding and looting because Malaysia loves the Orang Ulu.
No doubt we have longhouses, but we also have homes in the cities. The Malays have balik kampung excitement during Hari Raya; we have our experience comes Christmas. The picture you saw on TVs is just for the show, not exactly a true reflection of our good living and a desire to enrich our values. The Orang Ulu are usually high achievers at various workplaces and considering our small population yet the fact that we can produce many doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals to empower the nation building, I guess I can say we build the country. And of course Malaysia loves the Orang Ulu for all that we can do.
In trouble times, we give the country our Idris Jala to turn around the otherwise catastrophic lost for the country’s airline industry – the country’s pride. We also gave you Long Bedian as the model village of the country. The world has recognised the Kelabit as among the clever people of the planet. Of course, we do many other small things for the nation. Small in number yet we can make our presence felt in this country. That’s why Malaysia loves the Orang Ulu, because we continue to amaze everyone.
Yes, Malaysia loves the Orang Ulu because we are adorable and gifted. Yet you cannot see us among you because we blend so well with your crowd that you often mistaken us for the Chinese, the Malays or the Eurasians. You must have thought we were some primitive orang ulu felling tress in the forest. Next time you see a convoy of three Ford Rangers heading toward a longhouse in the jungle or some helicopters flying to Bario or Ba’ Kelalan, you can be sure that is a big family of Orang Ulu going home.
We are the beautiful people of the country. If you can picture Orang Ulu in this light, you know why we never feel small amidst the rest of you. And if by chance we are related to the Orang Utan, as some Darwin scientists agree man comes from ape, we should be the finest version of Orang Utan while the rascals in this country are the underdeveloped versions of monkeys.
The question: Do you know Orang Ulu?
The answer: Yes! (*And they laugh no more)
Read news report below about Orang Ulu leaders intending to revolutionize the name Orang Ulu. In principle, I agree with the idea. Some detail, however, is up for debate.
Orang Ulu want to 'modernise' name
Joe Fernandez | Jan 28, 09 11:40am
Tired of being the butt of local jokes about being ulu (backward), some Dayak Orang Ulu (interior people) in Sarawak are looking for a name that will do the community proud.
‘Lun Daya’ has been suggested by Federation of Orang Ulu Association Malaysia (Forum) president Lihan Jok, who is also the state assemblyperson for Telang Usan.
“Orang Ulu seems not to reflect, and does not befit, the community in the modern context,” said Lihan who plans to hold a symposium in April on the name change and forward the idea to the Sarawak cabinet for its consideration and incorporation in the state constitution.
“Many Orang Ulu have migrated to urban areas where some have found success in various endeavours. Some have become professionals, not only in the country, but internationally as well.”
In particular, he cited Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Officer Idris Jala who has been credited with turning the national carrier around after a spate of near bankruptcies.
“Most of the community’s professionals, intellectuals and leaders have agreed in principle to the name change,” said Lihan.
‘Lun Daya’, he said, would reflect the resourcefulness and strength of the Orang Ulu in bringing changes and development to their families and communities.
The Orang Ulu will remain within the Dayak grouping which includes the Iban (formerly Sea Dayaks), the Bidayuh (formerly Land Dayaks) and the Mel anau whose Muslim third often identify themselves with the Sarawak Malays. The word ‘Dayak’ comes from the Mel anau word dayeh (land).
Apparently, the term Orang Ulu was chosen to ‘differentiate’ the community from others as they live mostly in the ulu or upper reaches of the great rivers of northern Sarawak . However, many have come to associate the name with ‘backwardness’ in all aspects of modern life.
Others feel that there is no harm in taking pride in the current name, which covers over 30 sub-groups in Sarawak . It was coined in 1969 by the now defunct Orang Ulu National Association which preceded Forum.
“Forum should not think of just a name change for the Orang Ulu but play an important role in the socio-economic development of the community,” said William Ghani Bina, the special adviser to the Sarawak Lun Bawang Association.
“The name should be retained as it signifies the identity, culture and way of life of the community.”
Bina advised Forum leaders to concentrate on organising courses in entrepreneurship and agriculture for the community, instead of wasting time on cosmetic changes.
However, his remarks have not gone down well with some urban Orang Ulu who point out that the Lun Bawang themselves were formerly known as Murut, which they had considered a derogatory term besides denoting a certain coarseness or roughness of nature and backwardness.
Views on proposal
Busnessman Henry Opang Luhat, from the Kayan sub-group, thinks that Lun Daya is an idea whose time has come.
“Orang Ulu sounds too much like Orang Utan. I think that it’s about time that we have a name change,” said Luhat, also the executive secretary of Parti Rakyat Sarawak, a member of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
“Orang Ulu are Malay words. It is only fair that any new term is chosen by the community itself and not by others, as in the past.”
Jane Liang L abang , a Kelabit, said that she would support a name change if it truly reflects the identity of the community.
“I am not sure what Lun Daya means. Any proposal for a name change must be from the community and must be accepted by all,” said L abang who is general manager of the Sarawak Cultural Village .
According to one Internet site, Lun Daya is an alternate name for Lundayeh. Other names for Lundayeh include Lun Dayah, Lun Daye, Lun Dayeh, Lun Dayoh, Lundaya, Lun Lod, and Southern Murut .
Lawyer Richard Lah, also a Kelabit, agrees with the name change but suggests that ‘Daya’ be spelt as ‘Dayah’.
“I feel offended whenever people call me Orang Ulu. The word orang is degrading. We were always referred to as natives. The term 'Orang Ulu' does not exist in the constitutions of Sarawak and Malaysia . Forum itself should not have been formed until after the name change.”
The Orang Ulu are famous for their unique musical instrument called the sape, elaborate beadwork and tattoos, as well as making swords and totem poles.
They typically live in longhouses elaborately decorated with murals and woodcarvings. The majority are Christians, but traditional spiritual practices are still found in some areas.
Some community elders fear that any tussle over a name change may result in some members calling themselves by a new name while others retain the term Orang Ulu.
In neighbouring Sabah , a decision by some Dusuns to call themselves Kadazan, a new umbrella term, resulted in a split with the emergence of two groups.
Attempts to merge the two terms, Kadazan and Dusun, into the more unified KadazanDusun about a decade ago was not enough to heal the split, resulting in the emergence of three groups and three separate cultural associations.
Purists in Sabah and Sarawak see the emergence of new umbrella terms as politically motivated and feel that ethnic groupings should be allowed to retain their unique identities in a celebration of differences.
Caption: When you see beautiful girls like these lass here on stage, they've got to be girls from ethnic Orang Ulu. Theoretically, our root don't belong with the Melanesian (Malay or Iban). Someone suggested that day we probably come from Eastern Europe. Photo grabbed from Desmond Jerukan
Orang Ulu but not orang ulu
By Christhoper K. Knight
Silly we, our name Orang Ulu will continue to belie our greatness, especially when it continues to remind the least-educated people of some Orang Utan or Orang Asli or some primitive man whose hands were entangled in the elongated earlobes of his wife during lovemaking.
Is the name Orang Ulu a wrong name for us? If we take out the name, can it resolve the issue? Maybe it can. We don’t mind being called Orang Ulu, really, if you don’t mind being called lanun, kongsi or keling. After all, those names have association with your past – sorry.
My point is we all want a name that can make a better representation of ourselves. All the better if the name cannot be associated with anything unfavourable, as in the case of lanun. As in our case, the name Orang Ulu contradicts the truth about Orang Ulu: We are Orang Ulu but we are not orang ulu.
Good and correct name already you have for your race, befitting the greatness of your folks and suitable for your great future. The Orang Ulu want only to have the same thing.
Now that they want to change the name Orang Ulu, of course my personal experience with the name make me want to agree with the motion. And I agree with it, not because I don’t like name Orang Ulu but because other Malaysians don’t like the name Orang Ulu. - Christhoper K. Knight
The issue with Orang
The name Orang Ulu is already an issue with me since the beginning. It becomes an issue when the people I was talking to flinched at the mention of Orang and Ulu. Only recently, some people I met in Malaya even suggested I make Kayan as my race instead… or Sarawak Bumiputera for the better. The Minah flat said her parents might have bad impression about name Orang Ulu. I told them anyway. Of course, they thought I was illegal immigrant.
Now that they want to change the name Orang Ulu, of course my personal experience with the name make me want to agree with the motion. And I agree with it, not because I don’t like name Orang Ulu but because other Malaysians don’t like the name Orang Ulu.
I know this cannot go down well with my friends back home. They take pride in name Orang Ulu. But that’s because they are in their comfort zone Sarawak. In Sarawak Malaysia, the name Orang Ulu has some esteem with it. In countries outside Malaysia, Orang Ulu is only exotic foreign name. BUT in Malaya Malaysia, the name Orang Ulu can ring the wrong bell.
The task is of course in our hand. We can go on a road show to educate the country about what Orang Ulu really is or we can do the simplest of thing – re-branding. I go for the latter option. I say the change must come from within our circle.
It’s not as if we are not proud of our origin. That’s not the question here. It’s not as if we want to discard our race out of embarrassment. That’s not the case here. We are Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit or Lun Bawang. Yesterday, today and tomorrow that is our tribes, banded together under label Orang Ulu. If we could change the label Orang Ulu to make the label sound presentable, meaningful and truthful in the eyes and ears of the strangers, would you not want to modify the label? Just the label.
After all, James Brooke, Harriett MacDougal, Charles Hose, the Cobbold Commission, Rosli Dhobi or Rentap did not know what Orang Ulu is.
We are not what perceived by our name. If we can create something out of nowhere in 1969, it is time we rectify the mistake and resolve once and for all the unnecessary issue.
Orang Ulu vs Lun Daya
Please agree on this unanimously: You want to change the name.
In 1969 when the Orang Ulu National Association coined the name Orang Ulu, they must have thought that was the best name they could think of. Bear in mind that was 40 years ago, probably long before we found Orang Utan in the zoo, Orang Asli in Malaya and Orang Minyak in cinemas. Our Orang Ulu leaders then probably have thought we were somewhat related with Orang Putih. Somebody please tell me that’s not the case.
As the country cruises into the 21st Century, the name Orang Ulu can no longer rhyme with MAS or PKR. Everyone, please agree on that.
So we have agreed unanimously on two things: The name Orang Ulu is no longer relevant and we want to change it.
No pain in changing name if we are wiling to forfeit the sentimentality attached with the old name to make way for a better tomorrow, quite like Orang Ulu ex-president Tom Balare adopting name Abu Bakar Abdullah to remain relevant in somebody’s home.
But for Orang Ulu to change name to Lun Daya it can be as painful and not original as Orang Ulu is changed to Orang Abdullah. I tell you how I know Lun Daya belongs to orang lain.
I followed a jungle-trekking expedition to Kalimantan in 2003. While there, I met the friendly natives of east Kalimantan. They looked Sarawak's Lun Bawang to me. Their language was also familiar to me. If I can remember correctly, they were speaking in Lun Bawang or Murut's dialect to one another. They told me their race is called Lun Dayah.
I don’t think name Lun Daya or LunDaya can make a better replacement for Orang Ulu because sooner or later someone can make an issue out it and eventually relate that name to a tribe in Kalimantan.
“Lun” as I understand it denotes “Bangsa” or race, as in Lun Iban, Lun Bidayuh and Lun Kina. Another possible fuel for a controversy is the name Lun is very familiar to Lawas but not to Belaga. Another point of contention: If Daya is another way to say Dayak and Lun Daya could well mean Bangsa Dayak, then why the hell are we having another one when we already have Dayak in Sarawak? Are we trying to confuse the tourists here or ourselves?
If this is how we pick a name for ourselves, we might as well start calling ourselves Orang Umno. If anything the letters “O” and “U” remain and our association can still go by its current abbreviation OUNA or FORUM.
No? So, can somebody please tell YB Lihan Jok to look for another name. Keep looking; I’m sure we’ll get the right stuff eventually. If you want my suggestion, I’d say we engage National Geographic or the South Asia historians and archaeologists or beads curator Heidi Munan in case there’s a name somewhere along the migration route that is still useful, and if we’re lucky, it can be a stylish one, too. Please suspect that all Orang Ulu today probably come from the same principle tribe 1600 years ago.
If you want something classic and all encompassing for the 30 Orang Ulu tribes in today’s Malaysia, the history probably can nominate one or two names. Lun Daya is a classic but it belongs to Orang Kalimantan, at least from my perspective. Orang Ulu is nearly all encompassing but it is ‘too hot’ for the rest of the Malaysians. They cannot display a correct attitude before the name. The rest of the country wants us to change the name.
As to prepare YB Lihan Jok for the symposium in April, he probably likes to check out that Lun Dayah tribe in Kalimantan. They live in two villages across the border, not far from Ba' Kelalan. Good luck.
Orang Ulu me
I know we will find for ourselves a good name soon. Until then, I'm always proud being Orang Ulu from Sarawak. It’s the same pride I will carry to the new name of our ‘race’.
My parents are Orang Ulu. My mother has two long ears, at least she used to have a pair until a thief in Sibu mistaken the brass ornaments dangling on her ears for gold and he snatched at the lobe, tearing the ear. Despite her request, the doctor could not restore the long ears, at least not as long as they used to be seen on her.
She’s a tiny example of how challenges in modern society always force the Orang Ulu to make adjustments on themselves in order to fit in the Malaysia society. But in all the adjustments, it didn’t make them any less the person they already are; they only get better.
That woman with long ears is Orang Ulu but she can read and write. She gave birth to me in a good hospital 37 years ago, fed me with good food and dressed me up in good clothes. That’s why people from all over the world come to listen to me here today. Because I am special. Because I was born to Orang Ulu woman with two long ears.
The question: Do you know Orang Ulu?
The answer: Yes! Malaysia loves Orang Ulu.
This is not my mother but this how she looked in that elongated earlobes. Now you understand how the snatch thief had mistaken that brass balls for gold. I still cannot understand, however, the kinky imagination of those men in Johor restaurant. I guess they must have tried some fetish with their wives to can imagine such 'accident'. Truly that was an insult to my mother. Next time someone said that to me I might as well take his head home as trophy.