Bruno Manser Fonds
Basel/Switzerland, April 22th, 1999
The other view
The reason to come back to Sarawak after so long is simple: I hoped, to meet Taib Mahmud, and I also hoped that Taib Mahmud will lend his ear to the Penan, who still suffer under the continuing destruction of their forest by heavy machinery. They ask him for many years now to revoke logging licences within their traditional territories and to protect their virgin forest. All attempts from my side, to contact Taib Mahmud through proper channels, like Malaysian Embassies, offering cooperation for the benefit of my Penan-friends and their forest remained without reply so far. An official visit last year, when I brought 10' 000.-US$ startcapital for a mobile dental clinic for the Penan, was refused. The money is still ready on an account of MayBank in Singapore, if the Chief Minister likes to forward the project. After all, I am also looking forwards to be introduced with a smile by Abang Johari to my lovely Penan wife and to my lovely two Penan children, he publicly accused me to have left without support in 1990.
I chose Hari Raya Haji for my return, as the religous day reminds the Muslim to be good, it reminds the rich to share his wealth with the poor, and that in front of Allah all human beings are the same. A good Muslim friend of mine taught me about the values of Islam and to write the peaceful message "Eid Mubarak", "Peace upon you", as greetings for the public of Malaysia and Sarawak on the Paraglider.
The flight with the motorized Paraglider gave an unforgettable view over the beautiful mosque, government buildings and scenery of Kuching. After a failed take-off near Kuching with broken propeller, Colonel Basir from K.L. lent us his engine for the celebration of Hari Raya Haji. (Therima Kasih, and Minta Maaf, colonel Basir, for not having informed you about the whole backghround of the flight.) After the landing besides Taib Mahmuds sultanic residence, I could embrace Maleng, my best Penan-friend, whom I have not seen for nine years. He had lost a leg in an accident meanwhile, and was walking slowly on cruches. Before we arrived, arm in arm, at the main entrance of the Demak Jaya, where the Press and a Penan delegation were ready to meet the CM, we were both pushed into a car and driven to Kuching airport. There, Mr Michael Ong was helpful to fix Malengs artificial limg. Thank you! The immigration served us a meal and offered us a quiet office, to speak a message for Taib Mahmud on tape. Maleng was allowed to follow on a wheel-chair and we could weave each other before boarding MAS. James Ritchie had organized a 1. Class-flight to K.L. We were served for our best by a beautiful Malaysian Stewardess. In K.L. I was directly droven to the headquarters of the immigration and put into a lock-up.
During the two following days of detention I was the only guest in the big cell, apart from hundreds of cockroaches. The smiling faces of the personnel of the Immigration, who worked together like a family, who brought good food, bought tooth-brush and soap for me, and gave opportunity to exercise Bahasa Malaysia, made me feel fine. I was even asked to play songs on my little mouth-organ. Everybody liked my little woolen lamb "Gumperly", which I will hand only personally as a gift to Taib Mahmud, if he opens up the opportunity. For my deportation I was followed by about 20 smiling bodyguards of the Immigration, of which even Mahathir can be proud of!
Closing Remark: I have been assured that Taib Mahmud is a good man. He holds the key in his hands to make himself, Sarawak and Malaysia and the world smile for his wise decisions concerning the Penan and the protection of their last remaining virgin forests. There is not much time left. Please check it out yourself with the CM, and with Penan in their homelands.
With best wishes
Sampai Jumpa Lagi