SIBU: The late Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing (pic) was a man who walked the talk and did what he pledged to do, says Anyie Kumbong.
A resident of Rumah Melitang Tukau, a longhouse in Sungai Gaat, Kapit, Anyie said Masing was a leader whom the people trusted.
“He was really a good person. He was liked by many people because he was a leader who walked the talk. If he said he was going to do it and he was going to help us, he would keep his word.
“Masing had been helping longhouse folks to either rebuild or repair their longhouses in Kapit Division.
“He had helped us find a new site for our longhouse as the old one was in a dilapidated condition and he helped us with the materials and cost,” said the 56-year-old.
Anyie said their longhouse was located about five hours by boat from Kapit. The 31-door longhouse has some 1,000 residents.
“We are moving into the new longhouse soon and are very thankful to Masing,” he said.
Bakat Gira, a resident of another longhouse, Rumah Nyamok Nanga Serau in Baleh, said his new 31-door longhouse was about 70% completed.
“It was Masing who, due to his concern for our well-being, helped us build a new longhouse.
“He also built infrastructure facilities such as roads,” said Bakat, 50, and recalled that rural folk also benefited from Masing’s tireless efforts in ensuring their children received an education.
“When people were sick, they would also approach him and he would definitely help them.
“His passing is a huge loss to the Dayak community here,” added Bakat.
Kapit Chinese Women Association chairman Wong Kie Ing said Masing was a leader for all ages and races.
“He did not only help the Dayak community which included the Iban, Kayan, Kenyah and other ethnic groups, as we, the Chinese, also received assistance from him.
“In other words, Masing did not choose who he should help,” said Wong, 71.
Masing, according to Wong, was also very concerned with the elderly and had constantly provided them with financial grants from his minor rural project funds.
“Although he might be seen helping the youths, he never neglected the elderly. Whether one is young or old, he was there to help.
“We have lost a very wonderful person and we will really miss him,” said Wong, who is a penghulu, a community leader post which was recommended by Masing.
Meanwhile, Kelab Gagung Sarawak (KGS), a club promoting the Iban costume, said Masing was a strong proponent of Iban cultural heritage.
KGS founder Sammy Ngelambai said Masing was very interested in the costume and wanted it to be revived as it reflected the identity of the Ibans, a major ethnic group in Sarawak known for their fighting spirit.
“He had assisted KGS the most in many ways, thus his passing was a great loss to us,” he told Bernama.
Sammy said Masing had bought two sets of gagung or animal skin vests and two sets of headgear from him as his personal ceremonial suits, along with a longsword and a traditional Iban fighting blade the nyabor.
The costume also comprised a headgear decorated with the head of kenyalang (rhinoceros hornbill) and the feathers of enggang (another hornbill species), boar tusk necklaces and sword decorated with human hair, silver belt and necklaces and bamboo container for carrying blowpipe darts.
Masing had even donned a full Iban ceremonial suit during the Niti Daun or parade in conjunction with the Gawai Dayak celebration in June 2018.
Sammy said he first met Masing in Long Singut in Kapit when Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) was at its height of political strength, where Masing then was the right-hand man of PBDS president Tan Sri Leo Moggie.
Masing first contested and won the Baleh state seat in the 1983 election and had represented the constituency since.
“I will remember Masing as a gentle, straightforward person who talked his mind. The thing that he was very concerned with was education and had wanted Sarawak to produce more intellectuals,” he added.
Meanwhile, a ceremony will be held for the public to pay their last respects to Masing, who was also Sarawak deputy chief minister, on Wednesday.
The ceremony will take place at the Association of Churches in Sarawak at Jalan Stampin here.
“The session for dignitaries is from 8.30am to 9.30am, followed by the session for the public from 9.30am to 2pm.
“The public is advised to wear proper attire and take the Covid-19 RTK tests,” read a Sarawak Public Communications Unit statement.
Ukas added that Masing died of heart complications and his last Covid-19 test came back negative.
“His remains will be taken to the Kuching Nirvana Memorial Park after the ceremony,” it said.