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Thursday December 13, 2012

More than 1,000 Penans gather for inaugural Pesta Penan Murum

Muscle men:
Two men taking
part in the Payu
competition as
Sikie, seen with
the crowd at left,
excitedly. Muscle men: Two men taking part in the Payu competition as Sikie, seen with the crowd at left, gestures excitedly.

MURUM: The remote village of Long Singu here was a hive of activity recently when it hosted the inaugural Pesta Penan Murum.

The two-day sports carnival was made possible by Sarawak Energy Bhd, which organised and sponsored the event in line with its effort to engage with the state’s indigenous communities.

Attracting more than 1,000 Penans from around the area, the event served as a platform to unite the people in a fun and interactive atmosphere.

They participated in activities like football, tug of war, karaoke and beauty pageant. The karaoke contest, in particular, received an overwhelming response and had to run until 3am.

The carnival also combined several traditional Penan games in an effort to promote the culture.

“We have taken into consideration several traditional Penan games. Activities such as sumpit (blowpipe), payu (wrestling), payu usu (arm wrestling) and ngajat (traditional dance) were among the ones organised,” said Murum resettlement officer Bit Surang, who is also the chief organiser of the carnival.

“It is heartwarming to see the enthusiasm and excitement of the Penan community in the carnival. We are already working on organising the event again next year at their new resettlement area.”

He pointed out that the new area would provide the community with clean water, better electricity supply, church, community hall and various other basic facilities. Bit was confident that they would definitely help improve the community’s overall quality of life.

“We are glad that we have given the Penans a joyful event. We started out by asking ourselves how this event will benefit the Penan people and we thought that the most important thing for them was to bring them all together and open up their mind to the world.

“The sports carnival showed and educated the people how they can all work together and successfully organise an event,” explained Bit.

Long Luar headman Madai Salo unreservedly supported the event, noting that it was crucial in bringing development to the Penan people.

“This carnival is the first of its kind and represents a new beginning for all of us. I’m truly delighted about this as this symbolises an advancement to the Penan people. Good job and thanks to the government and Sarawak Energy for organising such an event and we hope that this will be planned every year.”

Also present during the carnival was Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Native Adat and Penan Affairs) Datuk John Sikie Tayai and Culture and Heritage Assistant Minister Liwan Lagang.

A statement from Sarawak Energy yesterday said the festival was only the latest example of numerous engagements and community gatherings that had been organised over the years and reflected exactly how well the company was received among the local population.

“The reality of the situation contrasts starkly with the baseless allegations made by radical foreign activists who falsely claim a lack of engagement,” it said.

It added that Sarawak Energy employed a number of local ambassadors to help them connect with, understand and serve better the needs of the indigenous people.

“Only through such exhaustive efforts can mutually beneficial action proceed. It is the state government and Sarawak Energy’s vision that everyone who wants it, has access to clean power, enhanced education, healthier amenities and a better quality of life.”