Words by Mohd Fadzrin
Photo by Yeong Hui Min
Of all the memories, experiences, feelings, and moments we’ve experienced in the visits we made, it is easy to forget of the very people that helped us unlock those encounters. We may have our own stories but let’s not forget the stories these guides have about their lives.
Let’s talk about their stories instead.
Nasiri Sabiah, hailing from Alab Lanas, has started work in PACOS Trust for about 10 years. He got into PACOS Trust due to land rights issue in his village. There was a land rights coordinator who visited his village and asked him if he could join the paralegal training under PACOS Trust. Through this training, he was able to join as an apprentice in the Local and International Unit (LIRU). As part of LIRU, his work was to advocate the rights of the indigenous people. Afterwards, through hard work he managed to end up as the Area-Based Coordinator (ABC). His line of work here involves becoming the bridge between the community and PACOS Trust. Any issues regarding the various communities in Sabah will end up being discussed through him and appropriate action(s) then taken.
“Because when you come to us, while you learn from us, we learn from you” said Nasiri.
Nasiri found that our trip is very important to the community because building networks is important. His organisation’s work becomes valued when there are other people interested and are passionate about the struggles that are faced by the indigenous communities in Sabah. PACOS Trust cannot work alone, he stated, and everyone who comes to PACOS Trust to learn about the community is a closer step to create harmony within the various communities in Sabah.
What Nasiri hopes for Sabah lies in the future generations. Him alone, being in his middle ages, wonders who will continue the struggle for the advancement of the indigenous peoples. He mentioned that there is a concern among the current generation of people leaving Sabah for studies or work, and this becomes a problem when they do not return. The future of Sabah lies in these people.
Sintiah Samanding comes from Kiau village which is near Mount Kinabalu. For 17 years he has worked hard in PACOS Trust, but before that he had a brief stint in the Friends in Society Building for 2 years. His previous work was to train the communities to help uplift and safeguard themselves from future intrusions by political or corporate bodies. His work even reached outside of East Malaysia, in which he helped with the indigenous community of Endau-Rompin in the state of Johor. After that, he worked at PACOS Trust in the same line of duty as Nasiri, being an Area-Based Coordinator.
Before delving into community work, he was a tour guide for about eight years. It was also at this time when he started to attend climbathons. With nothing but hard and honest practice is he able to run up to the top of Mount Kinabalu at an amazing time of 2 hours and 52 minutes. He would train for weeks on end, taking about 5 months to achieve that feat. He will continue participating later this October, under the veterans category.
Regarding our study trip, Sintiah found it great that there are universities, both local and international, that are willing to come over and share current issues about the plight of the indigenous peoples through PACOS Trust. As a consequence of these visits, we will inevitably share these issues with our friends and family, and this will result in a sort of direct communication of our efforts to other people who might be interested in helping out as well. This expands PACOS Trust’s influence; transcending boundaries and reaching out to people beyond what the organisation could do themselves.
He hopes that Sabah would one day treat all the indigenous people with dignity and respect they deserve. One of the most hot issues right now in the indigenous community concerns about land rights because many have lost their land due to unscrupulous activities from large companies. When all the land is systematically taken over this way, the future of Sabah is uncertain.
Andrew Gosungkit (Right)
Andrew hails from Togudon village, but has been married in Kipouvo village for 10 years. He first became a van driver back in 2004. In 2008, he frequently trips to Ranau, Labuan, Kudat, and Keningau. Due to this, he is an indispensable part of our trip.
When asked about what he thought of our trip, he answered by stating that he loves being able to help people from outside and beyond; to give awareness to the issues that plague the communities.
He hopes that Sabah would enjoy fair and balanced treatment towards all peoples from all layers of society.