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Friday, 30 March 2012

Being grateful is Love, the simple things?

Datuk Seri Idris Jala and the Kelabits have shown that being grateful is a way of showing real humility but it should not be mistaken as being subservient.

THERE was an elderly Kelabit man who had never seen a TV set in his life – not until he visited his son’s modern house.

He sat on the sofa and watched the news and his son noticed that the old man paid special attention to reports on the floods in Kelantan, especially the deaths due to drowning.

The father turned to his son and asked why there were deaths? He was shocked when he was told it was an annual occurrence.

“Why didn’t they just move away from the river? Our people would have just moved to higher ground,” he said.

This story was related to a group of about 30 analysts and journalists at a briefing on Thursday by probably the most famous Kelabit of all, Datuk Seri Idris Jala. The old man was his father Henry Jala.

“That’s how our people are. Our tribe has moved to near the Kalimantan border just to get away from the floods,” said Idris, who is the boss of Pemandu – the government unit set up to implement the New Economic Model and the various transformation programmes.

Pemandu is the acronym for Performance Management & Delivery Unit of which Idris is the chief executive officer. He is also a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

He readily admits his bias towards the rural transformation programme and the key initiative to build basic infrastructure for the rural folk.

“Till today, my village has no electricity supply. Fifteen years ago, our longhouse was burnt down because a woman forgot to put out a candle before going to sleep,” Idris told the audience as he expounded the virtue of the Government Transformation Programme and the Economic Transformation Programme.

(The acronyms of GTP, ETP and Pemandu has become synonymous with Idris.)

The Kelabits, numbering some 5,000, are probably the most successful bumiputra community in Sarawak.

It has been reported that at least 90% of the Kelabits are literate and that some 10% of them have obtained diplomas, degrees, post-graduate degrees and professional qualifications. At least another 1,000 have sat for their Form Five examination.

Besides Idris, the community has got doctors, lawyers, police officers, engineers, millionaire businessmen and top state civil servants.

Ask any Sarawakian about Kelabits, and they will speak of them in a respectful tone with full admiration.
After all, many of the older ones are well-known warriors and war veterans.

One could even say that pound for pound, the Kelabits are the most highly successful community in the country despite their small number.

Idris had told another audience at a more informal setting at Tapis Rouge – a restaurant cum mini-theatre owned by celebrity Datin Seri Tiara Jacqueline – that his people who lived in the Bario Highlands, although led a simple life, were ambitious.

A widely travelled man, Idris told of his life in Holland and Britain and how our country was not that lacking.

“I have always considered my life very blessed. I constantly remind myself that Malaysia has got a lot going for it.

“While we look admiringly at the roses far away, we must not forget the roses that are in our own garden,” he told his audience at his Blues Jam session at Tapis Rouge.

Idris said his favourite quote on this came from management guru Dale Carnegie which went: “It is tragic when we put off living. We dream of a magical rose garden over the horizon and miss the roses blooming outside our windows”.

The strain of leading the Government’s charge to transform the nation into a high-income and developed nation shows on Idris face but his bubbly self seems to shine through whenever he gets his hands on a guitar.

In his closing remarks to the 300-odd friends and supporters who turned up to hear him sing and play the guitar, Idris reminded them that Malaysians must learn to count their blessing and “learn to love the simple things like music, family and roses”.

Come Monday, the 2011 annual reports of the ETP and GTP will be submitted to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak live on TV at 8.30pm.

> Executive Editor Wong Sai Wan is still looking forward to a trip to the Bario Highlands to see for himself the Kelabits in their own environment.

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