Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dato Ling Beng Siong vs Dato James Wong in Council Negri

A very interesting anecdote happened about forty years ago when Dato James Wong (SNAP)was the Limbang member of the Council Negri and Dato Ling Beng Siong, Bawang Assan Member was the Minister of Social Welfare.

If my friend's recollection was accurate (he was there as legal observer), they were having a debate on the expenditure of the Nazaruddin WAlk in the Museum grounds, Kuching. The Honorable Member Dato James Wong asked whether the Minister of the concerned Ministry was aware of how much money had been spent on the Nazaruddin Walk and if the money spent had been deliberated carefully, without causing much distress on the budget of the state.

The Speaker of the Council Negri was Dr. Sockalingam and Sidi Munan was a translator of Iban to English in case some one could not understand Iban.

The following exchange took place in the Iban language. Dato Ling Beng Siong did not speak much English but was fluent in Iban, and Dato James Wong could speak English, Malay and Iban. The two were extremely fluent in Iban as they were timber merchants. This explained the very unusual debate in the Council Negri which conducted its affairs in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Iban. This language policy still remains to this day.

Dato James Wong to the following effect in Iban : Kati nya udah sukat? (Have you measured the area?)

Dato Ling Beng Siong fluently answered in Iban : Udah. Nuan uleh meda kediri kian.(You can go there and see for yourself.)

The exchange which took place in Iban could be understood by most of the members of the Council Negri and created a great deal of laughter. Only Dr. Sockalingam could not understand Iban and he was very much in the dark. He asked for a translation. But Sidi Munan replied, "Mr. Speaker, Sir, the two Honorable Members of the Council Negri could understand each other perfectly, so there is no necessity for any translation."

That brought the August House down.

This can only happen in Sarawak, our beloved state. I have no intention to defame any one. But it remains an interesting fact that our honorable members of the Council Negri then were very humourous and were carrying out their work cordially.

4 memories:

Free Bird said...

I can imagine how the conversation went.

Its so comforting to hear Chinese men in sarawak speak iban.

I did however meet an Iban man, who speaks Foochow more fluent than I do, when I was working in a shopping mall.

Iban is a beautiful language, but it always depend on the speaker. Some are loud, some are soft spoken.

I can't really speak much Iban, but I wish I did.

Sarawakiana said...

What do you think of two Chinese men debating in fluent Iban in the Dewan Undangan? Doesn't this show that there has been a great assimilation of culture?

The western politicians would be envious of this . And our West Malaysian brothers, if they can debate in an Orang Asli Language, they would also be admired. May be in the Book of Malaysia Record. That should be very interesting. No offence here. Just a thought.

So Beng Siong and James Wong did have a special Malaysian Record...what about it?

Gaharuman said...


I agree Sarawakians are unique!

However, when I was in UK, I began to note that it is actually quite strange for to speak in English between two Chinese, especially in Sarawak.

Sarawakiana said...

Many of us speak English at home. So it is ok with me and most people in Sarawak.

I have this one interesting experience : one Teochiew boy from Kelantan who speaks Teochiew and BM, one Hokkien boy from Penang who speaks English and BM, one Foochow girl from Sibu who speaks BM and Chinese. They could only understand BM and speak BM to each other.

True Malaysians. The boys taught her to use hands to eat her nasi lemak because no chopsticks available in the training camp.


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