Thursday, June 12, 2008

How The Paramount Chief Educated His Son and Nephews

These two photos are from the album of Mr. Soon Lee Guan,a well known Sibu photographer, who worked in Miri for many years. I have been trying to contact him to get his permission to reproduce these photos in my blog. However I have failed in my attempts. Furthermore I would like to write an article about him and feature some of his excellent pictures. His photos are invaluable. Thanks Mr. Soon.

I was in Form One when I first set my eyes on the Temenggong, the Paramount Chief of the Ibans from Kapit. He had just exited from the office of the Principal of Methodist Secondary School. He was warmly shaking the hands of every one around him, the clerk, the Principal, the school accounts clerk, the Senior Assistant and the students who had come to see him, and even those who were just curious about him.

He was wearing knee high spcks, a nice looking white shirt, a great pair of khaki shorts, well ironed and smart. He was debonair and the only thing which made him different from a modern film star was his hair style. He had the hair style, which many people said was copied by the Beatles later.

He had come to our school for a visit to check on his "bala", namely his son, and his nephews and nieces whom he had requested to be placed in the boarding school. The Principal was probably glad to meet him, being a foreigner, knowing that he was a Paramount Chief but more importantly he was a parent. And the Chief had probably been asking all the right questions about the achievement of his son and relatives.

I was told by another source that the Temenggong also went to Tanjong Lobang School to visit his nephews there. And as was characteristic of him, he gave out a single fifty dollar note to each of them. It was like money from the gods. And the first thing they would spend on was a bowl of mee Cina. It was extra delicious because they could not eat it often. The rest of the money they would keep until the next visit from the Temenggong.

Mr. Chong, the school accounts clerk of the Methodist School,years later told us (I came back to teach in the school )that the Temenggong was a man who went into the details of learning and testing. He wanted to leave with the full knowledge that his "people" were studying hard and not just playing around. He had also informed the Principal that he would drop by from time to time to check on them.

According to his nephew Robert Lenggi ,who was in my class, the Temenggong was a fine and caring gentlemen who gave him adequate pocket money whenever he came to visit, which was quite often by VIP standard. He was most concerned about his well being and his academic achievement. Lenggi was definitely trying his best to prove himself. He turned out to be very urbane, knowledgeable, and very practical.

Because of the Temenggong's great concern for the education of his people, our school, the Methodist School, saw the arrival of a good number of well behaved and academically inclined Iban students from Kapit for many years because there were then no secondary school in Kapit. Leading them was none other than the present Datuk Leonard Linggi, who is very famous and extremely wealthy.

The environment of the school at that time was very favourable to any one who wanted to learn. The Principal, teachers and students all wished to move forward, to better the community as much as possible. The Board of Directors was also a very concerned group of people who contributed time and money to help the school. School fees were waived for the very poor, thus enabling many farmers' children to continue with their education. Many of them became university graduates.

The school was indeed gracious towards all races. The boys' hostel and the girls' hostel were therefore very significant in enabling many rural students, especially the Iban students from Kapit, sent by the Paramount Chief, to become community leaderes and men and women of substance today. The school not only had Iban students from Kapit, but students of all races from Sarikei, Mukah, Tulai, Bintangor, Bintulu,etc.

But personally, apart from the Methodist Youth Fellowship, the extra curricular activities, and the great teaching, I feel that the personal visits abd good advice of the Paramount Chief carried a lot of weight in personal development of his "people" who came to our school.

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