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‘Father’ of Penan struggle, Along Sega, passes away

February 4, 2011

Penan leader Along Sega, who became a world renown icon for the community's struggle against logging and the Sarawak government, has died.

KUCHING: Along Sega, the outspoken leader of the last normadic Penan community in the Upper Limbang and mentor to renown Swiss environmentalist Bruno Manser, passed away on Wednesday.

Along, 70, leaves behind his wife Yut and a number of children and grandchildren.

 In releasing news of his death today, the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund said, Along became a world icon for his community’s struggle against the logging companies that started encroaching into the Borneo rainforest in the 1980s.

 Along and his group’s struggle was featured in documentaries such as Tong Tana, Blowpipes against Bulldozers, Lakei Penan and The Last Nomads of Borneo.

 Born in one of the last groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers, Along eventually settled himself near Long Adang in Upper Limbang in the early 2000s, mainly because the Penan’s forests had been depleted by logging.

 It was bitter for Along to realize that the Sarawak government never showed any respect for the nomadic Penan’s unique lifestyle and heritage.

 He was angry that all promises given to them by the Malaysian authorities in the 1980s were subsequently broken.

 In a 2005 interview with the Bruno Manser Fund, Along said that life had become very difficult for the Penan due to logging and that Bruno had taught them about blockades.

 ”We taught ourselves how to do the blockades. Bruno taught us how to do the blocakades. He used to remain in the forest and take photos of our blockades. Even after he disappeared, we continued to blockade. I have been to jail twice for blockading,” Along had said.

 He also talked about intimidations by loggers.

 He said that Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s promise to preserve an intact jungle area for the Penan was “all lies” and “nonsense”.

 ”The Chief Minister’s promise to keep an area for the Penan is nonsense. This is all lies and has never beeen realized,” said Along who the young of six siblings. Only his sister Tioung, who lives at Long Adang, is alive now.

 (In 1993, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud promised to set up a biosphere reserve covering 30,000 hectares of primary forest which should be reserved for the Penan. Five thousand hectares of this area would be located in the Long Adang area Along lived.)

 Asked about the ongoing struggle for the conservation of the rainforest and the Penan’s land rights, Along had said that he was trying to teach the younger generation how to lead the struggle for the Penan rights.

 ”When I die, they will continue our struggle because I asked them not to give up,” he said.


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