Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Sega, one of the last nomadic
tribesmen of Borneo who won
fame for his battle to save the
forests and traditional lifestyle of
his Penan people, has died aged
in his 70s.
Jailed twice for his struggle
against the logging companies
that devastated ancestral lands in
Sarawak on Malaysian Borneo, he
was also a mentor to Swiss
activist Bruno Manser who
brought the outside world's
attention to the plight of the
"When I die, they will continue
our struggle because I asked
them not to give up,"
he said in a
2005 interview, according to the
Bruno Manser Fund which
continues to campaign for the
people of the Borneo rainforests.
Along Sega died in hospital in
Sarawak last Wednesday,
according to the Fund which said
the cause of death was
unknown, as was his exact age.
"He was really an inspiration to
us. He was courageous and was
determined to defend the
lifestyle of Penans," Harrison
Ngau, a lawyer and native rights
advocate in Sarawak told AFP
A leader of one of the last
nomadic Penan groups, Along
Sega was bitterly disappointed in
broken promises by the Sarawak
government to create a
protected forest reserve which
he said had turned out to be "all
lies" and "nonsense".
In the 1980s logging companies
entered the Penan forest
homeland, tearing out the
valuable timber and decimating
the wildlife, fish and rainforest
products like rattan that had long
sustained the local people.
The Penan began building
roadblocks against the logging
companies, filed lawsuits, and
lobbied fearlessly to save their
traditional territory in a losing
battle which continues to this
"We want our forest to remain
untouched. Because only then
we can go hunting," Along Sega
said in the 2005 interview.
"When I was young, no one
disturbed the animals. The forest
was good and we could go
hunting close to where we lived,"
said the tribesman, who sported
the traditional Penan fringed
haircut, beaded necklaces and
"The women could easily catch
the fish and get their food.
Nowadays, life has become very
difficult because of the logging in
our area."
With much of Sarawak's timber
now cut and sold, the Penan face
a new threat as the logging firms
clear-fell the degraded forest and
turn it into palm oil plantations,
in what activists say could be the
final blow.
The plight of the Penan was
made famous in the 1990s by
Manser, who waged a crusade to
protect their way of life and fend
off the loggers, before vanishing
in Sarawak in mysterious
circumstances in 2000. Many
suspect foul play.
The Penan of Sarawak are
estimated to number around
10,000, with only about 300-400
thought to still be nomadic. Most
settled in villages by the 1970s
under the influence of Christian
The Bruno Manser Fund said
Along Sega himself decided to
settle in a village in the early
2000s, mostly because of the
depletion of the forests.
Even the settled Penan still retain
a deep connection to the jungle,
foraging for rattan, medicinal
plants, fruits, and sago palm, a
starchy staple. Wild game are
hunted with finely crafted
blowpipes and poison darts.

No comments: