Advancement of the downriver Iban.

Advancement of the downriver Iban.

While the upriver Iban were rebelling against the Sarawak Government, those who lived downriver enjoyed peace, which enabled them to trade in foreign countries, It was because of the new developments they saw during their adventures that a man like Penghulu Kedit of the Paku first started to plant coffee trees and pepper vines in 1885. In relation to these innovations of his, the Sarawak Gazette, dated 12th November, 1892, published as follows:

Kedit, Ulu Paku chief visited Simanggang. He sold the produce of his pepper garden; his coffee trees have not yet produced. Kedit mentioned he should like to go in for cattle, I told him to arrange with his people and let me know how many he wished to keep. I advised him to purchase from the Government Kabong herd and cross with Abang Sut (of Spaoh).

But for some reason Penghulu Kedit never reared cattle. His ambition was finally fulfilled when his nephew Legam, in company with Nyaru and Nyanggau of Kerangan Pinggai, found a suitable piece of grazing land for the purpose in 1926. Cattle rearing are still going on to the present day on this pasture. After Kedit had planted his coffee trees, many agriculture-conscious Iban followed his example. From the profit of these plantations the Iban were able to purchase a great number of brass cannons, brass areca-nut boxes and gongs of various kinds and types. These antiques are still kept by the Iban of the Paku as heirlooms in memory of their forefathers’ adventures before the turn of the century. The pepper and coffee plantations soon declined due to the advent of rubber planting which was started by Budin “Grasi” and his son Lumpoh in the late 1880s. The first rubber seeds planted in the Saribas were bought by Lumpoh while he was trading in Singapore. In all these ventures the Iban profited much more from rubber than from any other cash crop. Coffee trees grow very well in the country, but as there was no proper market to buy the beans, planting was abandoned due to the loss which the planters suffered when the product was sold. After the First World War ended In 1919, the Iban of the lower rivers started to plant more Brazilian Para rubber (imported by the government from Singapore), particularly in Sabu along the Undup near Simanggang, in the Saribas and Kalaka districts and around the towns of Sarikei, Binatang and Sibu in the Rejang river, up to the lower Kanowit and Julau rivers. With the money earned from the sale of rubber, the Iban of Saribas and Kalaka improved their standard of living and took to serving modern food and drink at their various festivals. Besides this they used the money they earned from rubber to finance their children’s education in the Mission Schools at Simanggang, Betong, Saratok and Sibu up to the eve of the Second World War.

At this time, although the Iban rebellion in the Gaat had just been quelled, the upriver Iban of the Batang Lupar and the Rejang and Baleh were still not very loyal to the Sarawak Government. In 1929 their younger warriors joined the revolt led by Asun “Bah Tunggal” of Entabai, Kanowit, which lasted until 1933.

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