Iban trade to Malaya, Sumatra and Sabah.
While Passa and his associates were trading at and around Kota Warringin, seventy-four people from the Paku, Rimbas, Krian, Sabelak, Layar and Undup under Nyaru anak Munji of Paku, sailed to Singapore, and thence to Jambi in Sumatra, in order to work wild rubber. When they arrived at Jambi, they found very little rubber to work. So they crossed the Straits of Malacca to the Malay Peninsula to work rubber around Kuala Lumpur, then the capital city of the State of Selangor. But when they got to Kuala Lumpur, they discovered that the Selangor Government had forbidden the tapping of forest trees in the State.
Before they could find work to do, the Federal Government invited them to join the government forces being sent against the rebels in Pahang. After the rebels had been defeated, the Iban divided themselves into three groups. One group went to work wild rubber at Bidor, Sungkai, Ipoh and Tanjong Malim. The second group went with Nyaru and Entingi apai Brenai to look for rubber in Trengganu, and the third group followed Malina “Ensoh” to work in Perak. Out of all these, the group under Malina “Ensoh” earned the most money. After these people had arrived home, Legam anak Lemada of Jukun in the Paku led his followers to Sabah to work wild semalam rubber near Sandakan. When they sold this rubber they received a fair amount of money which they brought home with them.
After Legam and his party had returned from Sabah, Mujah anak Mambang of Nanga Buong in the Paku and his followers left home to go to Perak in Malaya. But when they were about to set sail for Singapore from Kuching, they were stopped by the government, as the authorities at that time only permitted Iban to work in the State of Sarawak. Not discouraged by this, Mujah led his followers to the north, where they intercepted the steamship which plied between Singapore and Labuan. After they had stayed two days in Singapore they paddled a boat across the Johore Straits to Malaya. On their arrival, they found the government had forbidden the tapping of wild rubber because this was destroying the forest trees. So they returned to Singapore where they met many Iban who had come from Sarawak under Penghulu Saang “Rumpang” and Nyaru anak Munji.
From Singapore Mujah’s party joined a party of Iban under Kok, following another party of Iban who had gone to Langkat in Sumatra under Geraman, the younger brother of Penghulu Saang of Paku. After they met Geraman and his followers at Langkat, Geraman suggested that they sail to Temiang with him in a boat he had made himself. They did so, and then went up the river till they reached its first tributary. At this time Acheh was at the height of its rebellion against the Dutch. The Iban knew this, but they were anxious to work rubber and therefore ignored the danger. Later, when the followers of Penghulu Saang, Nyaru and Geraman joined with those who had gone to Temiang with Mujah and Kok, there were seventy-six people from the Second Division in their group.
After they had been working for five months in the Temiang three of them were murdered and one wounded by Acheh rebels. Those who were killed were Asut of Undup, Apai Sumping and Atar both of Sabelak. Unjil from Undai in the Rimbas was seriously wounded. When Penghulu Saang and the other leaders saw this, they ordered their men to make wooden shields for war. When they had finished their preparations for revenge against the Achehs, Saang called for a final discussion. It became clear that the minority of the leaders thought it was very risky for seventy-two of them to attack hundreds of thousands of the enemy. So these leaders ordered all of them to return at once to Singapore, living much of their rubber at many places along the banks of the Temiang River. Those who refused to return home were Sana, Pasai, Entipan, Merupi, Sunggom, Antin and Lidom. They were all from Danggat’s longhouse at Getah on the Anyut, a tributary of the Paku River. They never came home, except for Entipan shortly before the Second World War, but moved to Kelantan in Malaya in 1941. It was because of these people’s failure to return home, that Danggat’s large longhouse in the Anyut eventually ceased to exist. Its inhabitants moved to join the people of other longhouses.
In Singapore, Penghulu Saang and his party met a Paku man named Manang Bakak who was with his friends on their way to look for work in Malaya. After he had been told of the trouble in the Temiang in Sumatra, and also of the many tons of rubber left by the Iban in the jungle there, Bakak and two of his men decided to go there to collect the rubber and sell it for themselves.
When Saang and his party left Singapore for Sarawak, Bakak and his companions departed for Temiang in Sumatra. As they went by canoe up the Temiang River, they passed many hostile groups of armed men gathered on the gravel river beds. Finally, Bakak and his friends reached the place where rubber had been left by Saang and his followers. There Bakak and his friends loaded as much rubber as their boat would hold. After this, Bakak decided that one of his friends was to sit in the bow and the other in the stem of the boat. But in view of the danger which they might encounter on their way down the river, the two men would not obey Bakak’s instruction. They were not very brave and neither one dared sit in the bow or the stern of the boat.
Seeing his friends’ lack of courage Bakak became worried so he asked them to give him a towel. When they did, he recited into it a spell called ilmu bangkai, which can cause the enemy to fall into a very deep sleep. Later he put this towel beneath a stone under water in the river. This done, Bakak ordered his friends to paddle their boat quietly down the river with himself paddling at the centre. They passed several groups of the enemy sitting on the huge dry gravel beds of the river, but the enemy drew back and did not harm them. After passing all danger, Bakak and his companions shouted loudly as if to tell the enemy that they had escaped from their ambush. Hearing this, the enemy fired at them with shot guns but no bullet hit them, Bakak and his companions managed, to reach the town next morning where they sold their rubber.