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Datu Stephen Jussem ak Tundon
|His current appointment as the Bidayuh Temmenggong for the Kuching
Division keeps him very busy
Temenggong Datu Stephen Jussem ak Dundon was born in May 1937 in a humble bilik
of a Bidayuh Longhouse called Botang Romin Bitubon, a remote area up in Mount
Singai reachable only by uphill footpath at that time.
The eldest in a family of nine siblings of six boys and three girls, Temenggong
Datu Stephen's childhood was spent mostly in the kampung, helping his mother
to look after his siblings while she was away in the paddy farm.
Early Life - hardship & poverty
He was only four years old when the Japanese occupied Kuching in 1941. It was
a period that terrified everybody.
Back then, the people were generally poor. Life was simple but the Japanese
presence instilled deep fear in everyone. No one went around to the bazaars
unless absolutely necessary. After the Japanese left in 1947, he attended school
at Kampong Sudoh at the age of 13 where he was taught to write and read by the
late Mr. Paul Bong. He lessons stopped when his teacher left six months later.
He was determined to learn and continued with night lessons by an uncle who
stopped his studies when the Japanese occupied Sarawak. The initial 15 over
aged students dwindled to five later because parents could not afford the monthly
fees of RM 10.00.
In 1950 his father sent him to the then St. Peter & Paul's school, Bau
( now known as Sekolah Kerajaan St. Stephen). He was a boarder then paying only
monthly school fees; other food and rice were brought from the Kampong. While
there, he had to fend and do things for himself.
|Getting up close and personal with the Penans
In 1953, he continued his studies at St. Joseph's School Kuching and stayed
in St. Peter's Seminary until he completed his Senior Cambridge School Certificate
in 1957. The death of his mother in 1953 left a deep impact on him and he almost
quit his schooling to look after the welfare of his father and nine siblings.
Despite the poverty, he was determined to proceed with his studies and finally
passed the renowned Senior Cambridge School Certificate.
He left school at the end of 1957 and found a job as a temporary teacher at
St Elizabeth's, Kampung Tijirak along Kuching-Serian Road. He also organised
night classes for adults and over aged children in that village. He wanted to
ensure that his siblings had proper schooling and although he could not afford
tertiary education, he was determined to improve himself.
A golden career in the Sarawak Civil Service
By end of December 1958, he was accepted as a Probationary Sarawak Administrative
Officer and had to attend an In-service training course at Sarawak Civil Service
Training Centre at Batu Lintang, Kuching on 16 Jan 1959. It was a 1- month course.
There were 15 of them in the group. They included Datuk Liang Kim Bang (SFS)
Dennis Ong (Judge) Haji Hussaini Jaman (DO and later Secretary of Sarawak Foundation)
Walter Chambers (DO), Frank Apau (DO), Noel Hudson Laga (Resident), Daniel Tsen
(Resident ) Haji Abu Kassim (Resident) Peter Siburat ( DO & later Rtd. General
Manager Miri Port Authority) to mention a few..
After the training, he was posted to Kuching District Office for 3 months (Feb,
Mac and April 1959) where he learned to deal with the multi racial members of
the public. His first British District Officer (DO) was Mr. D.S. Cottrell and
the Resident was Mr. DL Bruen. Later, he served briefly under District Officer,
Mr. M.J. Christie in Kuching.
In May 1959, he was posted to the Bau District Office and worked under three
D.Os, namely the late Mr. H.A.L. Ferguson, Mr. Michael Sadin ak Nyameh and the
late Datuk William Nais. (Datuk William was later promoted as a Resident and
appointed as the Second Bidayuh Temenggong for First Division including Serian
upon retirement). The First Bidayuh Temenggong was Temenggong Dato Sri Salau
He passed his SAO Government Examinations, both Lower and Higher Standards
and Senior Service Government Exams before the 3-year Probationary period expired.
His 1959-61 Government service in Bau was a real on-the-ground training for
him. He travelled extensively to all the Kampongs, Longhouses and Chinese settlements
in the District. There, he was also appointed as a Magistrate Class III with
power to hear small cases like riding bicycles without light and stealing. He
also viewed dead bodies of people being murdered or accidentally shot at border
Kampongs like Gumbang, Krokong, Serikin, Pejiru, Pangkalan Tebang, Tringgus
and Jagoi Stass. These were quite common in the 60s in Bau because there were
many barter-traders, locally known as "Simokel". These notorious traders would
come to Bau via Jagoi, Serikin, Duyoh, Sarabak and Pejiru from Kalimantan. He
was tipped during the training that whenever they were posted to any station
in Sarawak, they should try to travel and visit all places in the district after
familiarising themselves with office procedures for a month. This would help
a new officer in his day to day dealings with the public.
|Outside Parliament Building, London with other overseas students in
Sharpening his saw
Early in 1962, he was selected by the government to go for a Diploma course
in Public & Social Administration in South Devon Technical College, Torquary,
U.K. for a year. His selection came just a few months before confirmation of
service (SAO III). Two other officers selected included the late Mr. Augustine
Chong (SAO 1) and Mr. Goh Hak Seng (SAO I). It was an exciting moment for him
because it was considered a great privilege to be offered an In-service training
course overseas at that time. "This really spurred me on to work harder with
greater determination. I was aiming to get my Degree as some of my colleagues
who went to Canada did after completing their Diplomas", he added.
When he came back to Sarawak equipped with a Diploma at the end of 1962, he
went to see a senior officer in the State Establishment Office, Encik Yee Fung
Mo to ask him whether the government could consider his application to pursue
for a Degree course. He told him bluntly that his friend's case was the first
and the last for a native officer to be granted a chance to do a degree course
after completing their diplomas. "I remember feeling terribly upset and I can
never forget that incident to this day as there are so many sensitive and polite
ways of telling people of such things. I had no alternative but had to abide
by the Government directives and waited for my new appointment", he explained.
On the ground with the people
He was posted back to the Kuching District Office as an SAO assigned to deal
mainly in Bidayuh affairs. He also travelled to coastal Malay kampongs and Iban
kampongs to personally meet their Tua Kampongs and Tuai Rumahs. He held dialogues
with them including their "anakbiaks". He explained Government policies, directives
and council rating systems on properties and gun licences. His travelling team
usually composed of relevant government departments' representatives so that
they could explain to the people their own departments' policies on various
matters. During his travels, he also conducted the popular "Tin System Census"
that was very useful to the Government during that time. He made his travelling
programmes quite regularly; to the hitherto remote Bidayuh areas, like Padawan,
Penrissen, Pinyowa, Braang and Siburan areas of Kuching District and helped
them organise compound cleaning and other gotong-royong activities.
He was the voice of the people and to know their problems and issues, he had
to get close to them in order to bring them up to the Government regularly through
his Travelling Reports.
In a district he might be given few assignments by his D.O. or senior SAO or
Senior Native Officer (SNO). In his case, he was attached to a Social Research
Team from Holland. He had to follow them in their programmes either to the coastal
areas or inland areas. He translated, organised meetings with the headman and
the Research Team and prepared other logistics. An SAO's duties were many and
varied. As the "Jack of-all-trades" he had to be knowledgeable in many
aspects of the local lifestyles. To survive and excel, the SAO needed to have
lots of patience, deep endurance, consideration for others and a sense of compromise
and moderation, he added.
|Serving as Liaison Officer to Commonwealth Colonels from the Green
Jacket during a longhouse visit to Benuk at the peak of the Confrontation
The Confrontation of '63
The hated 2-year Indonesian Confrontation came in 1963. All SAOs could not
escape their responsibilities as front-liners on the ground along with the police
and military personnels. As for Temenggong Datu Stephen, he was involved in
the Padawan, Tibia, Braang, Pinyowa, Benguh, Penrissen, Siburan and the three
Controlled Areas of Siburan, Beratok and Tapah where the Clandestine Communist
Organisation (CCO) activities had been very active. He was appointed as a member
of Psychological Warfare with the Commonwealth Forces (Green Jacket) at the
border villages in the above-mentioned areas. He travelled extensively within
these areas. His roles were to organise dialogues, meetings with the people
and shows of psychological films to the people at the border areas. This was
to enlist their support and co-operation with the Government through its machineries
which included the Military, the Police and Civil Service. These had been dangerous
assignments and had to be done tactfully.
The SAOs' duties also included assisting the sick, the poor, the blind and
the needy in the villages. A few blind children had been recommended to the
Government Blind Centre in Kuching for assistance. Some managed to study; graduate
and today are heading welfare organisations, while others were trained to earn
a living in some other ways such messaging.
The civil service - Then and Now
Life in the 50s-70s was slow-paced, very private and with few public facilities.
This was especially true in the rural areas. There was little if no competition
at all. The cost of living was low. For example, a kati of sugar was only 25
cents or 30 cents. Kerosene oil was 10 cents per bottle.
Temenggong Datu Stephen started his career in the government service with great
care. His priority was to ensure that he pass his civil service examinations
and to continue to aim higher. Once he was given assignments to do, he was determined
to do them well and made his decision correctly and confidently. "We exercise
more discipline, too. Officers were not allowed to go out freely. For coffeebreaks,
we had to bring our own coffee with us in a flask and had it in the office
no breaks outside during office hours", he said.
Things are so much different today. The people's levels of education are much
higher, their lifestyle fast-paced and the working environment more conducive
and productive. My advice to the younger generation is that one must first be
interested in life, eager to do something new and improve oneself as much as
possible by up- dating one's knowledge through reading and networking. If money
permits, travel overseas once in a while. Be good and kind to everyone. It doesn't
cost you to smile and greet others by saying "hello" or" good morning, good
afternoon or apa khabar". "Practise humility or try not to show your sour face
to people that you meet. Always be a peacemaker and advisor and show leadership
by example in whatever you do. These are certainly not easy, but they are challenges
one has to face", he commented.
Serving the Bidayuh Community
Being a Bidayuh and a civil servant, he tried to the best of his ability to
serve and contribute to the development of all the communities including the
Bidayuh community whom he had the good fortune to work with in the course of
his work. His current appointment as a Temenggong to the Bidayuh community of
the Kuching Division, saw his days filled with meetings with the people, dialogues
with community leaders and Ketua Masyarakat.. He wanted progress and development
for the rural poor. His own experience with poverty and hardship during the
Japanese Occupation made it easier for him to empathise with the poor and destitute.
His vision for the Bidayuh Community is for each family to focus seriously
on education to ensure the survival of the Bidayuh Community. The human development
factor is crucial, he said. What he saw as the greatest challenge to the community
is the building of team spirit and togetherness among the leaders. "Development
needs the majority's support and the government's blessing", he said. Leaders
should always practise fairness, avoid extremism and maintain moderation, unselfishness
And for those still serving...
He reminded serving government officers to safeguard their achievements and
contributions by being conscious of their behaviour in public. Always bear in
mind that your record of character in service is vulnerable and unsafe until
you have received your first monthly pension. By then you would feel safe and
proud that you had made it a day, he advised.
He felt grateful that he was able to work in an environment where one's contribution
to the society has no bound. The greatest contribution one could give to the
community, in his mind, is one's readiness to explain, to advise, to motivate,
and to guide, without prejudice, the people on Government policies, education
and development without being tired oneself. The success of the people whom
one served is the just rewards and a reflection of one's commitment and dedication,
Temenggong Datu Stephen Jussem ak Dundon, 65 is married to Datin Emily ak Sirumba
and they have six children. He is an active volunteer and has served in many
organisations including DBNA, Pensioners Association, PEMADAM, Dayak Cultural
Foundation to name a few. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of several
corporations and government bodies.
Temenggong Datu Stephen Jussem ak Dundon
DJBS, PPC (Emas), AMN, ABS, PP
1960 Joined Sarawak Administrative Service as an SAO
1965 - 67 Appointed Deputy State Supervisor of Election, Sarawak
1967 - 69 Appointed DDO for Kuching Division and Private Secretary to YAB Datuk
Tawi Sli for 6 months
1970 - 72 Private Secretary to Sarawak 3rd Chief Minister
1973 - 75 Private Secretary to 2nd TYT of Sarawak, Tun Datuk Patinggi Tuanku
1978 - 81 Promoted as State Training Officer, Chief Minister Office
1982 - 84 Attached to Protocol Unit and posted to act as Resident for Kuching
1985 - 87 Promoted as Resident of Kapit
1987 - 89 Served as Resident of Miri
1989 - 92 Appointed as Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing before retiring
from the Civil Service
1999 - Appointed as Temenggong for Bidayuh Community in present Kuching Division
He was awarded the Darjah Jasa Bakti Sarawak (DJBS) which carries the title
'Datu' in 2000.