Introduction / History
People often misunderstood to address this minority group of so called Orang Ulu group found in the Baram of Marudi District in the Miri Division in the state of Sarawak, East Malaysia.
The Lakiput are said to be originated from central Borneo centuries ago. The Lakiput are probably among the earliest settlers settled in the Baram River basin. Their oral tradition suggested that the early Lakiput has some link to the Brunei Sultanate. Up to the present day, names of places such as rivers and land marks are in Lakiput dialect still in use which is common to all. Like other Orang Ulu communities in Sarawak, they live in longhouse by the main river system, in their case by the Baram River, the second largest river in Sarawak after the Rajang. The Lakiput live in longhouse for those who are Christian and the others live in traditional Malay village, Kampung at Kampung Benawa, these are the Muslims converted decades ago.
There are about several thousand Lakiput at Kuala Tutoh in the Baram which is about a few hours journey by longboat from infamous Mulu National Park. Infact, it is in the same jurisdiction under one Native community leader - Penghulu. An hour cruise down river is a Muslim village of Lakiput origin but converted into Islam a number of decades ago. The majority of the Lakiput are planting paddy and a few catching fish at a nearby ox-bow lake as a mean of supplementary cash income. Kuala Tutoh is about an hour ride by an express boat from the administrative centre, Marudi.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Like most natives in Sarawak, they are paddy planters and some are doing part-time fishing and sell their catch to Marudi town or fishmogers. Some educated Lakiput work in the government service, oil company or other private sectors and a few are working in the nearby timber camp while a good number of them seeking employment in Brunei, a small oil town bordering Sabah and Sarawak of the northern cost of Borneo. Sabah and Sarawak are two different states of Malaysia on the Borneo Island known as East Malaysia.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most are catholic and nearly one-third are converted into Islam. Some of the earliest Lakiput to become Christian were in the early 1920s.
What Are Their Needs?
Presently, the longhouse is situated by the bank of the Baram River that frequently flooded when the river is high. There is plan that they want to move to higher ground and build a new longhouse there at the opposite bank not far from the present longhouse of this 46-door long longhouse. The community wants to have their native customary rights (NCR) land to be developed into oil palm plantation like many areas that are planted with oil palm in the country. I think the above are their top priority because it is important that they have a permanent place to stay where it is accessible by road. Inorder to raise their standard of living they have to have some kind of steady and sustainable income in term of economic stability.
Lakiput is the name of a minority ethnic tribe of Sarawak, which is mainly found in the Baram district. Lakiput or otherwise known as "Kiput" (as mispronounced by most people) is among the earlier settlers of Baram and as such the tribe is fondly referred to as "Lepo Pu'un" meaning: the "earlier tribe" or "Bangsa Asal" in Malay.
The population of Lakiput is estimated slightly over 2000 people and are mostly settled in three main locations along the Baram river, ie. Kuala Tutoh (Christian), Kpg, Benawa (Muslim) and Lubok Nibong (Muslim). The other communities that are closely related to the Lakiput, and sharing similar vocabularies are Narum, Jati Miriek and Bakong while in our neighbouring nation of Brunei, the Belait and Kiudang are also close "cousins" of Lakiput.
In the old days, Lakiput leaders have always been referred to in matters pertaining to Orang Ulu, by top Government Administrators based in Marudi. This is due to their vast knowledge of Baram and its people. Even earlier, traders from as far as Brunei came over to the Lakiput's homeland to trade and that explain the presence of souvenier items such as Gongs, kris, brass canon, textiles and other musical implements kept as prized possession by some of the aristrocrat Lakiput.
Some of the earlier Lakiput leaders are The Late Jok Pengiran, The Late Tinggang Jok (Jok Pengiran's son), The late Manak Dapat (Nephew of Tinggang Jok), The Late Penghulu Lejau Malang (nephew of Manak Dapat and grandchild of Jok Pengiran and also great grandchild of Orang Kaya Temenggong Lawai Melayong).
Like with other communities in Sarawak, the Lakiput's rural populations are also dwindling as quite a big number of their young people have been lured into the cities in search of employment and life's comfort. A sizeable number of the Lakiput are doing well in Brunei and have been accorded permanent resident status in the Sultanate. These numbers are actually a big loss to the Lakiput since the have migrated and automatically lose their right as Lakiput.
Although occasionally receiving government assistance in the form of minor rural projects through their political representatives (MP and ADUN) the much awaited for development in the field of infrastructure, economy and basic amenities are still not heard of.
|Profile Source: Henry Belawing and Jacklyn M Davies|