Datuk Billy Abit Joo explaining the objectives of Belaga District Orang Ulu Culture, Arts and Heritage Organisation to nearly 30 community leaders in Belaga yesterday. At his left is Belaga community leaders Pemanca Umek Jeno and Pemanca Tony Kulleh.

Survival of the Orang Ulu colourful culture hinges on the collective effort to preserve it by the communtiy.

“We are well-known as among the most creative, artistic people in this country and our artworks are treasured not only by the people here but also those in other countries,” said Hulu Rejang MP Datuk Billy Abit Joo, giving the Keliriengs standing tall in front of Sarawak Museum as an example.

Abit said appreciation of such rich cultural heritage “among our people sadly is diminishing, as our youths prefer to adopt borrowed, trendy, foreign-cultures”.

He warned that this would put the Orang Ulu culture at risk of disappearing one day.

If that happened, said Billy it would a big loss to the communities and the country, said Billy.

“Gone will be the many Orang Ulu folklores, history, artifacts, original dialects, culture, customs and arts – a heritage that stretch many generations before us,” he said.

The Hulu Rejang MP said, there is an urgent need to arrest the declining interest among Orang Ulu youths of their own cultural heritage.

It is a complex, daunting, challenging problem to resolve, he said, but the community must start to think of ways how to make it can be appreciated by their youth.

“Parents no longer tell their children folklore stories such as ‘Apai Sali’ or “Nia and Lirang” before bed, but instead let them chat with their friends on the Internet, Facebook, watching Youtube,” he said.

Therefore, he said he was thankful to the government and the foresightfulness of State leadership in making Orang Ulu heartland Kapit Division and upper Baram as the cultural centre of Sarawak – as announced in Bintulu recently.

“The government has always been very supportive any efforts that could preserve and foster greater understanding between the various cultures in the country.

Later, he presented a RM30,000 grant to the newly established Belaga District Orang Ulu Culture, Arts and Heritage Organization.

He is the organisation’s newly elected chairman.

“The formation this organization is only a starting point for us to achieve our stated objectives and the aspirations our leaders,” he said.

List of Belaga District Orang Ulu Culture, Arts and Heritage Organization newly elected office bearers after its September 15, 2011 election:

Chairman: YB Datuk Billy Abit Joo
Advisors: YB Liwan Lagang / Temenggong Dato’ Sri Nyipa Batuk
Deputy Chairman 1: Pemanca Umek Jeno
Deputy Chairman 2: Pemanca Tony Kulleh
Deputy Chairman 3: Pemanca Ajang Sirek
Secretary: Encik Mujah Lihan
Deputy Secretary: Maren Uma Among Matu
Treasurer General: Encik Chuk Pai Ugun
Deputy Treasurer General: Penghulu Nicholas Mering Kulleh
10 Executive Committee Members: consisting of community leaders and councillors
Auditors: Encik Tomas Balan & Encik Suling