Baru Bian (born 9 September 1958) is a Malaysian politician. He has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Selangau since May 2018 and Member of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Ba'kelalan since April 2011. He also had served as the Minister of Works in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration under former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad from July 2018 to the collapse of the PH administration in February 2020. He created history by becoming the first federal minister from the Lun Bawang community.
Baru was a member of People's Justice Party (PKR) since April 2008 to in February 2020. PKR, a component of both the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) and predecessor opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalitions; was the party under which its banner Baru had contested in two general elections. He chose to leave PKR at the time he was the State Chairman of PKR Sarawak in the February 2020 Sheraton Move, when he was initially one of the 10 MPs who aligned with then Deputy President of PKR, Mohamed Azmin Ali disgruntled with the President of PKR Anwar Ibrahim and have abandoned the party. However, he did not follow their suit joining the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU) to form the Perikatan Nasional (PN) new goverment and toppled PH administration. Instead he became an Independent to carry on aligning himself with the PH coalition until he joined PSB which is on the same side with PH opposition coalition mostly.
Early life and education
Baru Bian was born in an impoverished Lun Bawang family on 9 September 1958, to Bian Labo (father) and Takong Taie (mother) in Long Lopeng, Sarawak.[note 1] The ancestry of Baru Bian can be traced back to Berunut area, near the Adang river, where the latter is the tributary of the Limbang River.[note 2] All the genuine Lun Bawang people should be able to trace their ancestry to one single common ancestor named Terur Aco. Baru Bian and his six siblings are the twentieth generation since the first Lun Bawang.[note 3] He is the third child and the eldest son in the family. Both Baru's parents were pastors. Baru's father, Bian Labo was trained at Lawas bible school which was under the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church.[note 4] Baru's family moved from one village to another because his father was posted to different villages every year.[note 5] Brought up in a Christian family since childhood, Baru was taught of discipline and doing the right things by his father.
By the age of seven or eight, he followed his father into the jungle to learn hunting and fishing. As he became older, he would learn jungle survival skills, geography and boundary of the ancestral lands, and memorise twenty generations of ancestral names.[note 6] He attended Primary 1 to 2 at Long Lellang (1966 to 1967), Primary 3 to 4 at Long Semado (1968-1969), and passed common entrance examination at Long Napir (1970 to 1971). After that, he attended Limbang secondary school until Form 5.[note 7] At one point, he would need to wear modified school blouse left by her sister for the secondary school.[note 8] He need to hike in the jungles for three days before reaching Lawas and another day journey to reach Limbang. His experiences during journeys through the jungles and mountain streams led him to understand the value of native customary rights (NCR) for pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserve) and also the environmental protection. During the year-end school holidays in 1980, Baru Bian interviewed his father and his uncle Lasong Labo about the history of their family's NCR land. He drew the boundaries of their NCR land and signed by the village headman. The map later proved to be useful in fighting against six logging companies encroaching their lands in Berunut from 1986 to 1990s.[note 9]
He attended Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang for Form 6 at Tanjong Lobang, Miri, Sarawak. He got a satisfactory result in GCE Ordinary Level examination.[note 10] After completing his secondary education, he served as a temporary teacher at SMK Medamit, Limbang from 1979 to 1981. He taught Geography, History, Physical Education and General Science there.[note 11] His passion towards native land rights had led him pursued his tertiary education at Institut Teknology Mara (ITM), now Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Shah Alam, Selangor in Diploma in Law (DIL). His uncle, Libat Langub, who was a former student at ITM, encouraged him to study law there.[note 12] He went to Melbourne to further his studies on Law in 1985.[note 13] He applied for scholarship from ITM but was denied. Therefore, he decided to take a study loan instead.[note 14] He subsequently obtained Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from the University of Melbourne, Australia in 1986. After his graduation in Australia, Baru decided to come back to Malaysia to serve the needy instead of applying for permanent residency in Australia.[note 15]
Activism and legal career
Upon graduation, he became a trainee in a law firm named Rashid & Lee in Kuala Lumpur for six months before the law firm stopped paying allowances due to financial difficulties. He then continued his training at Eddy Chung & Co and was employed there until he returned to Kuching in 1988.[note 16] Baru was subsequently admitted to the Malayan Bar as a lawyer and solicitor. By 1990, Baru became a partner in the firm of Messrs Anthony Ting, Baru Bian & Co. in Kuching, Sarawak. Baru taught himself about native customary rights (NCR) law through Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), an NGO led by Harrison Ngau Laing, an environmentalist. Baru would later become a legal advisor for SAM.[note 17] In the same year, he represented SAM to Yokohama, Japan to protest against the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) for not including the issues of native customary rights in their report. It was also at this time that Baru Bian met the Swiss activist, Bruno Manser.[note 18] Bruno would later help Baru to raise RM 30,000 from overseas supporters to fund Baru's 1991 election endeavour.[note 19] However, Malaysian embassy officials would later take a photo of Baru Bian and Bruno Manser in Yokohama and used the photo to depict Baru as a traitor to Malaysian interests in 1991 election.[note 20]
Baru filed his first NCR case in 1991 on behalf of his extended family whose ancestral lands in Berunut was encroached by logging companies. However, the case was pending in court after two years. Therefore, Baru and his family members took part in timber blockades which successfully led Samling, a logging company to compensate them RM 100,000. As part of the agreement, Baru withdrew the court case.[note 21] He set up Messrs Baru Bian Advocates and Solicitors in Kuching in 1992. Baru would later found a legal partner named See Chee How. See is a human rights activist and a lawyer from Kuching. Together, they were involved in numerous native land rights cases. Baru also took up cases related to wrongful arrests or jailed without remand.[note 22] In 2001, Baru Bian won the Rumah Nor Nyawai case in Sarawak High Court. This was the first time in the history of Malaysian courts that NCR rights was upheld. In 2007, the Federal Court of Malaysia upheld the decision on Rumah Nor Nyawai case that pemakai menua and pulau galau, in addition to temuda (cultivated land before 1 January 1958) are included in the definition of NCR land.[note 23] In March 2011, Baru successfully led the legal defence team consisting of Civil Rights Lawyers See Chee How & Desmond Kho, resulting in the acquittal of Numpang Suntai who was accused of burning ten items of machinery in a logging camp at Sebangan, Simunjan District for encroaching the latter's ancestral land.[note 24] By 2013, Baru Bian's law firm had processed more than 200 native land rights cases in court.[note 25]
Baru's strong belief in the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution of Malaysia had prompted him to take up cases for those who wished to leave the religion of Islam. His representations in the apostasy cases has drawn criticisms from Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), accusing him of contempt against the Islamic religion. He has also been fighting regarding the rights by Christians of Sabah and Sarawak to carry on using the word Allah in the general practise of their Christian faith for generations.
Baru has been a popularly known activist and lawyer who had handled many ancestral lands as well as native customary rights cases and has strong support from churches notably SIB and Dayak community. As an Orang Ulu of Lun Bawang descent, Baru is seen as a hero and fighter especially within the interior Sarawak's Dayak community for his selfless contributions. Later as politician and even minister, Baru continue to champion better opportunities and provision of education and healthcare facilities in Sarawak and attempts to use the Sarawak Wealth Fund to ensure better development and wealth distribution among all Sarawakians.
In 1987, Baru had joined Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) at the beginning because the party was advocating NCR rights in Sarawak. In 1989, Baru was elected as PBDS Youth Executive Council member.[note 26] Baru was also a supreme council member of PBDS. He first contested against Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) governing coalition at Lawas in 1991 but lost. After that, PBDS started negotiating to rejoin Sarawak BN in 1992 and was subsequently admitted into BN in 1994. One of the condition for PBDS to rejoin BN was to stop raising the NCR issues within the state government. However, Baru Bian decided to continue his pursue towards NCR rights cases in court. In September 2004, Baru decided to quit PBDS and went to contest against BN in Ba'kelalan by-election as an Independent but lost again. The already in leadership crisis PBDS was then deregister on 5 October 2004. Baru believed in continuing to uphold the NCR lands among the natives and the need to change the Sarawak state government in order to solve the NCR problems permanently. Baru later tried to join newly formed Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC) to succeed PBDS but its registration never get to be approved for 2006 Sarawak state election,[note 27] Baru chose to join Sarawak National Party (SNAP) instead to contest again the Ba'kelalan under SNAP ticket but had lost for the third time. He filed an election petition to Miri High Court on Barisan Nasional (BN)'s vote buying activities in Ba'kelalan but the petition was struck out on technicality grounds.[note 28] He then decided to retire from politics temporary because he already lost three times in elections.
Following the 2008 Malaysian general election (GE12) which see the ruling coalition, BN's lost of its two-thirds majority in the parliament and five states to the opposition since Malaysia's Independence. Baru decided to rejoin politics again to strengthen the two-party system and joined People's Justice Party (PKR) in April 2008, the same time of formation of new Pakatan Rakyat, as a reforms-hopeful informal coalition. In 2009, Baru was appointed as the chairman of PKR Sarawak. He then proceed to win the Ba'kelalan state constituency under PKR banner for the first time during 2011 Sarawak state election, having defeated the candidate for the BN coalition, Willie Liau, who is also his nephew, by a narrow 473-vote majority.
In 2013 Malaysian general election (GE13), Baru Bian decided to contest in Limbang parliamentary seat as PKR candidate. However, he was defeated by a huge margin against BN. In 2015, Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem invited Baru to join BN, however, he declined the offer. Baru retained the seat in the 2016 Sarawak state election as PKR candidate with an increased majority of 538 votes, also against Willie.
During the 2018 Malaysian general election (GE14), NCR issues at Selangau prompted Baru to contest for the seat. He subsequently won the parliamentary seat against BN's Rita Sarimah with a majority of 486 votes. PKR successfully won four seats in Sarawak in GE14 then, pointing to the party newly gained grassroots support and a disunited split in BN's component parties, United Bumiputera Heritage Party (PBB) in Puncak Borneo, Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP) in Miri; and also BN coalition's own disarrays in Saratok and Selangau. On 2 July 2018, Baru was sworn-in as the Minister of Works of Malaysia at National Palace.
In 2020 Malaysian political crisis, Baru with 10 other PKR MPs lead by Mohamed Azmin Ali decided to leave the party to support Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU) Prime Minister candidate Mahathir Mohamad to remain as the Prime Minister. However after Mahathir resigns, BERSATU picked Muhyiddin for the Prime Minister position. Amidst PH also changed their support to Anwar Ibrahim from Mahathir for Prime Minister, Baru had turned Independent rather than joining BERSATU to form the Perikatan Nasional (PN) goverment with Muhyiddin as Prime Minister, and be accused a hypocrete as well as opportunistic politician. In the aftermath, Baru had finally chosen to join the Sarawak-based United Sarawak Party (PSB) on 30 May 2020.
Baru met his current wife Yu Ching Sieu during his stuseudies at Melbourne, Australia when he joined Overseas Christian Fellowship (OCF).[note 29] Baru returned to Malaysia after graduation in 1986, Ching Sieu was still studying for another year for her double degree. She only returned to Malaysia in 1987. Baru and Ching Sieu was married on 17 December 1988.[note 30] Baru and Ching Sieu raised three children, all three are now practicing Lawyers. Meanwhile, Ching Sieu is a full-time housewife.[note 31]
He has six siblings and is the third child and the eldest son. His elder sisters are Mina and Serina. Freddie is his younger brother, followed by a sister named Sigang, a brother Paulus, and another sister named Litad.[note 32] Baru's father died of stomach cancer in 1993 at the age of 62 and was buried at Miri.[note 33]
Baru was baptised at Limbang River in 1973 by a New Zealand missionary named Murray Munroe.[note 34] A few months before baptism, a testimony given by a former gangster from Singapore during an Inter-School Christian Fellowship (ISCF) meeting had strengthen Baru's belief in Christianity.[note 35] Baru started to play guitar for Christian songs while he was a member of ISCF at SMK Limbang.[note 36] He later become the president of ICSF during Form 4 and Form 5. He participated in Young Christian Students Movement (YCSM) year-end mission trips during his secondary school years.[note 37] During his years at ITM, he attended Full Gospel Assembly Church service at Old Klang Road.[note 38] He also attended a Christian Fellowship in ITM.[note 39] When Baru studied at Melbourne, Australia, he attended Overseas Christian Fellowship (OCF).[note 40]
Hobbies and interests
Baru learned Ngajat dance during his primary school years at Long Lellang.[note 41] He is able to sing songs in alto since he was in Form 4.[note 42] Baru also started to play football while he was in Form 6.[note 43]
|1991||Lawas||Baru Bian (PBDS)||2,433||28.59%||Tengah Ali Hassin (PBB)||6,076||71.41%||8,619||3,643||74.10%|
|2004||Ba'kelalan||Baru Bian (IND)||1,391||32.85%||Nelson Balang Rining (SPDP)||2,843||67.15%||4,313||1,452||56.04%|
|2006||Baru Bian (SNAP)||1,589||43.50%||Nelson Balang Rining (SPDP)||2,064||56.50%||3,680||475||58.56%|
|2011||Baru Bian (PKR)||2,505||55.21%||Willie Liau (SPDP)||2,032||44.79%||4,585||473||65.90%|
|2016||Baru Bian (PKR)||2,858||55.20%||Willie Liau (SPDP)||2,320||44.80%||5,229||538||70.90%|
|Baru Bian (PKR)||4,698||26.55%||Hasbi Habibollah (PBB)||12,999||73.45%||17,912||8,301||73.78%|
|Baru Bian (PKR)||11,228||51.11%||Rita Sarimah (PRS)||10,742||48.89%||22,352||486||74.44%|
- Baru, 2014. Pages iii, and i.v
- Baru, 2014. Page 38
- Baru, 2014. Page 40
- Baru, 2014. Page 10
- Baru, 2014. Page 10
- Baru, 2014. Page 14
- Baru, 2014. Page 12
- Baru, 2014. Page 13
- Baru, 2014. Page 15, 105-116
- Baru, 2014. Page 12, 24
- Baru, 2014. Page 25
- Baru, 2014. Page 25
- Baru, 2014. Page 31
- Baru, 2014. Page 28
- Baru, 2014. Page 145
- Baru, 2014. Page 146
- Baru, 2014. Page 147
- Baru, 2014. Page 147
- Baru, 2014. Page 148
- Baru, 2014. Page 151
- Baru, 2014. Pages 105-116
- Baru, 2014. Pages 119-120
- Baru, 2014. Pages 128
- Baru, 2014. Page 120
- Baru, 2014. Page 131
- Baru, 2014. Page 171
- Baru, 2014. Page 184
- Baru, 2014. Page 192-193
- Baru, 2014. Page 31
- Baru, 2014. Page 146
- Baru, 2014. Page 223
- Baru, 2014. Page 10
- Baru, 2014. Page 38
- Baru, 2014. Page 18
- Baru, 2014. Page 18
- Baru, 2014. Page 18
- Baru, 2014. Pages 20-22
- Baru, 2014. Pages 29
- Baru, 2014. Pages 28
- Baru, 2014. Pages 31
- Baru, 2014. Page 11
- Baru, 2014. Page 3
- Baru, 2014. Page 24
- "Baru Bian creates history". The Borneo Post. 3 July 2018. Archived from the original on 4 July 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
- Andrew, Sia (2 July 2008). "Baru Bian, the first Lun Bawang minister, fought hard for Sarawak natives' land rights". The Star. Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
- "Ex-PKR Sarawak chief Baru Bian joins PSB". Astro Awani. 30 May 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
- "It's official – Baru, See join PSB with over 20 former PKR leaders". Borneo Post. 30 May 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
- Philip Golingai (16 March 2021). "How PKR won, then lost Sarawak: The Star columnist". The Asian Voice. The Straits Times. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
- "Baru Bian kekal Pengerusi PKR Sarawak" (in Malay). Sarawak Voice. 16 December 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
- "PKR Sarawak: Baru chose to leave party was not expelled". Dayak Daily. 10 June 2020. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
- Nigel Edgar (11 March 2020). "I'm independent, Baru clarifies after ex-PKR MPs join Bersatu". The Borneo Post. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
- Nazmi Suhaimi (31 May 2020). "I'm an intelligent katak, says Baru". Sarawak Voice. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
- Baru, Bian; Deborah, Loh (2014). The Long Awakening. Kuching, Sarawak: Baru Bian. ISBN 978-967-12316-0-9.
- Sharon, Ling (29 July 2018). "A fighter with big dreams". The Star. Archived from the original on 29 July 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
- Baru, Bian. "Curriculum vitae". barubian.net. Archived from the original on 18 February 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
- Lukas, Straumann (2014). "Chapter 6 - Bruno Manser's legacy". Money Logging On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia (First ed.). Basel, Switzerland: Bergli Books. p. 205. ISBN 978-3-905252-72-9. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
- Baru, Bian (12 November 2016). "Baru Bian: Court of Appeal Decision a Letdown for converts out of Islam". Borneo Today. Press statement. Archived from the original on 17 November 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
- "Wanita Melayu Diwakili Peguam Baru Bian Gagal Dalam Rayuan Kes Murtad" [A Malay lady who was represented by lawyer Baru Bian lost the appeal in an apostasy case] (in Malay). menara.my. Archived from the original on 23 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
- "Law is silent on Muslim converts wishing to leave Islam – Baru". The Borneo Post. 11 February 2017. Archived from the original on 30 March 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
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- Kamarul, Zaman Yusoff (28 February 2018). "Baru Bian juara Kristianisasi Sarawak" [Baru Bian is the champion of christianisation in Sarawak] (in Malay). Harakah Daily. Archived from the original on 3 April 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
- "'Allah' issue still unsettled, no thanks to Muhyiddin, says Baru Bian". Free Malaysia Today. 18 March 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
- Sharon Ling (11 March 2021). "High Court decision on 'Allah' use affirms religious freedom, rights under Constitution, says Baru Bian". The Star. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
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- Oorjitham, Santha (14 September 2013). "Dayak welfare was his priority". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 20 September 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
- "End of the road for PBDS". The Star. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
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- Abdul Rashid Moten (1 April 2009). "2008 General Elections in Malaysia: Democracy at Work". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
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- "Baru confirms standing in Limbang". The Borneo Post. 9 March 2013. Archived from the original on 23 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
- "Baru admits stunned by a huge margin". The Borneo Post. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
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- Jane, Moh (10 May 2018). "Baru Bian secures maiden parliament win in Selangau". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 10 May 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
- "New members of Malaysia's Cabinet sworn in". The Straits Times. 2 July 2018. Archived from the original on 11 September 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
- Joseph Masilamany (19 June 2018). "Baru Bian's long haul from Long Luping". Malaysiakini. Retrieved 31 May 2020.