When I first started as a tenderfoot in 1969, it was just for fun.
However, the likeability that one might be given the opportunity to partake of the Second National Jamboree in Melaka in 1970 was certainly motivating but it didn’t turn out that way — our troop was not yet registered.
Then such thoughts of attending the national training leadership course (for three-bead woodbadge) and serving as a state commissioner were just “far away dreams”.
Fast forward to 1993, the first “far away dream” was achieved (I attended it in Kem Sardon Jubir, Cheras) while starting from 2012, yours truly was just inches from becoming the state’s chief scout commissioner (upon the demise of my cousin Dunstan Meling Undau), though if given the opportunity I would have respectfully declined.
However, becoming the state’s publicity commissioner a year earlier was such dream coming true. Despite tendering a resignation in 2018, I was invited to attend the State Scout Council meeting in Dec 2019 as the publicity chief in support of council president Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom, a friend since 1975.
When one Cikgu Ahmad started the scout movement in early 1969 (when I was in Form 2 in SMK Saratok), I happily registered. We had no proper scout uniform but that didn’t stop us from passing the tenderfoot tests and getting upgraded to second class scouts. This was after mastering various knots and signs as well as swimming test (fully clothed and wearing shoes) at the Sebetan River just behind the secondary school, after being dammed to lessen the current, making the stretch into a pool very suitable for swimming — with the added attraction of six-foot Miss Christine Grotefield, a Canadian teacher, in her swimming suit (a rare sight and ‘fete’ for ulu boys).
Throughout my years as scout leader since 1979 (as group commissioner in Rajang Teachers College, Bintangor) and serving as pioneering district commissioner (DC) for Kanowit (1983-84), Saratok (1985) and Julau (1988-1993) as well as DC to reactivate scouting in Serian (1986-87) and Bau (1993-95), I met and exchanged tips with a good number of scout leaders and commissioners, including those from KL, Brunei, Hong Kong, US and New Zealand.
It is meeting and getting to know people, be they scouts, rovers and leaders (comprising both genders) and certainly not the awards that have been the most rewarding parts of scouting in line with the virtues, laws and promises started by our founder Lord Robert Baden Powel.
Getting awards from the TYTs (no handshake) are moments to savour and so are receiving medals/certificates from the likes of Tan Sri William Tan (state) and Tan Sri Khir Johari (federal) but these are only motivations and should not be the main concerns in joining the movement. Volunteerism in serving the community and connecting to many people with the same goal and wavelength should be the real driving factor.
For ulu kids, jungle survival, a vital part of scouting, is our niche — in fact my thesis to fully accomplish the Part Four A Woodbadge Course was entitled Jungle Survival, an item perhaps deserving to be made into a book. For those living in urban centres, they are exposed to this phenomenon during jungle camping — I recall the Serian town boys and girls were ecstatic when we held a district camping at the foot of Mount Semuja in 1987.
It was their first real experience cum jungle overnight stay. As DC, it was a delight for me to see the strong bond among the multiracial participants, comprising the Bidayuhs, Ibans, Malays, Chinese and Javanese. This pertains to Scout Law Number 4: A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout.
A concerned friend and well-decorated Zasran stayed with me for two days at my SMK Sedaya wooden bungalow in 1983 to make sure I complete my Part Four A thesis accordingly. I received my two-bead woodbadge a year later.
Many scouting friends have left and are now in the after world but we all know this is a dunya ijau (Iban word for ‘borrowed world’). Apart from Dunstan these departed souls include my two RTC fellow scouters Sebastian Legak, 38, (1985); Dominic Sullang Majang, 66, (2021); deputy chief commissioner Mohd Said Bolhassan, 78, (2020) and lately Simon Lee, 90. I wish them rest in everlasting peace.
Another friend Lingam whom I first met when we attended the Seventh Malaysian Jamboree alongside the 5th Asian Pacific Jamboree in Kem Kijang, Kota Bahru, Kelantan (1982) also has joined his forebears. He was a Brunei scouter as he was with Shell Brunei but an Iban originally from Bintangor. He died in Canterbury NZ and was the owner of Lingam Apple Farm there after his retirement from Shell. Fare thee well my generous friend who offered me a free return trip and stay in his Canterbury farm.