Nation’s first Indian woman penghulu

And she is a Sarawakian!

KUCHING: We had S Suriakal as Malaysia’s first Indian woman brigadier-general and Emily Koshy as the first Indian policewoman.

Sarawak is not to be outdone. The state has produced the country’s first woman penghulu.

She is Paliani Samba Bilaidom, alias Lucy Lingam.

She was honoured by the Sarawak Indian Women Association (Siwa) during a celebratory dinner at Imperial Hotel last Sunday evening for achieving the title of first Indian woman penghulu in Malaysia on January 1 this year.

Fatimah (right) and Lingam at Siwa’s celebratory dinner.

Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah, who is also patron of Siwa, officiated at the event.

“Tonight, we rejoice in Penghulu Lucy’s achievements and career, as well as in her leadership. She is not only the first Indian woman penghulu in our country, but also the first in the world, I believe” said Fatimah in her speech.

“This is an excellent example of a state that honours a woman for her capabilities and leadership, as well as her achievements. Though she is from a minority group she has contributed tremendously not only to the Indians, but also to Sarawak as a whole. This is inclusivity at its best.”

She also marvelled at the multicultural acceptance which is unique to Sarawak, citing herself as an example of being a patron of Siwa despite not being an Indian. Lingam herself was previously a Kapitan of a Chinese community.

“The fact that an Indian was so well accepted as kapitan of a Chinese community speaks volumes about her abilities and capabilities,” she said.

She thanked Lingam for her wisdom and many contributions as a council member of the Women and Family Department Sarawak, which has greatly helped her as a minister and also the women of Sarawak as a whole.

Fatimah then highlighted Lingam’s extraordinary life starting with her role in hospitality and business, co-founding Pilba Gold & Jewelry with her late husband, and also LL Banana Leaf.

“Penghulu Lucy has also served in various organisations throughout the years including the Indian Association of Kuching, the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Kuching, the Hindu Sangam Sarawak Chapter, and Yayasan Pelajar Hindu Sarawak. She founded and still leads Siwa and Persatuan Silambam Sarawak.”

In the political field, Fatimah cited Lingam’s appointment as chairman of Indian Affairs Bureau from 1999 until recently and also her promotion from Kapitan to Penghulu India Kuching and Penghulu Kawasan Batu Lintang.

Fatimah also added that as recently as three weeks ago, Lingam was appointed as an exco member and head of Indian affairs in Persatuan Ketua Kaum Cina Bahagian Kuching.

“But one of Lucy’s most cherished achievements in social work is the completion and publication of the Sarawak Indian Women Heritage Book, which was launched by none other than Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud at the Astana.”

With this, Lingam has managed to carve a piece of history for herself, said Fatimah proudly.

In her speech, Lingam mentioned how proud she was of her Siwa members, exclaiming, “They have the spirit, now and they will go very far!”

When approached by reporters, Lingam also spoke of the beginning of her role in politics, saying that she agreed to go into it for her community. She also showed her appreciation for Siwa.

“Whatever I have done, it is with their support. Without that, I wouldn’t be standing here today. We are a small group, but we are united. As the first Indian woman Penghulu, I must say I am very proud for Indian women, and for the Indian community.

“I have opened the door for them, so the younger generation can definitely do it. My suggestion to the young ones is to be involved in social work in order to know the needs of society. Wherever you can help, help!” she advised.

As the evening came to a close, a donation of RM5,000 was made by Fatimah to Siwa.

Fatimah (fifth left) and Lingam (sixth left) with Siwa members.