By Ahmad Syabil Sultan Noordin Ahmad
KUCHING — “When the Malaysian flag was hoisted, I was in tears…tears of joy,” said Sarawak’s first Indian woman who served as Kapitan for almost 11 years.
Paliani Samba Bilaidom, alias Lucy Lingam, 66, was appointed to the role of Kapitan in 2007, holding the post until the end of 2018.
This year, she was promoted to the role of Penghulu India of Kuching, a remarkable feat in becoming the first Indian woman Penghulu in Sarawak.
Recounting her experience back in 2005 while in Chennai, India, when sending her daughter to further her studies in medicine, their family was invited by the Malaysian Embassy to have hi-tea in conjunction with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s birthday on June 4, 2005.
“While singing the national anthem as the Malaysian flag was being hoisted , suddenly I was in tears. My daughter said: “Mommy, stop it…don’t make me ‘malu’ (shy).”
“Then I said no. You just keep quiet. My tears just simply rolled down. That’s how I feel about my country when I’m away from Malaysia,” she said in a exclusive interview with Bernama.
Lucy said, at that time, they had already stayed for two months in India, that was why she had mixed feelings – touched, sad, happy and so many things came across her mind as she was very proud of Malaysia.
Lucy devoted her time for social work when she started to join NGOs in 1988. During that time, she was just a sub-committee chairman of the Indian body in Sarawak.
“As time went by, during my Kapitan-ship, I formed an association called the Sarawak Indian Women’s Association (SIWA).
“I formed this association after realising my two daughters had graduated as doctors but I felt that they didn’t have the platform to highlight the abilities of the Indian women,” said the mother of three.
Lucy said, although the Indian community here was only a minority, they were still given equal opportunities in many aspects.
“As far as the government is concerned, religion-wise, it is very fair although we are a minority here, the same goes for education, it is also fair. If you score according to the requirements, you can get a place (for education). we are not left out in Malaysia,” she added.
Lucy called on all Indians to rise up and continue to strive for success in life.
“If you stay back, then you will be left out also. If you are hungry, you have to go ask and cannot expect people to know that you are hungry,” she said.
Sharing about the National Month, Lucy said Malaysia is definitely a unique country because there are Malays, Chinese and Indians as well as the natives called Bumiputra in Sabah and Sarawak.
“For us, whenever August comes, and we hear the shouts of ‘Merdeka’ (Independence) by our first Prime Minister the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj, we feel very touched because it is a something very auspicious.
She said in a way to keep the unity of the people, it should start from a young age, for example at school for all races to mix.
“It should start from school where Malays, Chinese and Indians study together, indirectly they can mingle around and build a strong bond for a better Malaysia,” said the owner of LL Banana Leaf restaurant, which was established 26 years ago.
Lucy has done a lot through her social work and the many associations that she started.
This is a good example of a woman with capability, leadership who went on to make big achievements even though she is from a minority group.