Friday, December 5, 2008

Sociopolitical Organization

Sarawak is a state in the Federated States of Malaysia; it consists of divisions, each of which in turn is divided into districts under the supervision of district officers.

Social Organization
Formerly a village was an independent unit governed by a group of self-appointed aristocrats known as a-nyat, or elders. The rajah of Sarawak appointed one of them as headman, answerable to the district officer. Today the influence of the elders varies with local circumstances; their power is now primarily ceremonial, concerned with validating social mobility at weddings. The suppression of endemic tribal warfare by the rajah of Sarawak allowed people other than aristocrats to acquire wealth by planting sago gardens; the gradual introduction of a cash economy permitted commoners and even slaves to acquire wealth and make claim to higher rank and even enter the group of governing elders.

Political Organization
Village headmen today are minor magistrates and try certain civil suits in addition to collecting taxes. Criminal offenses are a matter for the district officer, native officers under him, and the police. Districts vary in size and, in coastal areas, are comprised of Iban and Malay people as well as Melanau. In addition to administrative services, the state government today provides schools, dispensaries, hospitals, land surveys, and various advisory services. It also maintains highways, canals, and bridges, and subsidizes mosques and churches.

Social Control
In villages social control is largely a matter of adat, or custom, supervised and administered by the headmen and elders. The Coastal Melanau Adat, an attempted codification of many village adats, is followed by headmen and elders in cases of family and personal dispute, short of homicide or criminal theft, but each village claims its own version of the adat and often does not adhere to the official codification. Social control, however, is maintained primarily by a value system that places a high premium on respect for seniority, rank, and the proper order of things as embodied in the adat, any violation of which entails civil penalties imposed by the elders and automatic supernatural penalties that can be averted only by correct reparation.

Conflict is usually seen as a disregard of proper respect, and children are brought up to avoid conflict at almost any cost.


  1. Interesting, thank you. I liked reading this tonight.

  2. Conflict is a complicated thing, in the modernized society; we then have to learn conflict management.
    But, I do not prevent myself from thinking that conflict did happen long long long time as well. Human is not that simple.

  3. Hi John. You are welcome and hope this will give you some information about my ethnic group.

    I agree rainfield61. I also think it is already happen a long long time ago and we keep on continue doing it. It's human culture.

    Christie Lynn..I already done it but i don't know how to link it and memed my friends so it is just stop sorry..still learning a lots of things with blogging and getting better everyday.