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INTERVIEW | Stepping into the lobby of Baru Bian’s office, one will quickly notice The Long Awakening neatly stacked up in a spiral array on the coffee table.

The Long Awakening, authored by Baru and journalist Deborah Loh, chronicles the PKR leader's personal life journey in the rural highlands of Sarawak. It also tells the story of his boyhood, growing up away from family in boarding schools, and living out the expectations of being the son of a village pastor.

Poignant and rich with folksy anecdotes, the story also depicts Baru’s biting tryst with abject poverty.

Today, readying himself for multiple interviews in his office, he holds court as a lawyer and newly-minted MP for Selangau.

Long haul

The title of his memoir seems reminiscent of the author’s somewhat “slow coming of age in his political vocation” and in its “late fruition.”

But there never seemed to be a dull moment for this Lun Bawang native from Long Luping, who kept coming back every time he suffered blows at the hustings, whether for parliamentary or state seats.

The Melbourne-trained lawyer first stood as a candidate in 1991 on a Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak ticket for the then Lawas seat (now Bukit Sari), a small frontier town in the northeast nook of the state. He lost.

In 2004, Baru stood as an independent candidate in the Ba’kelalan by-election. He lost again.

Two years later, he contested on a Sarawak National Party ticket, again in Ba’kelalan, the primeval Lun Bawang outpost in the highlands. Baru lost by a mere 475 votes.

Disillusioned and defeated, he declined to contest in the 2008 general election, and considered turning away from the politician's podium to the pastor's pulpit.

However, the winds of change unleashed a political tsunami across the South China Sea in the 2008 general election. The ruling BN government in the peninsular lost five states to the opposition and its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

This convinced Baru to make a U-turn and engage in yet another round of canvassing in another attempt to wear the politician’s hat.

“In a large sense, what had happened in the peninsular was significant. I was thinking of the ripple effect it could have on the East Malaysian mindset and the positive implications of the new political sentiments there.

“I could see something good brewing and so, I decided to stand in the 2011 state elections in Ba’kelalan under PKR.

“And this time I won."

In the 2013 parliamentary election Baru contested in Limbang against PBB's Hasbi Habibollah. He lost to Hasbi by a huge margin, and claimed rampant vote-buying put paid to his first attempt at stepping into Parliament...

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