Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who Are “Natives” of Sarawak?

The Federal Constitution made no mention about Iban and Bidayuh as “natives” of Sarawak. They are unknown races in the Federal Constitution. Indigenous races in Sarawak that were mention as “natives” in the Federal Constitution only included Bukitans, Bisayahs, Dusuns, Sea Dayaks, Land Dayaks, Kadayans, Kalabits, Kayans, Kenyahs (including Sabups Sipengs), Kajangs, (including Sakapans, Kejamans, Lahanans, Punans, Tanjongs and Kanowits) Lugats, Lisums, Malays, Melanos, Muruts, Penans, Sians, Tagals, Tabuns and Ukits.

Other Dayaks, not stated in the Federal Constitution, therefore, could not be considered as natives of Sarawak!

To call the Ibans as Sea Dayaks and to call the Bidayuhs as Land Dayaks could be very deceptive or misleading. We all know that Ibans and Bidayuhs are Dayaks, and being Dayaks, they are also natives and are indigenous people of Sarawak. Why not identify them clearly in the Federal Constitution? We need also to understand that not all Ibans lived near the seas and likewise, not all Bidayuhs lived in the interior part of country.

Our colonial masters called natives who lived near to the seas and coastal areas as Sea Dayaks while those who lived in the interior as Land Dayaks. The word, “Iban” and “Bidayuh” were unknown to them, otherwise, these races could have been identified by the colonial masters. Therefore, the term Sea Dayak and Land Dayak was for convenience of the colonial masters, but, we must understand that not all things done by our colonial masters were correct or is still suitable in our present day situation.

Ibans and Bidayuhs are not foreigners in Sarawak, but, since there was no special mention of them in the Federal Constitution, the matter has to be looked seriously by our politicians.

Without properly identifying the Ibans and Bidayuhs in the Federal Constitution, this could just deprive these two largest groups of Dayaks from being given the preferential treatment accorded to the natives in the Federal Constitution. Matters for preferential treatment for natives include the reservation of positions in the public service and scholarships, educational and training privileges or special facilities, permits or licences for the operation of any trade or business.

A Bidayuh young man recently was not accorded this preferential treatment by a government agency and the matter was raised in Parliament by an Opposition Parliamentarian.

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