Friday, June 19, 2015

'Don't lump all indigenous peoples together'

7:54AM Jun 19, 2015
By Geraldine Tong
Indigenous people of East Malaysia are disappointed with policies related to them in the recently unveiled 11th Malaysia Plan, National University of Malaysia associate professor Madeline Berma said.

Coming from an indigenous group in Sarawak herself, Berma said many of the indigenous people feel there is nothing new in the plan that caters especially to them.

"We feel like it's the same as in previous Malaysia Plans," she said when speaking at a forum titled 'The Bottom 40 and the 11th Malaysia Plan' in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

She cited her experience with the Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA) and how they had been excited when requested to give their input as a stakeholder.

"We were thinking of what will leapfrog us, what can we propose that will uplift us in this Malaysia Plan?" she said.

However, when they submitted their proposals to be reviewed, she discovered that their efforts were for nought as the 11th Malaysia Plan was already being finalised at that point.

"As stakeholders, we want to feel included but that is not what happened. Voices from the grassroots are not really heard," she lamented.

Berma further explained that one should not lump all the bumiputera under one category with the 11th Malaysia Plan continuing to make many references to groups known as bumiputera and non-bumiputera.

She pointed out the bumiputera were split into two - the Malays and the indigenous people of East Malaysia.

Ethnic dimension factor

"And when you look at the indigenous people, there are even more groups within hat category who are vastly different, like the Ibans and Penans," Berma said.

"When we talk about the bottom 40 percent, whether we like it or not, the ethnic dimension will still be there," she added.

Hence, policies cannot be made that only target vague blanket groups when there are so many layers within those groups, she argued.

Another speaker, Jasmine Adaikalam, representing the Indian community, brought up the issue of consistency in the implementation of policies.

She claimed that the Cabinet Committee on Indian Affairs has not had a meeting for the past nine months, which renders it rather ineffective.

"They need to look into the hard-pressing issues of the community but if they haven't met in nine months, what hope are they?" she questioned.

She also pointed out the national key results areas (NKRAs) stakeholders needed to work together to be effective but that is not the case currently.

"We need to have integrated addressing of low-income issues," Adaikalam noted.

~ Malaysiakini

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