Anything for the Dayaks in the next Malaysia Plan?
by Joseph Tawie
COMMENT: Sarawak Dayaks have already missed the opportunities to be socially, economically and educationally developed under 10 previous Malaysian Plans – a period of 50 years.
The first five-year Malaysia Plan was launched in 1966 – three years after the formation of Malaysia and it ended in 1970.
The 10th MP or 10MP will end at the end of this year.
The Dayaks’ living conditions are just like they were 50 years ago – lack of roads, clean water supply and electricity supply, clinic and schools.
The next plan – the 11MP – will be launched next year, which is the final push to make Malaysia a developed nation with high income.
For nearly two million Dayaks out of Sarawak’s 2.6 million population, is there any special programme to help improve their socio-economic wellbeing despite being BN’s “collateral” in every general election?
Are they again going to miss the last “bus”?
Sounds like it, if we listen to the talk on Dayaks’ perspective on the 11MP by Associate Professor Dr Madeline Berma of the faculty of economics and management at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
The seminar on the 11MP was organised on Sept 26 by the Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association where deputy director 1 of the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department Mothi Kothandabhany briefed the members on the focus and strategic thrusts of the plan.
Madeline who was the second speaker talked about the plan from the Dayaks’ perspective and said that the community had not improved much during the last Malaysia Plans.
“No doubt we have rich Ibans like Linggi (Linggi Jugah) who owns the Tun Jugah building, but how many Linggis are there. His wealth cannot represent hundreds of thousands of Ibans in Sarawak who are poor,” she said.
She said one of the reasons why the Dayaks lost out was because they were grouped together with the Malays under the term “Bumiputera”. Under this term, they appeared to be benefiting from the numerous programmes. But in reality they did not.
“You can see the Orang Asal as a community lag far behind the Malays, Indians and Chinese in the enjoyment of ‘buah merdeka’ (fruits of independence), let alone enjoy the fruits of Malaysia’s rapid development,” she said.
In her talk “Empowering Dayaks in social-economic development in 11th Malaysia Plan”, she said there is nothing in the 11MP to give special emphasis on helping the Dayaks.
“While the Indians have a ‘Special Blue Print’ under the 11MP, there is nothing for the Dayaks except on native customary rights (NCR) land.
“This is not a big deal. The plan is a big disappointment to the Dayaks,” she said, adding Dayaks wanted more than just NCR land.
They wanted equity participation, more business opportunities, more scholarships, specific degree courses such as on medicine; they want roads, schools, etc and etc.
They wanted equal opportunities to work in the civil service and to be appointed to higher posts.
“Now you can see only one race in the federal and state departments,” she said, pointing out that it was very rare to see Dayak civil servants in those departments.
She suggested that the 11MP should be inclusive, and that there should be no “ad hoc or piecemeal” approach in dealing with the Orang Asal.
Inclusive, she explained, means a process by which efforts are made to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of their background, so that they can achieve their full potential in life, to enable full and active participation by every member of the society in all aspects of life.
It means a society where all members feel that they are playing a part, have access to their basic needs of livelihood, and to given the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process that affected their lives.
It is the government’s role to ensure that the objectives of the Malaysia Plans have specific targets, to reduce “water-can” approach policies, to ensure equality in the distribution of opportunities in economic, education, wealth and resources for inclusive and sustainable growth.
There must be an annual Orang Asal development report, she said, adding that “social- economic empowerment means the establishment of an Orang Asal development corporation”.
“As long as the Orang Asal are left behind, we cannot claim Malaysia to be a model country. And the world is watching us,” she said and ended her talk with a famous quote from the late Tun Jugah, one of the founding fathers of Malaysia.
“Anang Malaysia baka tebu manis ba pun, tabar di ujung” (Sweet in the beginning, but less and less sweet towards the end).
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