31 OCTOBER 2015
We welcome the announcement that the Federal Cabinet has approved the use of the word ‘Dayak’ in government official forms, and I would like to express our appreciation to the leaders who took the wishes of our people to heart and pursued this at the Federal level. It is a correct decision that was overdue, and I am indeed glad that we have arrived at this stage.
The inclusion of the word ‘Dayak’ is however, merely a policy matter and must be acknowledged as such, without detracting from the significance of this recognition of our people. The term ‘Dayak’ has no legal definition as it has so far been merely an anthropological term. I would like now to urge the same leaders to pursue the amendment of the Federal and State Constitutions and the Sarawak Interpretation Ordinance to ensure that the status of the Dayaks is legally recognized and protected, and not merely be a policy matter without any legal force.
For example, Article 161 (7) of the Federal Constitution as it stands defines the natives of Sabah and Sarawak as follows:
‘The races to be treated for the purposes of the definition of "native" in Clause (6) as indigenous to Sarawak are the Bukitans, Bisayahs, Dusuns, Sea Dayaks, Land Dayaks, Kadayans, Kalabit, Kayans, Kenyahs (including Sabups and Sipengs), Kajangs (including Sekapans, Kejamans, Lahanans, Punans, Tanjongs dan Kanowits), Lugats, Lisums, Malays, Melanos, Muruts, Penans, Sians, Tagals, Tabuns and Ukits.’
Therefore, there is a need to recognize ‘Dayaks’ as being the collective noun for natives of Sarawak in our Constitution and other legislation. There is also a need to amend the Federal Consistitution to be consistent with the Sarawak Constitution where ‘Land Dayaks’, ‘Sea Dayaks’ and ‘Muruts’ had been amended to ‘Bidayuhs’, ‘Ibans’ and ‘Lun Bawangs’ respectively, and also to expand the list to include other ethnic groups such as the Berawans, Kiputs, Terings, Tabuns, Bakongs, Mirieks, Lirungs, Tebalaus and Narums* and others who have been omitted for so long.
I recall that Tan Sri James Masing had announced in April that he was working on a Bill with the Attorney General’s Office to define ‘Dayaks’ as Sarawak’s non-Muslim natives in the Federal Constitution, and I would be most interested to know the progress of the Bill as this would be the appropriate next step.
The Dayaks forming the majority of the population of Sarawak, I hope that this recognition of their identity as a people of Malaysia is a beginning to the claiming of their rightful place in society, be it in the civil service, in educational opportunities or in the economic development of this country.
ADUN N70 Ba’ Kelalan