An overdue recognition of Dayaks

KUCHING: Ba’ Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian urged state leaders, who have pushed for the use of the word ‘Dayak’ in government official forms, to now pursue for an amendment of the Federal and State Constitutions and the Sarawak Interpretation Ordinance to ensure the status

of the Dayaks is legally recognised and protected so it will not merely remain as a policy matter without any legal force.

While he welcomed the Federal Cabinet’s approval for the use of Dayak word in government official forms, Baru however emphasised, that the term ‘Dayak’ has no legal definition as it has so far been merely an anthropological term.

“The inclusion of the word ‘Dayak’ is merely a policy matter and must be acknowledged as such, without detracting from the significance of this recognition of our people,” he explained in a statement yesterday.

“For example, Article 161 (7) of the Federal Constitution as it stands defines the natives of Sabah and Sarawak as ‘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.’,” he revealed.

Therefore, Baru pointed out that there was a need to recognise ‘Dayaks’ as being the collective noun for natives of Sarawak in Sarawak Constitution and other legislations.

“There is also a need to amend the Federal Constitution 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 and others who have been omitted for so long,” he said.

“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,” he added.

As the Dayaks form the majority of the population of Sarawak, Baru hopes that this recognition of their identity as a people of Malaysia will be 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.-Borneo Post

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