Why are Dayaks still described as ‘lain-lain’?

COMMENT: Despite Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s insistence and the demand by the Dayaks to get rid of the words “lain-lain” in government official forms, the federal authorities are still using the term to label the Dayaks.

Adenan has often called on the federal authorities not to look down on the Dayak community.

His latest call was made on Feb 27 when he was interviewed by RTM.

Yet the words “lain-lain” still appear, and this time on the Election Commission’s report on the number of voters in Sarawak in the 31 parliamentary seats.

According to the report, the number of voters in Sarawak is 1,083,972.

Of the number, the Malays form about 19.70%, Chinese 32.51%, Indians 0.19% and “lain” 47.6%.

The Dayaks, who form the majority in the state, simply do not exist as a race or as a community.

What is even stranger is that the Election Commission is under the Prime Minister’s Department.

Have they (the federal authorities) ignored the calls by the chief minister and the Dayak community? Or are they simply looking down on the Dayak community.

When this information was released to social media and Facebook, it went not only viral, but received angry comments and reactions from some Dayaks.

A FB account holder Philip Tero asked: “Where are the Dayak voters? Dayaks must be aliens that Putrajaya must have imported from foreign countries.

“Dayaks are only needed for their votes, but unwanted by the country called Malaysia even after 52 years of so-called independent Sarawak.

“No wonder Dayaks are being marginalised by the power that exists. This is most disgusting.”

Another FB account holder Andrew Nyabe, a potential DAP candidate for Kedup, said there were several comments about Dayaks being referred to as “lain-lain” early last year.

He said to his Dayak friends and others as well that what happened had been just talk and not much beyond that.

“Where are all the Dayak legislators in Parliament and even in the Council Negeri?

“Unless and until there are amendments to the relevant articles, clauses or sub-clauses to the federal government, the Dayaks will remain “lain-lain”.

“Is it so difficult for them to move a Bill in Parliament to have this alien stigma removed?” Andrew asked.

“If they cannot do that in the last 52 years, don’t vote them again.”

Early last year, the Dayaks protested that they did not want to be labeled as “lain-lain” in the race column of government official forms and wanted to be known as “Dayaks”.

DAP and PKR took advantage of the issue, calling on the state government to take immediate action.

Sarawak PKR chief and Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian called for an amendment to the federal constitution and the Sarawak Interpretation Ordinance 2005 to legalise the meaning of the word “Dayaks”.

Meanwhile, another opposition leader and Kota Sentosa Assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen, moved a motion in the State Legislative Assembly in April last year, but his motion was rejected by the Speaker on grounds that the motion was not “proper”.

Chong’s motion sought to amend the Sarawak Interpretation Ordinance 2005 to officially and legally designate Sarawak’s natives as “Dayaks”.

The amendment would place the Bidayuhs, Bukitans, Bisayahs, Dusuns, Ibans, Kadayans, Kelabits, Kayans, Kenyahs (including Sabups and Sipengs), Kajangs (including Sekapans, Kejamans, Lahanans, Punans, Tanjongs and Kanowits), Lugats, Lisums, Melanaus, Muruts, Penans, Sians, Tagals, Tabuns and Ukits under a single category called “Dayaks”.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak president James Masing, who is Land Development Minister, described Chong’s motion as akin to “putting the cart before the horse” as the party failed to follow proper procedures such as by calling for an amendment to the federal constitution first.

“First there is a need to amend the federal constitution. That is the first step to take. Once the amendments are made, then the state would follow suit,” Masing told a news conference.

Masing said that the PRS MPs were working on the issue at the federal level, and he stressed that the Dayaks were not as ignorant as what the opposition would like everyone to believe.

“Our boys are doing it at the A-G (Attorney-Genera) Chambers, but we don’t politicise it.

The relevant article in the Federal Constitution which should be amended is Article 161A which defines the natives of Sarawak.

Chong, who is Sarawak DAP chief and the MP for Bandar Kuching, raised the issue in Parliament in March 2015.

He was told that the issue had been entrusted to a Dayak technical committee whose membership included Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Joseph Entulu, who is deputy PRS president and Douglas Uggah, a senior PBB leader and Minister of Plantation Industries and commodities.

After being pressured by Dayak non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and opposition parties, Entulu came out with a statement in late October 2015, saying that the Dayaks would no longer need to identify themselves as “lain-lain” in government forms after the cabinet had approve it as a listed race.

“Now the word ‘Dayak’ will be printed on all official forms. The government forms will have ‘Melayu’, ‘Cina’, ‘India’, ‘Dayak’ and ‘lain-lain’ for the minority races other than the major races,” he was quoted as saying.

But the Election Commission is still using “lain-lain” to label the Dayaks in Sarawak.

What do Masing and Entulu have to say now?


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