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Borneo Dayak see BDF as platform to build island-wide solidarity

 | September 8, 2017

For the first time in their history, the Borneo Dayak Forum is giving the indigenous community recognition as one people, despite their different geographical locations and nationalities.

jaban-BDFKOTA KINABALU: The Borneo Dayak Forum (BDF) is playing an increasingly key role in building solidarity among an indigenous people spread across three territories who face threats to their culture, economy and society, says Sarawak human rights activist Peter John Jaban.

He said the development of BDF was not a quest to build a Dayak nation, something which had never existed historically.

Instead, he saw it as a quest to create nations in which the Dayaks were respected, recognised and given their rightful place.

“In the modern world, this can only be achieved through solidarity,” he told FMT.

The BDF was established in 2010 in Kuching and held its latest conference in Kalimantan recently, during which the solidarity question was prominently debated.

The BDF is a system of support through which the indigenous people of Borneo can rediscover the pride in their culture and make connections with other indigenous people around the world facing similar threats to their traditions, culture and society.

“The Dayak have never been considered a single ethnic group until recently,” said Jaban.

“In reality, family groups are spread across current political borders – Kalimantan, Sabah and Sarawak.”

However, Jaban said, for the first time in their history, the Dayak people through BDF could finally be recognised as one people, despite their different geographical locations and nationalities.

“It is a platform for the various indigenous groups in Borneo to develop pride in their respective cultures, derive support for their individual struggles and to share knowledge and resources,” he said.

Jaban blamed the continuous marginalisation of the Dayak people on disunity.

He said the problem was compounded because in each territory, the indigenous people were politically under-represented, partly because of colonisation and partly due to ongoing political systems that sought to divide and rule.

In each territory, he said the Dayak were faced with the loss of their lands and this impacted directly on their traditional cultures.

The Dayaks, he said, found themselves a minority because they belonged to larger nations where other ethnic groups were bigger and politically more powerful.

“In Sarawak, the Dayak collectively are the majority. However, the relationship between the various indigenous groups has never been secured and this was exploited to undermine their political and socio-economic power.”

Furthermore, Jaban claimed there was a campaign of indoctrination against the Dayak that their culture was holding back development and was only worth selling to tourists.

“Rural indigenous people are often branded as stupid, even by their own elected representatives, and they are not supported in their ancestral environments.

“Education, healthcare and even transport access are not made available to them as funding is diverted to the administrative capital, despite the fact that much of each country’s wealth relies on resources derived from their land.

“This is forcing rural to urban migration on a grand scale, stripping the rural areas of its traditional landowners and custodians and forcing many Dayak into unskilled, underpaid employment in town.”

Despite the increasing number of Dayak entering the political arena and civil society groups, Jaban said they were still playing catch up against a dominant minority.



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