‘Apologise to Dayaks’

KUCHING: Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU), the most  influential Dayak non-governmental organisation in the state, and its women’s wing, Serakuap Indu Dayak Sarawak (SIDS), want a public apology from  former Sarawak Chief Minister Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub’s daughters – Fatimah and Norlia.

They want both Fatimah and Norlia to apologise to the Dayak community for accusing them of  having “low intelligence” being “easily manipulated” and for ‘squatting’ on government land.

Abdul Rahman is the uncle of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Although SDNU and SIDS did not name the two sisters in its press statement, it was obvious they were  referring to Fatimah and Norlia in the video clip recorded by international pressure group Global Witness.

The video clip, which went viral two weeks ago,  has been seen by about million people in the state, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.

The powerful SDNU with more than 100,000 members is headed by Social Development Minister William Mawan, who is also the president of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party and its executive committee members are made of senior government officers and Barisan Nasional politicians.

SIDS is headed by Empiang Jabu, wife of Deputy Chief Minister and Deputy President of Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) Alfred Jabu.

“The SDNU and SIDS  detest certain contents  of the Global Witnesss’ video ‘Inside Malaysia’s Shadow State’ that insinuated the Dayak as a community are easily manipulated by the business community due to perceived hardcore poverty and low intelligence,” said Anthony Banyan, SDNU’s vice-president.

Adding further, he said: “Whether the remark was designed to put a wedge between Dayak community, particularly the Iban and the ruling government or uttered naturally by the subjects in the video, it (SDNU) found such remarks demeaning and deplorable.

“We also condemn such remarks suggesting that the Dayaks are squatters living on state land as such remarks are baseless.

“The Dayaks are civilised people with dignity and respect. Therefore, we request the persons who uttered the remarks to issue public  apology and own up their doings in disparaging the image of the Dayak community,” Banyan added.

Demeaning Dayaks

He said that SDNU called on all quarters be they politicians or otherwise, to stand up for the Dayak community and recognise their rights over land as well as be sensitive towards the feelings of Dayaks in the future.
Banyan admitted that in certain parts of the rural Sarawak the Dayaks are still lagging behind in terms of mainstream development and also outside the framework of the economic transformation, said Banyan after a meeting of union members.

The statement was issued following after the union convened a special meeting on the issue last Wednesday. It was chaired by Mawan.

SDNU is the first Dayak organisation to have condemned the characters in the video clip. Other Dayak NGOs like the Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA), Orang Ulu National Association (OUNA) and scores of other ethnic associations are yet to respond to the demeaning and insulting remarks.

Thus far not a single Dayak ministers or senior official in the Sarawak state administration has comment on the issue.

Aside from Mawan and Jabu, the other senior Dayak ministers are James Masing and Michael Manyin. Masing is the president of  Parti Rakyat Sarawak and Land Development Minister while Manyin is the Minister of Communications and Infrastructure Development. There are also a dozen or so Dayak assistant ministers in the Taib administration.

They have all refused to comment on the issue in what is seen as fear of antagonising Taib.

Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen had in a earlier report condemned the Dayak ministers for their silence on the issue. They should come out to make their stand, he said.

Meanwhile, state PKR has translated the video contents into Iban and has produced the Iban version in the Facebook and has attracted thousands of comments.

It has also been made into DVD/CD, and thousands of copies are being distributed to villages and longhouses.