PETALING JAYA: Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem’s passing and the recent court ruling against orang asli rights in the interior might have “major political ramifications” for the ruling BN government, the Sydney Morning Herald reported today.
Columnist Paul Malone argued that the majority ethnic Iban in Sarawak, who have supported the BN all this while, might turn their backs on the ruling coalition as a result of the court ruling.
Malone said coupled with Adenan’s passing, the ruling may prove untimely as Adenan had supported native rights and was willing to hear the grouses of tribal folk.
“It remains to be seen whether Adenan’s policy will stand under the administration of the new chief minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg.
“Datuk Abang Johari Openg’s political survival and his Barisan Nasional party’s support could also be affected by an Iban backlash to the Federal Court decision.
“The court’s ruling has the potential to provoke an Iban reaction in Sarawak and there is some regional feeling that people from Peninsula Malaysia simply do not understand the people of Borneo.
“If this feeling was to turn into votes it could have major implications, even for the Malaysian federal government,” Malone said.
Adenan died from health complications just three weeks after the Federal Court ruling that native land rights only covered settled land where natives had felled forest and cultivated land.
The court found that the native rights did not extend to land in the primary forest where they hunt for food.
Sarawak’s Ibans are the largest ethnic group at 30% of the population, while the Chinese and Malays are at about 24% each. Small tribal groups make up the remainder.
Meanwhile, Malone said the Iban people were a “relatively compliant group” that went along with government policies. He said it was not certain if this support would continue.
“The up-river tribal people generically known as Orang Ulu were less compliant, mounting many campaigns against the logging invasion of their lands.
“Sarawak accounts for 31 of the 222 seats in the Malaysian federal parliament and currently 25 of these are held by Barisan Nasional. An Iban backlash could swing a considerable number of seats.”